The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives

A clinical neuropsychologist and test prep guru combine cutting-edge brain science with insights from their work with families to make a radical new case for giving kids more control if you want to unleash their full potential. 

Many of us know we’re putting too much pressure on our kids – and on ourselves – but how do we get off this crazy train? We want our children to succeed, to be their best, and to do their best, but what if they are not on board? 

A few years ago, Ned Johnson and Bill Stixrud started noticing the same problem from different angles: even high-performing kids were coming to them acutely stressed and lacking any real motivation. Many complained that they had no real control over their lives. Johnson runs PrepMatters, an elite tutoring service that teaches teens how to perform better on standardized tests. Stixrud is a clinical neuropsychologist who helps patients suffering from ADHD, anxiety, eating disorders, and depression. Both have devoted their lives to coaching kids and they have hit on a counterintuitive solution to unlocking their full potential: even at a young age kids need to feel that their views matter. They need more agency. A healthy motivation hinges on having a strong sense of control. So how do you do that without giving up all authority as a parent? 

The Self-Driven Child offers a combination of brain science, the latest discoveries in behavioral therapy, case studies drawn from the thousands of children and teens Stixrud and Johnson have helped over the years, and concrete advice that you can act on tonight to teach you how to unlock your children’s potential and set them on the real road to success. We can only drive our children so far. At some point, they have to take the wheel themselves. Those who have never been allowed to make meaningful decisions until then are likely to flounder. 

The Self-Driven Child will give you the tools to make sure your children navigate with confidence and determination and find their own path. 


Family and Divorce


Anonymous on June 18, 2019 at 2:46 AM.

A fantastic resource for raising happy and healthy children I am a teacher and administrator with more than thirty years working in independent schools, as well as a parent of an 18 year old son. I often read books like this one, but I rarely find any that are truly helpful. This book is the exception. The authors have very different perspectives, but they align beautifully on truths that I think are essential for parents. To name the most important controlling idea in the book: no parent can force a child to assume positive agency over his or her life…

Anonymous on June 18, 2019 at 3:08 AM.

OUTSTANDING! The book we’ve all been waiting for! This is the book we’ve all been waiting for. More than ever, parents need the clarity and guidance so effectively expressed in The Self-Driven Child. As a psychologist specializing in anxiety and stress in children,I have witnessed first-hand the fundamental change that children experience once they learn to face their fears and find the internal drive to change their outcomes. The resulting sense of agency is transformative, and stays with them over time. This book is the underpinning…

Anonymous on June 18, 2019 at 3:10 AM.

Great framework fleshed out with loads of tips for helping older children become self-sufficient Bill Stixrud and Ned Johnson picked the perfect subtitle for The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives. The book presents data and theory from fields such as neuroscience and psychology in support of the proposition that “you should think of yourself as a consultant to your kids rather than their boss or manager,” and then follows through with loads of practical advice on what, exactly, a more hands-off approach looks like.As a…