Steer Your Kids Rather Than Push Them

My wife Mara and I recently had dinner with two close friends, Stacy and Mark. One of their sons just started his senior year of high school and is in the middle of the college application process. Stacy told us a great story about it and I suggested she turn our conversation into a blog for all of you. Here it is:

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We have an older son, a sophomore in college and our friends have a junior in college and their oldest just graduated. Combined, we have been around the block and we are all “seasoned” advisors for our children. Or, so I thought.

I had a “heated” discussion with my middle son, Jake, about what I considered to be the “acceptable” timetable for his applications.  He needed to finish his essays, revise supplemental essays, review and revise his resume (again) and have it all done well before the November 1st deadline that I felt was approaching at warp speed.

“What’s the issue, Mom? I have plenty of time,” he told me.

My heart sank.  He just didn’t get it. How could he think he had plenty of time???

The consummate procrastinator saw no need to feel the panic that I was feeling.  Some background information…Jake is an honors student with an excellent GPA and high scores on his college boards. He has always gotten the job done despite me standing on the sidelines reminding him that the clock was ticking.

Surely my husband Mark, Brandon and Mara would see my frustration and agree that I was justified in coming down on Jake earlier that evening.  I thought I was preaching to the choir when I shared my frustrations and explained how I needed to give Jake a timeline and make sure he stayed on course.  He would never get in to college without it.

Well I was WRONG!  They all stared at me and smiled.  Hmmm.  I wasn’t feeling the love.

A little voice in my head said, “They think you are the crazy one!”  But, how could that be?  Then, Mara turned to me and said,  “You need to take a step back and know that your son will get the job done on his own.  He hasn’t let you down yet.  You have done all the hard work and he knows what he has to do.”

What came next was the closer.  Brandon looked at me and said, “Stacy, you are no longer the parent.  You’ve done your job.  You’re a consultant now.  Your job is to guide and advise. “

And just like that I went from being the CEO to consultant.  I thought long and hard about what he said.  It made sense.  It wasn’t my place anymore to tell Jake what to do, it was my place to advise and give guidance.  I could tell him where to apply, but ultimately he is the one who will spend the next four years at college.  Why shouldn’t he have some input?  He is the one that has to make the deadlines or learn that an opportunity may slip away.  He is the one who needs to accept accountability for choices and decisions made.

I will always be his parent, his mom. That will never change. But, I am no longer the one in charge (ok, for some things maybe…but not everything!) and, as I move from CEO to consultant, I will work hard to be the best I can in my new position.

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Looking for more on the subject? Check out my recent blog about what happens when you fail to plan.


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