Your #1 Obligation in ParentingJan 27, 2021
I've noticed a weird phenomenon with us parents. I picked up on it, when I first became a mom over a decade ago. We like to explain why we're guiding our child down a particular path. Usually because of our own education, work, and life experiences.
Here's how it usually goes...
We give a rational explanation of how we make sense of our world and the choices we made. There’s a unique combination of parental pressure we experienced in the quest for a higher education, what our means allowed for and high expectations. Maybe there was emotional support, maybe there wasn't. In every case, we have a unique story of how it was all navigated.
Usually, there are hard lessons learned. Lessons we want to spare our child from learning 'the hard way'. Then, there's the plan for what's going to give our child an edge. This wonderful, thoughtful and, full-of-love plan that, assuming all goes well, will set our child up for success for the rest of their life.
A wonderfully delusional parental outlook.
I mean there's clearly something missing. Do you see it? For me, it's obvious.
Where is the child in all this?
What do we know of their strengths, talents, gifts, and skills?
What are their passions, interests, and desires for their own life?
Do they have the same level of ambition?
Have they taken the time to learn what fulfills them?
What motivates them?
It's like the feedback loop is missing. Of course our kids need our guidance and help. What I'm suggesting is they need to be in the driver's seat of the experience from the start.
When it comes to parenting, what really matters is...
Helping them discover their greatness.
It’s that simple.
It places the responsibility back where it belongs: with our young people.
This is not just a parenting issue, the impacts are felt beyond the individual. The truth is, in our country, as with many around the world, we struggle with how we develop our workforce and talent pool.
When a young person navigates their career and education planning, it's usually heavily influenced by external forces. There's what mom and dad deem best, their school guidance process and the latest economic statistics pointing to as the fastest-growing field. In all of this, an incredible gamble is being placed on their future. Without their voice leading the way, we risk a costly disconnect. The possibility of a false-start in education or re-educating entirely again afterwards and ultimately they lose momentum and are left having to start again.
Having to start over, reinvent, as if it's a failure can be devastating and demoralizing. With time lost, resources depleted, and spirit strained, having the resilience to keep going is tested. The drive to keep moving forward and trying to figure it out gets to be exhausting without the proper support. Some, having suffered this indignity, give up and never try again. They find a job and never look at who they might have become.
This is exactly where we lose our competitive edge. It's a human resources development issue with its roots in our early years. Compounded by the mentality that finding your way in society, making yourself useful, and developing a career is something you figure out in your youth as a set-it-and-forget-it type of thing. It's no wonder many just give up.
Of course, it’s wonderful if things worked out for you in one take. It’s great if you find that dream job, find yourself making a career and building a life that you love with very little course-correcting. That's great and it can happen. What I'm experiencing more and more of is a conversation around what happens when it doesn't all work out?
What happens when things don't work out and there's more to figure out? What happens when things break down? When economies struggle? When opportunities don't line up. When it's time to figure it out again, and you've suffered some indignities, that's when we seem to hand over the keys and say, "ok, you drive", it's your turn to take the lead.
My belief is the responsibility needs to lie completely on the shoulders of the child from the start. We should be building systems that empower our youth to discover for themselves where they would be at their best and most fulfilled. This is a conversation that should start really young. We need to train them to be paying attention for what lights them up. We need to be supporting their discovery journey. They carry within them everything they'll ever need to find their way. They are our greatest resource. Supporting them to be personally invested in their future at a young age gives them a sense of dignity and increases the chances they find their way successfully.
In a world where change is the only constant, none of us knows what the world is going to look like in the near future. We need to be cultivating a culture of exploration and discovery around this issue. Hardwiring a resilient mindset into the process that's responsive and supported. We need to be nurturing the confidence and fortitude to stay aligned with themselves and recognize this is a process. They have to process what's coming up in their life and figure these things out.
When they are supported and give themselves the space to explore and take the lead the whole world opens up to them. It becomes an exciting journey where the parents, schools and communities believe in the biggest, brightest possibilities for their children to celebrate and win.
This navigation process is what needs improvement. This is what I am committed to exploring. This is what I hope to innovate and take to the next level. I truly believe that helping our young people discover with dignity their greatness and potential is our only obligation. The rest will take care of itself: a better educated, more resilient workforce and a more prosperous society.
I'm committed to bringing vibrancy, excitement and creativity to this conversation, so that we can do better.
Thank you for hanging out with me in these thoughts.
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