Thoughts From The Farm, 3/06/17

How do “successful” parents set high expectations for our children without constraining their creativity, natural talents and desire to blaze their own trail?  And what if their desired path is vastly different from the “traditional” path that worked for us?

(Blog post: Is College Necessary? )

You know what I mean — Get “good” grades, then go to a “good” college, graduate and get a “good” job in a “good” company making “good” money, so they can live in a “good” community, and have “good” kids.  Rinse and repeat.

The challenge, felt by many successful parents, is to instill or cultivate in the kid the same level of focus, ambition, and sense of responsibility that we had in order to achieve the generational step up from our parents.

That is a difficult task, because many of us were motivated by the non-existence of a financial safety net, which is just the opposite from our kids’ situation.  We were highly motivated to reach the “good life”, of which we perceived to be far superior than our modest beginnings.

Many of us started from working or middle class roots, and through determination, resilience and hard work have managed to go beyond (financial security/opportunities) the modest upbringing that our parents struggled to provide for us.

As adults, we recognize the wonderful example that our parents provided with their “lunch pail” work ethic, frugal living and ability to “make do” with limited resources.  We know these attributes are far more important than money, power or prestigious titles.

Naturally, we feel the pressure to pass the same attributes down to our kids, while also expecting them to do better than we did with the superior life foundation provided to them.

This weekend my brother-in-law and his wife were visiting from New York City.  He holds an engineering degree from MIT and a Masters degree from Penn, and is a highly successful businessman.  She holds a undergraduate degree from Stanford, and a law degree from Columbia, and had a career at a prestigious Manhattan law firm.  They are encouraging and loving parents with two talented children, but can you imagine how difficult it will be for the kids to follow that act?

Of course, we all deliver the “do you know how lucky you are?” sermon to our kids, about how fortunate they are to have the stability and resources that we did not.  I think it is part of being a parent…

The problem is that the kids only know, the life they know, just like we did at that age.  It is silly for us to expect them to have the same view of “normal” and “success” that we had as kids, because thanks to us, they already live like they are successful!

The solution is not simple, and requires us to consciously constrain our social status insecurities, and encourage our kids to identify their strengths and natural interests, in pursuit of a self-fulfilled, productive and positive life, even if it doesn’t meet our traditional definition of “successful”.  Blog Post: Two Questions That Lead To Life Satisfaction

My opinion on how “successful parents” can best help?

Use all of our resources, including our intellect, life knowledge, financial resources, professional and social networks, and access to information, to allow them to run far enough down the path of their dreams to determine if they really want to keep running. 

4 thoughts on “Thoughts From The Farm, 3/06/17

  1. This one falls right into my home. Great insight.

  2. As a grandparent now retired from a profession in the medical field which I loved,I would say that that ther are three things you cannot choose for your children:
    Their career path
    Their religion
    Their spouse.
    You have given them the”tools”. Let go and let God”.. Love them and be there for them.

  3. Oh so true. My father was born into a family of humble citrus farmers in the Middle East and within 2 years and at a very tender age gained the title of orphan and refugee simultaneously. He eventually graduated from Georgia Tech and gave us a life he could have only dreamed of in the lavish and booming UAE . He went on to apply for US immigration in the 80’s knowing we still had no place to call home. I am moved by all his efforts to give us what he never had. I am the oldest and I somehow, given all the silver spoons & rattles, managed to make him proud.. My siblings have taken what seems to be “the longest road in the wrong direction” to dad and thrown the “not all who wander are lost” slogan around much more than he cared to hear. It was difficult to imagine the hardship my father lived through even though he attempted to describe it when it didn’t pain him but as you said children only know what they know.. we live in the here and now. Teach them the ropes, instill love, manners, strength and confidence in them and let them be! Also, we need to keep telling them our stories even if they can’t relate. Knowledge is always power- that hasn’t changed. Thank you for writing, FVB!

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