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.