Reflecting on priorities of family & work

Advantaging our Kids – How Much is Too Much (Little)?

My kids spent the entire afternoon of Sunday putting together a robot their aunt and uncle got them. They worked together without fighting and with almost no help from us. They even broke it accidentally at one point and figured out how to put it back together. It was our dream as parents – the perfect storm of giving our kids an opportunity with enough space for them to succeed on their own. Here’s a video of their final product (isn’t slo-mo cool?).

This came on the heels of an impromptu lunch I had on Friday with a really good friend. As an aside, something else I really enjoy about having a flexible work arrangement is getting together with friends and colleagues in the middle of the day. We try to get together at least once a month and talk work, family, and a whole host of other topics. One of the main topics we talked about was the anxiety we have in whether or not we are adequately preparing our kids for the world to come. Are we doing enough for them? I think we landed on a great conclusion which I’ll come back to at the end of this post. It made me think all weekend about whether or not we’re doing enough and also made me think – are we doing too much?

Let me explain. I’ve worked with my fair share of people who have started life on 3rd base and thought they hit a triple. Their parents were able to place them on that base because of their affluence and even seemed to allow their kids to go right from the womb to third base without having to get up to bat let alone run through first and second. Whenever such entitled people would hit adversity in the workplace, they would shut down, tune out, become defensive, or quit.  I don’t ever want my kids to think they hit a triple even if they start on third base. I’m not even sure I want them to start all the way on third.

My favorite quote from Booker T. Washington is:

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in his life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.

My anxiety in raising my kids is in wondering whether all of the opportunities we give them as parents are creating an entitlement or just giving them a leg up. They should be able to travel with us, go to camp, play after school sports including having private coaching and travel teams, learn to code, get tutoring if they need it, visit colleges, and on and on and on. And while providing these opportunities, I do not want to remove all of the obstacles in my kids’ path for success. Here are some things I want to do which will hopefully build resilience and a sense of efficacy and self-determinism in my kids without making them entitled:

  1. Have them always do their own work and own projects for school while showing them what high standards looks like
  2. Have them advocate for themselves with their teachers, other adults, and peers in a respectful and pro-active manner without our parental involvement
  3. Fail in small ways and big ones if it comes to that and be there to help them process and learn from those failures
  4. Be bored
  5. Understand that their adversity and obstacles are nowhere close to what others in less fortunate communities will have to deal with

What do you do to try to ensure your kids are advantaged and not entitled?

At the end of our lunchtime conversation we concluded that our kids are going to be fine – because we have the anxiety like we do to worry about their futures. Worrying doesn’t mean steamrolling everything and everyone in their path or becoming a tiger dad or helicopter parent. Worrying means making sure my kids can measure their life not just by where they end up, but how they got there. I’ll keep buying them robots and other things like that and allow them work it through on their own to prepare them for the world they’re going to have to work in.

The biggest gift I can give my kids is their future independence – and that is the advantage I really want to provide them.

3 comments on “Advantaging our Kids – How Much is Too Much (Little)?

  1. Annmarie
    April 17, 2015

    Thank you Rob once again for hitting the nail square on the head. Speaking for our family I can admit that Mike and I have had long conversations and debates about how much or how little to help our girls when they struggle. It’s counterintuitive to parents to stand by and watch your child struggle much less fail. The bigger test is holding that aid back knowing that the lessons are worth more than the short term advantage you give them. It’s not easy. Parenting is not easy is it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Social Justice – The Flipe Side of Advantaging Our (Affluent) Kids | dad working

  3. Pingback: Making Makers – Maker Faire Recap 2015 | dadworking

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This entry was posted on April 14, 2015 by in Parenting and tagged , , , , .
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