2 Things Well-meaning Parents Do that Make their Kids Less Successful at Work

by | Oct 16, 2014 | Blog, Parenting for the Workplace

Parents helpingParents usually want the best for their children.  Sometimes what’s best, however, doesn’t make them feel better–at least immediately. Well-intentioned parents want to help their kids, but helping can actually hinder them in the long run. Here are two common things parents do that can stunt their children’s growth.

  1. Solve problems for them.

Picture this. It’s Thursday night at 5:00. Your child tells you they have a class project due tomorrow. What do you do? Do you let your child fail? Do you get on the Internet or go to the library and do the research for them? Do you rush out to Staples before they close to buy a poster board and other supplies? Do you stay up till the wee hours of the morning putting the finishing touches on the project while your child gets some sleep? Or do you simply give your child some advice on what they can do to put together a project in one night and let them take care of it?

There is a tendency for parents today to solve problems for their children. We want our children to excel academically. It’s so important to get good grades to get into college to get a good job. It’s so hard to watch our children fluster, fall, or fail. However, if kids don’t learn how to solve their own problems, they won’t be able to take care of themselves in the long run.

Workers need to be able to solve problems.

If it’s the night before your presentation to the management team and you haven’t put it together, no one is going to do it for you—unless you still live at home with your parents and they jump in to the rescue!

Actually, that’s not so funny. There is a trend today for young adults to move back in with their parents because they aren’t able to jump the hurdle of finding a job in hard times. In fact, a recent Pew study found that 13% of people ages 18-29 have moved back in with their parents and 36% of this age group receives financial assistance from their parents.

If parents keep solving their kids’ problems, the kids won’t be able to solve them for themselves. And they won’t be motivated to either. I mean, free room and board? That’s a good deal! They may even get laundry in there too.

  1. Let them win.

When my daughter was eight, we signed her up to play recreational soccer. I read the registration form and it said: “All players will receive a uniform, pictures, and a trophy.” I thought to myself, “Why would everyone get a trophy? Don’t they just give those out to the winners?” Then I found out that they don’t even keep score at the games. “Everyone’s a winner.”

This reminds me of an earlier phase in my daughter’s childhood when they played musical chairs but with enough chairs for everyone. And everyone got a prize.

When kids don’t know how to lose, they lack resilience. And if they are always a winner, they don’t receive useful feedback on their skills and abilities. They grow up thinking they are great at everything.

Workers need to know where their strengths and weaknesses are.

Not too long ago, I encountered several college interns who wanted to coach top executives at a large company. They had unrealistic expectations. They thought they could shoot right to the top without gaining experience. I had to disappoint them by telling them that no executive at the company would take coaching from a 20-something intern. They had to begin by doing lower level work.

When children are made to feel special and great, they aren’t prepared for life in a work environment. Organizations, by definition, are counter to the concept of individuals being special. They want everyone to work together for the common goal of organizational success. And only a relative few make it to the top.

As parents, we are often so focused on building up our children’s resumes and self esteem that we forget that they also need basic life lessons to be successful. They need to fail, to cry, to lose. It helps them build strength to overcome obstacles in the future and a sense of what their limitations are. To prepare our children for the workplace, we need to teach them “life” lessons in addition to academic ones. And sometimes we need to let them learn the hard way.