Tag Archives: independence

Letting Your Babies Fly the Nest: Reducing the Temptation of Helicopter Parenting

Helicopter-affinite magIn the spring, baby birds are born. Within a couple of weeks, they grow feathers and fly the nest. People raise babies to grow up and be able to fly the nest too. At least they used to. Due to the rise in “helicopter parenting,” many of today’s grown children stay tethered to the nest, move back home as adults, or never leave at all.

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Expert Interview: Flying Without a Helicopter, with Joanie Connell, Ph.D.

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Flying Without a Helicopter

“Helicopter Parenting”—hovering over and doing too many things for your kids, protecting them, and not letting them learn those skills themselves—is leading to problems when they get older and enter the workplace. Corporate executives often complain about younger people coming into the workplace lacking some of the basic life skills that are necessary to succeed, like being independent, resilient, having good communication skills, and creativity.

Why Is This Important?

“Of course, there are pluses and minuses to every style of parenting. On the one hand, when we’re protecting our kids, we’re keeping them safe. But, on the other hand, when we’re overly protective we’re dis-empowering them, unintentionally depriving them of the opportunities they need to do for themselves…  Listen to the interview.

Give the Gift of Independence

gift boxIt’s a simple gift, but it’s one leaders often overlook. There’s so much pressure to perform these days that it’s tempting to keep our employees on a tight leash. But, in doing so, we disempower them and cripple their growth. Although it may be a winning strategy in the short-term, it is doomed to fail as we count on the capability of our protégés over the long-term.

 Why don’t leaders give employees independence?

 It’s scary.

“What if something bad happens?” Yes, that is always the risk, but it’s always a risk no matter how closely you supervise your employees. The downside of over supervising your employees is that they won’t learn how to take care of things when something bad does happen. And even if they could, they wouldn’t have the power to. When you’re home sick, can your employees get things done without you?

To let go, you have to face your fears, says Elizabeth Grace Saunders in How Office Control Freaks Can Learn to Let Go, in Harvard Business Review. Maybe it won’t be done exactly the way you would do it and maybe you won’t even know exactly how it’s done. But if you hire good people and train them, you can trust them to do good work.

We can also mitigate risk by giving appropriate levels of responsibility for the experience and character of the employee. For example, we wouldn’t want to give a new graduate a $10 million project to run, but we could give them responsibility for a piece of it, like researching what the competition is doing.

It’s hard.

“I don’t have time.” It’s often quicker to do it ourselves, but that is only a short-term strategy. Not having time to delegate is a classic excuse and it’s one that causes managers to work excessively long hours unnecessarily. Amy Gallo suggests looking into the reasons you’re not delegating in her article on how to delegate in Harvard Business Review. Are you working long hours and feeling indispensable?

“Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and author of What Were They Thinking?: Unconventional Wisdom About Management.

When you keep doing it yourself, you’re wasting your time and your employees’ time. When you empower your employees to get things done without you everybody wins.

It’s painful.

“It feels good to be needed.” Yes, we all like to feel needed—by our kids, our jobs, our community and so on. But at some point you have to let go. It’s the right thing to do. When you continue to put your own needs ahead of everyone else’s, you’re risking greater pain than the pain of letting go. When you hold on too long, people resent you and the greater family/organization/community suffers. Suck it up, be a good role model, and develop your people to manage without you when the time is right.

“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”  ― Ann Landers

Empower your people. It’s the right thing to do for you, for your employees, and, most of all, for your organization.

Photo courtesy of Master isolated images from freedigitalphotos.net

Independence Day: Pass It On!

4th of JulyThe United States of America was founded on the principle of independence. So why are we depriving our children of it? We build walls and fences to protect them, structure recreation to channel them, and make decisions for them to keep them from making mistakes. All the while, we’re taking away from our kids what we Americans value most—freedom.

The Fourth of July reminds us of how important our freedom really is. Instead of enjoying our freedom, we spend most of our time tied up trying to make money. While a certain amount of money is required for basic life needs, we don’t stop there. We wrestle for bigger houses, fancier cars, better toys, and the highest rated colleges for our kids so they can make more money to buy more stuff. We get so entrenched in the competitive warfare at home that we forget about the actual wars we’ve fought and won to keep our freedom.

My grandfather was a veteran and he fought in WWII. My uncle is a veteran and he fought in Vietnam during the Cold War. More friends and colleagues than I can count are veterans of more recent conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. I salute the veterans and all the active military personnel as I celebrate Independence Day and relish in the freedom that I have as an American.

I encourage fellow Americans to appreciate independence, pure and simple, and pass it on to the next generation. Our children will one day be the ones fighting for our freedom, whether in the military, business or in politics. They will need to be strong leaders who are resilient, confident, and able to take care of themselves, their families, and their countrymen. It is up to us to help them develop these qualities by giving them independence now.

Let the kids outside. Let them take risks and learn from their mistakes. Let them have downtime to invent their own games and reflect on who they are and want to become. Let them be who they are and not who you want them to be.

When I was 21, my grandfather—the WWII veteran—wrote me a letter recognizing my coming of age. He said that job satisfaction comes first. He reminded me of my freedom to choose a career that fit my skills and interests and not to become a slave to money. That is some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten and I share it with you. Relish your independence and encourage others to do the same.

Parent Up!

parent disciplining childThe voices are unanimous. Parenting to raise independent, resilient adults is hard work. It involves pain and discipline. It results in frustrated and hurt children—at least when they’re not getting what they want. But we all have to get through that to grow up and be responsible, considerate, self-sufficient people who can hold down a job and take care of others.

  • Julie Lythcott-Haims writes from her experience as a parent and retired Freshman Dean at Stanford. Her book is called How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. She raises concerns about how overparented children lack coping skills and confidence in themselves to get things done. She recites many examples of parents intervening at various points in childhood to adulthood with dire consequences, such as getting the kid fired.

Parents typically want their children to be happy, independent adults one day. To make that happen, we as a society have to support parents to “parent up” and let their kids grow up.

Trying Something New? Deal with the Discomfort

uncomfortable business peopleExperiencing the discomfort of trying something new is not fun. Surely you can think of numerous times you have avoided doing something because you didn’t want to feel the discomfort. For example, it is not easy to fire someone. It’s heart wrenching to discipline your child. It’s scary to go away to college. We sometimes find ways around doing what we ought to do to avoid the discomfort.

We ignore bad behavior, invite others along to accompany us, or decide we didn’t really want to do it anyway. We conclude the person’s performance wasn’t really that bad or choose to go to college closer to home. By doing this, we limit ourselves (and others) to being dependent and accomplishing less.

It takes courage to break through the discomfort. Bill Treasurer describes three primary types of courage in his book, Courageous Leadership. One of them is particularly important in this context: “try courage” (Treasurer 2011). We need courage to try new things. It may be scary, but we need to be brave to be independent.

“Courage is acting on what is right, despite being afraid or uncomfortable, when facing situations involving pain, risk, uncertainty, opportunity, or intimidation.”  —Bill Treasurer

How do you develop the courage to try new things? I know a child who is afraid to try new foods. She’s more afraid than the average person. She will avoid it if at all possible, even if it means missing out on a treat or a meal. When the consequences get so grave or the incentives so great, she might venture out to taste something new. She starts by portioning off the smallest morsel she can possibly get onto a fork without it falling through the cracks. Then she sniffs it. She slowly counts to ten, makes sure no one is looking, and trepidatiously puts it in her mouth. She then chews for what seems like an immeasurable number of times before swallowing. It is certainly a sight to see. The fear and discomfort she experiences from trying a new food are impressive. It’s easy to see why she avoids it. Yet if she doesn’t try new foods she’ll have to live in a very small and lonely world.

For some people, trying new things is invigorating. That’s probably why the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans jelly beans from the Harry Potter series have been successful. There’s always someone who is willing to try the earwax flavor. There is a point, however, where we all experience a certain level of discomfort. There is no easy way around it. Get used to it.

The first step to building independence is to get out of your comfort zone. If you are used to being taken care of by someone (parents, manager, spouse, etc.), that will mean to start taking risks and making decisions on your own. When you feel yourself staying inside your comfort zone, ask yourself what you can do to get out of it.

How I’ve Kept It REAL

Joanie speaking at book release party smaller

Someone asked me the other day how I maintain confidence and treat others so respectfully at the same time. She didn’t say it exactly like that, but the gist of the message was how come I’m not an arrogant snob? Without even thinking, I blurted out, “I work hard at staying true to my values.” Fortunately, one of my values is authenticity, so speaking without thinking didn’t trip me up.

But it’s true. To the best of my ability, I embody the values I teach others. Fortunately, being aware of my imperfections is one of those values. I in no way pretend to be perfect at any of the REAL Life values, but I strive to do the best I can. And that’s all any of us can do.


Someone else said to me just this week that I seem perfect. That shocked me on several levels. First is because it is so far from the truth that I didn’t even know how to respond. The second was that I was so curious how she could have that impression of me. What air was I giving off?

The only thing I could think of was that my resilience was showing through. At least to her, I was staying engaged and maintaining a positive attitude. Then again, she hasn’t seen me at 6:30 in the morning, or when I have really gotten frustrated or down. I haven’t known her that long and I don’t see her that often.

All this is to say that things aren’t always what they seem. Keeping it REAL is hard work, every day. I don’t pretend it’s easy. I have been through the test on all four components of REAL Life over the past several months (not to mention my whole life) as I published my first book. Trust me, I’ve had to overcome numerous obstacles, receive countless corrections, flex in more ways than I had ever conceived of, and work independently as a writer and promoter of my book. It is no easy task.

But that is the whole point: real life is not easy. We need to be resilient, empowered, authentic, and limber to succeed in life, no matter what we do.

Get Out Of The Way Of Your Kids’ Success

bulldozer“Doing it for them” is one of the things parents are doing to get in the way of their children’s success. “Guidance and support” are ways to get out of the way and let them succeed on their own.

Joanie ConnJenningsWire_Banner_LOGO_2015ell gives tips on how parents can get out of the way of their children’s success in this podcast interview on JenningsWire.

Dr. Connell answers the following questions in this 8-minute interview.

  • What is one of the biggest challenges young employees are facing right now?
  • How are you getting in the way of your kids’ success?
  • How can I help my kids be more successful as adults?
  • Why should you stop worrying about which college your kid goes to?
  • How can you turn your kid into someone you’d like to hire?

Are You a Victim of Learned Helplessness?

help wantedHave you noticed that parents are doing more and more for their children these days? For example, a mother of a ten-year-old tells me she still picks out her daughter’s clothes for her every day. She doesn’t have confidence in her daughter to choose her own clothes. A seven-year-old boy tells his daddy to put his socks and shoes on for him—and Daddy does! Daddy doesn’t push back to tell his son that he could do it himself.

Whether it’s the parents or the children who drive the dependence, it creates young adults who don’t know how to take care of themselves or do their work independently. This is what managers are complaining about. Young workers need “hand holding” to get them from one step to the next in task completion.

How do we raise children to learn how to do it on their own? Two things have to happen for children to develop into independent people:

  1. Parents have to let go and
  2. kids have to let go.

It’s that simple.

But it’s not that easy! Parents feel special when they are needed. They also feel special when their “best friends” love them unconditionally. Children feel good when they are taken care of, and it is so much easier if someone else does it for them.

In addition, it is scary to let go. It’s scary for parents to let their kids try things on their own because they might fail or get hurt in the process. It is scary for kids to try things on their own for the same reasons. It’s the discomfort that keeps the codependence in place.

Experiencing the discomfort of letting go andnervous trying things out on your own is not fun. Surely you can think of numerous times you have avoided doing something because you didn’t want to feel the discomfort. For example, it may be awkward for you to tell an employee that they haven’t done a good enough job. It may be heart-wrenching to discipline your child. It may be scary to take the car for a spin on your own for the first time or ask someone out on a date or travel far away to college.

We sometimes find ways around doing what we ought to do to avoid the discomfort. We ignore bad behavior, invite others along to accompany us, or decide we didn’t really want to do it anyway. We conclude the person’s performance wasn’t really that bad or choose to go to college closer to home. By doing this, we limit ourselves (and others) to being dependent and accomplishing less.

It takes courage to break through the discomfort. It may be scary, but we need to be brave to be independent and foster independence in others.