Jim Beach interviews Joanie Connell about Flying without a Helicopter. A lively exchange that will keep you wide-eyed and amused while learning how to help your kids become more independent and ready for work. Interview starts 30 minutes into the show.
On this show, Jeff interviews Dr. Joanie B. Connell, author of Flying without a Helicopter: How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life, about how to prepare your sons and/or daughters for work (and life). It was an interview that resonated with him, as the father of a soon-to-be 15-year-old first year of high school student.
“Don’t let them win” were the sage words of advice from a fellow graduate student. He was speaking in the context of being true to yourself and not letting others get you down, but these words also apply to how we respond to terrorists. We let them win by being scared. Killing isn’t their goal; breeding terror is.
Look at how scared we are today.
A friend of mine and his family experienced a traumatic event this week when a mentally ill homeless person entered the school grounds during a kindergarten open house. What would have been an opportunity to teach the children about how we need to be kind to homeless people before 9/11 was quite the opposite today. Some parents attacked the unarmed homeless guy and put him in a choke hold while other parents frantically dialed 911 and chewed out the school principal for not having a policy for dealing with such threats to their children. Everyone was traumatized. Continue reading 911: Don’t Let Them Win!
What are we doing to our children? They are counting on us to raise them to be healthy, capable adults. They are depending on us to put our own needs aside in the interest of theirs.
But look at how selfish we are!
We placate our distress by keeping our children happy instead of robust.
We live our joys through what we deem as worthy achievements for our kids instead of letting them live their own dreams.
We make money by causing mass anxiety through media and product marketing instead of letting parents believe in themselves and their kids.
We drain the earth’s resources to make ourselves comfortable instead of leaving enough for subsequent generations.
We create personal and national debt, instead of saving for our populace’s future.
What have we done? How can we continue to do this? Why are we blaming the younger generations for our selfishness? Who’s the entitled generation really?
The 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.
The 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.
- Heather Havrilesky says “Get a life, and your child might do the same someday.” Her New York Times book review of Lythcott-Haims’ book describes the extreme parenting witnessed at Stanford as “extreme parental interference suggesting not just a lack of common sense, but a lack of wisdom and healthy boundaries (if not personal dignity).”
- KJ Dell’Antonia writes in her Motherlode column in the New York Times: “If we cover up our children’s best work with ours, they learn that their best isn’t good enough. If we cover up their weak efforts with our willingness to do more, then they’ll never learn that more is worth doing. If we prop up their procrastination with our ability to nag and cajole, they’ll never learn to discipline themselves.”
- Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, author of Raising Kids to Thrive, says the fundamental principles of raising resilient children are anything but simple. “The challenge of parenting is how to apply these core principles in a complicated world. It doesn’t matter what we know to be right, what we wrestle with is how to do it.”
- In a segment on Free Range Kids, Jordan Klepper of The Daily Show reports (in tongue and cheek) “As compared with kids just 25 years ago, today’s children are exponentially dumber.” The segment points out in a humorous way the absurdity of how afraid we are of giving kids even the slightest bit of independence.
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.
When did it stop being OK to be OK? Now it’s great, wonderful, amazing, stellar, and even epic. Epic. Really? What does epic even mean, anyway? Heroic and monumental are some of the definitions from standard dictionaries. The Odyssey is a classic example. The Urban Dictionary defines it as “the most overused word ever, next to fail.” Overused is exactly my point—for all these words, except OK.
My daughter skipped and twirled across the lawn and did a cartwheel at the end. “Ta da!” She said. “Wasn’t that amazing?” She asked, beaming ear-to-ear. I had to be honest with her. “That was cool, but I wouldn’t call it amazing.” Do you think I’m a bad parent? I think it’s better to keep it real than to puff her up to believe she’s bigger than life.
It gets dizzying and meaningless when everything is awesome. People become numb and turn to drugs to keep the buzz from wearing off and to keep reality from creeping in. The stress of having to constantly outdo oneself and others leads people to engage in risky behaviors, both in youth and adults.
Let’s face it; most of us really are OK at most things. We may excel at something, but, compared to the rest of the humans on earth, we’re in the middle of the pack. And that’s OK! It’s OK to aspire to have a middle class life. We don’t need to try to be the best or to make millions. Really, it’s OK to have a solid job and have a decent life. Maybe get married, maybe have a family. That’s OK too. And it’s OK not to.
Look around you. Most of the people around you are OK. Yes, there are a very rare few in the media who have mansions and insanely lavish lifestyles, but most people don’t. Not to worry. Research shows that having more money doesn’t make you happier, once you have enough to cover the basics. It’s interesting, because most parents say their most important wish for their children is for them to be happy. Voila. You don’t need to pressure them to be the best. It’s OK to be OK.
Author, Joanie Connell, Helps Millennial Generation and Its Parents Prepare for Work. Interview with Dr. Connell on advice for Millennials and especially for legal careers.
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?
Have 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:
- Parents have to let go and
- 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 and 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.