Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Parents are not friends to their children. Parents are parents.
Parent is derived from the Latin parire, which means "to produce, bring forth." Notice the similarity to the Latin educere which means to "bring out, lead forth," from which educate is derived.
As parents, our primary duty is to prepare our children to survive and thrive in the real-world.
And as complexity, uncertainty and competition intensifies in the real-world, our work gains importance and difficulty. Unlike for earlier generations, our industry specific work experiences and social connections are less adequate for preparing our children for life success. This is due to the accelerating pace at which the world of work evolves.
We parents treasure our children's affection. While we parents can and should be friendly with our children, we must not risk failing in our duty by diluting or diminishing our parenting behavior.
We parents need to do the difficult, the unpopular, the uncomfortable, the necessary, because our children need that from us. Even if they don't realize it, yet. Because, we are likely the only ones in this world who are able and willing to do such.
The Difficult, the Unpopular, the Uncomfortable, the Necessary
1. Set High Standards
To prepare our children for career success, we need to expose our children to world-class excellence (Global Maximum), not just best in city or county. This is because productivity technologies and techniques are widely adopted across the world. So employers constantly struggle against world-class competitors. Thus, employers seek world-class talent and will pay lavishly.
It will be uncomfortable for our children to discover that they don't measure up well against world-class excellence, especially if they have consistently excelled in school and local competitions. However, it is a mistake to shield them from the reality of world class competition, which they will confront in their careers. Many parents do such shielding to protect the self-esteem of their children. But self-esteem should result from hard-work and achievement, not from a sense of entitlement.
When I taught 9 - 12th grade at an exclusive private school, I witnessed a culture of inflated self-esteem in which students expected and received praise for mediocre work. The school embraced a customer-satisfaction model patterned after Disneyland, treating parents and their children as customers to delight.
Telling students that their work was sub-standard wouldn't delight them or their parents. So the school admonished faculty to heap on endless praise. After all, the parents paid a small fortune for a delightful educational experience. The result was satisfied customers who thought highly of themselves as parents and students, self-absorbed and oblivious to the students' mediocrity. Some students graduated to exclusive colleges which promised to maintain this charade for a princely sum. Some went to work for their parents. Others were stunned by world-class competition when they applied to highly selective colleges.
Parents need to set high standards by exposing their children to world-class excellence at an early age and expecting their children to work their tails off to achieve such standards. To do less is to do their children a disservice. Children are full of unrealized potential. Set standards low and they will meet them...and regret later in life for not having been pushed harder.
2. Hold Them Accountable
To prepare our children for career success, we need to cultivate in them a willingness and ability to be held accountable for their actions. This means they are willing and able to:
Commit to achieving specific goals
Move Heaven and Earth if needed to achieve the goals
Explain failures, accept blame, commit to remediation and improvement
A longer definition of accountability is:
"The readiness to have one’s actions, judgments, and failures to act to be questioned by responsible others; to explain why deviations from the reasonable expectations of responsible others may have occurred; and to respond responsibly when errors in behavior or judgment have been detected. Accountability, a critical component of professionalism, is closely related to the principles of morality, ethics, and legal obligations.
Accountability is not something that can be given or assigned to a person. Instead it is something that you must take on yourself. It is the ability to claim your actions as your own and discuss your reasons behind them."
Hollow P. (2005). Hackers are real time. Are you? Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Journal.
Young adults who develop the character and capability to be held accountable for their actions are admired and sought after by individual and organizations, founders and employers. Because they can be trusted to "own" their responsibilities, reflect upon their results, answer for their behavior, admit fault and failure, feel terrible when they have not done their best, dread disappointing stakeholders, and commit to doing better.
Set High Standards, Hold Them Accountable
Remember, we parents need to do the difficult, the unpopular, the uncomfortable, the necessary, because our children need that from us. Even if they don't realize it, yet. Because, we are likely the only ones in this world who are able and willing to do such.