Out of love, many parents hover over their kids to protect them from distress or harm, to make sure they feel good about themselves and to assure they are launched on a path to success when they leave home.
The all-too-frequent result: young adults who lack independence, confidence, resilience, and a work ethic. They may have a college degree, but they don’t know how to take the bull by the horns, solve problems on their own, and exercise good people skills, which is what their employers need from them. As a consequence, many of them have conflicts with their managers, stall in their careers, or fail and return home.
Which is ironic. Their parents made it their overwhelming mission to assure their kid’s success, and the opposite happened.
From my perspective, this result isn’t surprising at all. What’s surprising is that these otherwise loving, intelligent parents didn’t appreciate the true cause-and-effect dynamic that was at work. They didn’t understand three things:
1. Adults need certain work habits to succeed. The frequent challenges of the modern workplace are complex and unpredictable. Employers need people who can work without a lot of supervision, take responsibility for problems, and work with others to resolve issues as quickly as possible. They need people who are willing to do the hard things without being told what to do.
2. These work habits have to be ingrained over time. To acquire them, young people have to perform these skills and habits over and over until their brains are physically wired to do them automatically. This takes time.
3. The skill-building and habit formation needs to happen before the young adults reach the workplace. Ideally, it happens in youth. If not, the deficient workers have to go against the grain of their own weak behavior patterns, to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps in order to catch up to peers who already have these skills and personal strengths. Which is why this outcome usually doesn’t happen.
How did they end up in the workplace still dependent on their parents, lacking confidence and the willingness to do the work it will take to succeed?
Because their parents didn’t understand how strength-building works. The kid has to do the work! Somehow the parents thought that if they did everything for their child to assure he or she built the right resume and got into a good school, that success would follow.
Not true. College prep is about a lot more than getting good grades. Gaining admission to a good university doesn’t assure that the young person will magically engage the skills and strengths to meet the inevitable challenges. The kid has to “do the reps” before showing up at a campus or workplace. It doesn’t help at all if the parent did the reps for them, intervening to take care of the hard things during youth.
If parents can grasp the three realities outlined above, they can channel their love in a different direction – giving their child lots of age-appropriate opportunities to take responsibility, deal with their own issues, work through failure and persist until they achieve their goals.
My new book: How Your Teen Can Grow a Smarter Brain.
Also, you can download 4 FREE guides, including “The No. 1 Way to Nurture the Bond with Your Teen.”