Some Useful Parenting Advice
Every so often, I’m lucky enough to hear a great pearl of wisdom and manage to jot it down, and it turns into a perfect title for a blog post.
This one came from a presentation I attended at the recent FFI conference in Boston.
Many of the blogs I write are of course based upon the wisdom of others, and I think I do a pretty good job of sharing the credit when it’s due, at least when it makes sense for me to do so.
Let’s jump into the details so that we can then unpack this subject a bit more, as it relates to family wealth and its eventual transition.
Emerging Adults Don’t Always Launch as Desired
The presentation in question was a breakout session entitled “Emerging Adults: Moving forth the family firm”.
It included three presenters who shared ideas and strategies around helping families get positive results for their family businesses by ensuring that their rising generation members were well prepared for what is expected of them.
One of the presenters, Diana Clark of the O’Connor Professional Group, provided my money quote, towards the end of the discussion.
As someone who has worked in the field of addictions for decades, she had a warning for all parents.
“Don’t make having “happy” kids your main goal; make sure it’s a by-product”, she said. “Otherwise”, she continued, “they’ll end up coming to see me.”
What’s Wrong with Being Happy?
To be clear, she was not saying that having happy children was not something to strive for.
She was, however, providing a warning that I think all parents should heed, i.e. Don’t make their happiness the primary focus.
The familiar refrain we’ve all heard (and likely even said), “I just want my children to be happy”, can lead to many undesirable consequences.
I touched on part of this way back in 2015, in the post “Over-Parenting: Worse than Neglect?”
What I had labelled “over-parenting” back then included some examples of not allowing children to struggle for themselves, which has as its root a desire to keep them “happy”.
What I think Clark was getting at is that making your children’s happiness the main focus is actually kind of a cop out.
From Dependent to Independent
When you reflect on the roles that parents are expected to play, I’m not even sure if happiness is supposed to be near the top of the list.
To me it is much more of a recent phenomenon, a far cry from the “children should be seen and not heard” that was popular not too many decades ago.
I’ve been a parent for over twenty years now, and it is definitely a work-in-progress.
Also, times have continued to evolve, and it’s often difficult to swim against the current when you live in a society of instant gratification.
I’ve always felt that one of the primary parental responsibilities is to make sure that our offspring progress from a state of dependence upon their parents to a state of independence from them.
What a child needs a parent to do for them at the age of 5 is different from what they need at 10, and at 15, and at 20 and 25.
From Independent to Interdependent
When dealing with the families I work with professionally, those who’ve built up a significant asset base, that they hope to transition to the next generation of their family, making sure their offspring are independent is only the beginning.
I urge these families to work towards a state of interdependence, because that’s what is necessary to increase the likelihood of success.
I believe that Clark would agree that trying to make sure that those who succeed us become independent, and capable of functioning as adults in every way, is way more important than making sure that they’re happy all the time.
In fact, when parents succeed at this, their children will more likely be happy, as a by-product, as she suggested.
A Tale as Old as Time
This can get quite complex, and the struggle to get it right is a story that’s been around forever.
Getting parenting right is tricky, especially when you can do everything for your kids. It’s hard to say “No”.
But having them never require addiction treatment is probably something we can all agree is a good thing.
Best of luck (that helps too!)