Sunday, March 20, 2011

Innovative Parenting - Fail to Succeed

Kudos to my parents for making me who I am. I am not a parent, so I am not writing this post from the perspective of someone who has done something great myself. Several things I have heard and read recently make me realize what a great job my parents did raising me. As many of my friends are new parents, I am thinking about what it takes to be a good parent these days.

Because of LinkedOC, I saw Seth Godin speak recently and he said that our system of education was setup to create factory workers. It seems as though he is right, even though my school system in Gering, Nebraska might have been an exception. He suggested parents these days need to be more innovative. He spoke of making your kids figure things out for themselves. This is the part that made me think of my parents. Let me give you a few examples. If I forgot my lunch or my homework or forgot that I was supposed to wear something specific on any given day, my parents would not bring it to me. I think they were just trying to teach me that my actions have consequences. They were not trying to be innovative – or teach me to be innovative – but it worked. I can only imagine how hard it is to not “save” your kids because you don’t want them to fail or be embarrassed or get hurt.

Meeting Professionals International’s One+ magazine featured an article about Alina Tugend’s book (you may not be able to see the link if you are not a member). She says to encourage kids to work hard. Don’t praise them for being smart. My parents excelled at this, too. I have average intelligence, but I was always praised for being a hard worker so I succeeded at many things simply because of my work ethic. My parents refused to buy me anything they thought I didn’t need. However, they did provide me with a job working for my Father’s lawn care business. I had money to spend on frivolous things, but because I had worked for it, I respected it a little bit more than if they had just given it to me as an allowance.

I managed to have a sufficient sense of entitlement after graduating from college and I wonder if the reason is that everyone told me that a college education was expected and necessary. The conclusion that I made was that it was going to make the difference between me starting at entry level (as someone would without a degree) and starting at management level (as someone would with a degree). No wonder gen x and gen y have a problem with entitlement! Instead, you should tell your kids that they are expected to go to college and then they will still have to start at the bottom, but their degree will help them once they are a few years into their professional careers. Although, the way that information is distributed is changing so fast and the world is changing so fast, that the traditional system of education probably won’t be able to keep up. Seth Godin said something about school being a good place for your kids to learn how to get along with people they don’t like. I would agree and say that college is still a good place to learn about a lot of things, just maybe not a place to become an expert at a particular subject.

Part of the reason that I have always questioned my superiors is because I was taught critical thinking at a young age. I had a particularly hard time adjusting to “the real world” because my liberal arts education did such a good job teaching me democracy. For some reason, I thought business was run the same way! In my first job, I was so disappointed to find out that decisions were made that did not make sense to me and did not seem fair. Can you imagine? Do you work in an environment where it is o.k. to fail and learn from your mistakes, o.k. to question your superiors, creative thinking is valued?

Let me know if you had any of the same experiences or have any questions for me.