Today is all about parenting. You will about raising resilient and resourceful children. My guest today is my brother, Rob Openshaw. He is the 6th of 7 siblings of mine. In this episode, he discusses the lessons learned from our parents about hard work, resilience and the importance of creativity in solving our own problems. He tells you a very funny but instructive story about his experience in the junkyard.
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Robyn: Hey everyone and welcome back to Your High Vibration Life. And today I want to talk about parenting. We’re talking about raising resilient and resourceful children. And I have a fun guest today. He’s the fourth of my six brothers. I want to talk about parenting again because, while this doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone, if you are a parent, there’s not much more that you care about in your life more than being a great parent and helping your kids reach their potential and be happy.
And as I compare notes with other parents like me who are finishing this 25 year project, we’re realizing some things that we did wrong. I hate to think of it like that but I’m talking about some deep regrets that many of us have that I’ve been finding themes in lately as I talk to other parents. And so I think it’s worth talking about and sharing and being open about what we did wrong, that I hope that younger parents will listen to. Because parenting is like everything else in life. You usually don’t know what you don’t know. And as a young parent, there was a lot I didn’t know.
I did podcast episodes number seven, which is called 13 Secrets for High Vibe Parenting and number eight that I did with my friend Carol Tuttle on High Vibe Parenting. And I come back to this conversation because first of all, as you really begin to ascend into higher frequencies in your life, you become a less controlling, more creative, more flexible parent. And then you have a lot of epiphanies about your past parenting, you know? Back when you didn’t know how. And for me at least, I start a lot of conversations with other parents at the same stage that I’m at about whether they’re having similar experiences to what I’m having. And I find out they are.
So today I have a great guest with a funny story that is also really an instructive story to tell you. It’s my brother, Rob Openshaw. And you might be wondering if my parents just weren’t very creative or what? All the names in the world and they named their kids Robyn and Rob. Well, here’s the thing. My mom didn’t really want to have girls. When I was born I was supposed to be Robert, Jr. She had never entertained my being a girl and she was pretty devastated when I was and so she picked the closest thing to Robert. And yes, she told me that story when I was old enough. I didn’t know what to say about that so we’ll just leave that alone. But my mother actually went on to have six sons after me. So she got her wish, to raise boys, in spades.
But I was at my older son’s wedding last month and my brother Rob told me a really great story that highlights what I want to talk about today. I’ll share my short interview with him and then I want to get into some conclusions and thoughts for parents who’s kids are younger than mine. Or really, anyone who’s interested in talking about how kids are being raised today. My kids, by the way, all have birthdays right about now. It’s summer 2017 as I record this and they were all born within two weeks of each other. They are turning 17, 20, 22, and 24.
So Rob, welcome to my show, Your High Vibration Life.
Rob: It’s great to be here Robyn. Thank you for inviting me.
Robyn: Yeah. I want to get to this funny story you told me at Cade’s wedding reception recently. But first, tell my audience your position in our family of origin and a little about the family that you’re the head of now.
Rob: Okay. So I’m the sixth of eight children. I’m the, let’s see, the fourth boy. And I have two younger brothers. So eight kids, I’m the sixth one. The family that I have now, I’m married with three kids. I’m in my late 30’s. And I am the director of sales for a medium sized education publishing company. So that’s kind of where I am now.
Robyn: Yeah so, tell me a little bit about how you would describe the home we grew up in. I mean, I’m the oldest and you’re the six of eight and so, gosh, maybe our experiences were different but what’s different about our upbringing, the way we were raised, than like, our friend’s homes or maybe how kids are raised now? Give me a little comparison and contrast.
Rob: Okay. I think in our family it was more about you’re just kind of expected to do things on your own. I know our mom talked a lot about raising independent children and I don’t remember thinking, “Wow, I’m being taught to be independent.” I remember feeling like I don’t think I’m really supported very much in what I’m doing. I mean, that’s how it felt for me. But at the same time, there was sort of some imposed, scarcity. There were resources that were not … My parents were not running around trying to figure out how to support me more. That wasn’t really at all what they were talking about. They were more about instilling confidence in us and almost creating … Sometimes creating challenges, creating hurdles that we would have to overcome in order to become greater.
So they weren’t trying to make life easier, they were trying to make life real and give us real experiences. They expected us to work. They expected us to work a lot. They expected us to earn all the money that we needed for college, for instance. There was just never an expectation of any sort of help for college or … I won, I was actually in a competition in high school where I placed second in the state of Utah in this category of this competition and I needed $300 to go to Memphis, Tennessee to compete in this national competition because I had placed so well at the state level. And I just didn’t have the money and just didn’t go because I didn’t have the resources.
Robyn: You know, I didn’t know that story about you but I took two AP classes and couldn’t get the credit because I didn’t have the money for the AP tests. And it never even dawned on me in asking them for money. You feel about the same?
Rob: Yeah. Yeah, pretty much the same. I actually had, through a family connection from where we grew up in Washington DC area, and then we moved out west to Utah, is where I was living in high school and in college. I called up a family friend of ours who is a Congressman or was a Congressman at that time from California and I called his house and asked if I could do an internship in his office. And his wife, Pam, said sure yeah. Here’s the phone number and I called the office and they said, yeah that should be no problem. And then I did the math and I realized I did not have the $400 to get out to Washington DC, even to stay with our aunt and uncle who live out there for free. I just did not have the very, very scarce resources. So I could have done an internship in a Congressman’s office, but because of a lack of resources, I did not do that.
Robyn: What do you think, as you look at how the eight of us have turned out, okay? We’re all parents, we’re all supporting our families. By the scorecard of what anyone wants their adult kids to look like, how did our parents do?
Rob: Well, let’s see. I mean, the oldest four are all business owners. Seven figure plus businesses. The younger four are really independent, pretty successful, all with a hard work ethic. People who kind of own their own problems and don’t really rely on any resources outside of themselves and their spouse and what they have going on. There just really isn’t any dependency on other people. And people that are pretty self-sufficient, I guess. That’s, I mean, there’s kind of this … None of us could really depend on anybody besides ourselves. We looked to ourselves in a real strong way, I guess.
Robyn: Yeah. Yeah it’s really true. What did you get up and do in the mornings? What time did you get up and what did you go do?
Rob: So I woke up at 3:50, I think it was just before 4:00. Had to be at the paper route at 4:00. And Dad would wake me up and we’d go jump in the car and drive over there and roll up the papers and put them in a bag or whatever. Put on these paper bags that kind of fit over you so you’d put newspapers in the front and then there’s also newspapers in the back. Had to keep it balanced. And then we’d go walk or run to deliver newspapers. And that was the four to five, probably about 5:30 am time frame. And then you come back and have breakfast and usually read with the family, read some Scriptures, that sort of thing and then get to school.
Robyn: Yeah. Yeah, and we all … Our dad got up and before he drove to the Pentagon and worked his full time job, he would get up and do a paper route. And some of us just resented the heck out of it. But it’s sort of amazing look back, isn’t it? What that taught us.
Rob: Unbelievable. And you may … Maybe you remember this too, but there were a number of other families that went to church with us. And basically, every single one of them started doing what our parents had done with the paper routes. Pretty soon, every single family had paper routes in the morning. It was this idea that spread and it started with our mom and dad.
Robyn: And you know, those families have really good outcomes too. It’s about hard work and expecting big things of your kids. Expecting your kids to do hard things. Okay so I’m dying to hear this story that you told me at my oldest son, Cade’s, reception last month. Tell us about it.
Rob: Okay so I’m living at college. I have a part time job where I earn about $10 an hour. Actually, no, not quite $10 an hour. Like nine or eight. Something like that. And I’m working in this … Living in this apartment and I have this hatchback car that I have access to that I paid for. No loan on the car. Anyway so I’m just screwing around with my friends and coming back from a movie and racing somebody else. Anyway, I end up slamming my car into a curb and the right front wheel gets smashed in so it’s like, it’s turned at a 45 degree angle so you can’t really, obviously you can’t drive the car. And I’m like, oh my goodness, I have no money to have this thing fixed.
So I figure out how much money I have. I have like $300 to my name. And so I’m like, what am I gonna do? I have no idea how to fix this car. Obviously don’t have the resources to fix the car. I barely have any money. So I called up a mechanic and I said, so how much … Kind of explained what had happened. And I said how much to fix the car and he said well, it’s at least $350 for me to fix the car. And I was like, man that’s just not gonna work. I don’t have that much money.
So, I hung up the phone and second phone call was to my parents and I said, hey I was screwing around in my car. I don’t remember what I said. I probably made it sound like it had happened to me or something. But definitely I did it. And I was like, hey I just need to borrow your car for a few days and my mom, she kind of was a little bit hesitant for just a moment. A little hesitation. And I think she covered the phone and had a short conversation with my dad. And she came back on and said, “No.” And I was like, what? You have two people at your house. I know that you have three cars. I know you have an extra car that I can borrow. I live two miles away from you. I just need to borrow your car. I know you have a car that you’re not using.
And so I just tried reasoning with her, tried to explain the basic facts again. Like maybe she had misunderstood me.
Robyn: Uh, no.
Rob: And no, I mean I work in sales so convincing people is something I’m pretty used to. And nothing worked. She was like, “No, I’m not doing this.” And I remember hanging up the phone and just feeling like, what in the world just happened. Like, I know where the car is. You know? I think it actually crossed my mind to just go over there and take the keys and just take the car. But obviously I couldn’t get away with the car for very long. But anyways, so I was like, I don’t have any transportation. My job, where I get all of my money, my little $8 an hour job, it’s two miles away from my house. I have to drive to get to a grocery story because it’s like four miles away. So I was like, what in the world am I gonna do?
So I did, I walked to work.
Robyn: Well you asked Dad for more. You went for broke and asked for their car but then you broke down from there, didn’t you? Didn’t you ask for less and less and less?
Rob: I eventually did ask for at least some tools. If I could beg and borrow someone to help me fix the vehicle. But that was later on after I took a couple steps on my own. But there was just nothing. There were no resources available to me. It’s like I know where the car is. Our youngest brother had just gone on a mission and so he drove a car that my parents owned and it was available. I knew it was sitting in the driveway. I knew where this car was and I knew it was completely available.
So, anyways, I was just totally blown away. If I had explained that to anyone, like my roommates … I remember there was a different time I was explaining to my roommates how things worked with my parents, and he said, “If you do that, if you ever treat your children that way, I am gonna find you and I am gonna beat you up.”
Robyn: Well, you know, I’ll tell you Mom cut out a newspaper article, literally 20-something years ago. I didn’t even have kids yet. And gave it to me. I still have it and it was an article about benevolent deprivation. And her explanation was, you deprive your kids because if you give too much to them they’re going to turn out to be spoiled little brats. And now, today, there’s a word for that. It’s called entitlement. And, you know, the millennials get criticized for it all the time because they don’t have to learn to be resilient and resourceful. Because their parents are out telling the teachers not to give them too much homework. And the parents are out there getting mad at the coaches who don’t play them enough.
Would our mother have ever gone to one of your coaches and said, “You’re not playing little Robbie enough.”
Rob: Oh my gosh. No. In fact, I had a situation where I was trying out for the varsity soccer team and I had played the previous two years and the coach was like, kind of vindictive. And he actually cut me. He cut the team all the way down to 23 people and he cut just me. I swear this guy just hates my guts. This is the guy that I, in my whole life, this is the guy that I like the least of all people I’ve ever met.
And he had a special cut. He cut the entire team down, told everybody the cuts were over, and then, that was on a Friday. And then on Monday, he said oh I decided to make one more cut and he just cut me. He ended up getting fired and everybody hated the guy anyway. But, he targeted me. And there was, just to your point, there was absolutely no like, oh I’m gonna march in there and tell them what for. No, there was nothing like that at all. I was definitely all by myself.
Robyn: You know and we aren’t advocating for “We all turned out great so you should never help your children.” That’s not our point.
Rob: Those are some extreme measures.
Robyn: But they really never did help us. They gave us no financial support. They didn’t solve our problems for us. And I think it made eight resilient and resourceful children. But okay, so Mom says no to you borrowing the car, even though you know they know you can. You ask for, I believe you asked for some money. I think they told you no to using their toolbox, am I right?
Rob: I think they eventually let me borrow a jack. Which is interesting because I actually had helped Dad pick out the jack. We had done work on a different car that he owned. But I have to kind of explain what happened. So, no car, I have to get to work. So I go to work, and this co-worker of mine, I’m like hey …
Robyn: You walked to work?
Rob: I walked to work yeah. I walked like two miles to work. And this isn’t one of those uphill both ways. Like, I literally walked two miles to work. So, I get to work and I’m talking to this co-worker of mine, I was like, “Hey, Brandon, is there any way you could just drive me over to a nearby junkyard on lunch or whatever? Could you just drive me over there?” And he was like, yeah, I guess so. So two days later, having walked to work a couple of times, he drives me to this junkyard.
I call of course and figure out that they have the part, whatever. So I get to the junkyard and I talk to the guy and he has this Spanish speaking, no English but Spanish speaking guy at the junkyard walked me out to the car and he’s gonna remove the part for me so that I can buy the part. So, I had served a mission in South America so I spoke Spanish. So I strike up a conversation with this guy and I start chatting with him as he’s taking the part of the car. And I said, look, I don’t remember his name, Juan or something. Juan or Jose or something like that. I was like, hey, would you be available to come over to my house and put this on my car for me? You seem like you know your way around a car. And so anyway, so I get his phone number and I agree with him to come over to my house on Saturday, a couple of days later.
And so he comes over, meanwhile I have to call up my parents again because I’m like, this guy doesn’t have tools. He actually had told me, I don’t have papers, I’m illegal. Okay. So he agrees to come over to my house, then I have to line up the tools. I have to get the tools in place so that this guy can do the work on the car. So, I call my dad and I was like, okay, my car’s broken, do you remember that my car’s broken? Is there anyway that I can just borrow your jack? And I know he has this jack because I helped him buy the jack, right? Can I just borrow your hydraulic jack that you have? And he didn’t want to let me borrow the jack. And I had to work him for a while. I was like, look, come on. This is all I need. I’m doing everything else myself. Can’t you just let me borrow the jack?
And finally, he goes, I remember, I just remember clear as day, he said, he sounded kind of put out and he was like, fine, where do you live? Okay, I live three miles away from his house and have for several years. He did not know where I lived, okay?
Robyn: Well, and this just really shows how very independent … We’re so independent from a young age. I mean, I was buying my own clothes at 16. You know, the story you describe and the reason I wanted you to tell it, it just shows how resourceful you had to get. I mean, this hilarious story of you going to the junkyard when you’re turned down for any kind of help at all. And you end up finding a Latin American who’s here illegally and getting him to come to your house to pay him $20 to fix your car.
I’m gonna tell you a quick story that I’ve actually never told anyone and then I’m gonna draw a conclusion from it and I wonder what your conclusion is after many stories like that. I mean, that’s just like a funny one, but …
When I was in fourth grade, you know, I don’t know if you know this but I wasn’t allowed to wear pants.
Rob: No, I didn’t know that.
Robyn: Yeah, Mom felt that girls should wear dresses so I was only allowed to wear dresses. But I had two pairs of pants and all of my clothes came from garage sales until I was pretty much old enough to buy my own clothes and so … You’re well familiar with the Saturday morning garage saling.
Rob: Oh yes.
Robyn: That was an actual word in our household is garage saling. Go through the paper on Friday night and Saturday morning you hit it at 6 am. And I had two pairs of pants and they were polyester pants and I wore them so much under my dresses. I was allowed to wear my pants under my dresses. For some reason, she didn’t want me to wear … You know, she felt like girls wear dresses. But she’s okay with me wearing pants under my dresses so I had the red polyester pants and I had the green polyester pants. And they both had patches on the knees and they were apple patches. Like a big apple on the knees of my red or green pants that I wore under dresses.
And in fourth grade, Mr. Hage, who was very well liked, super charismatic, the kids loved him. He went on a little comedy riff in front of the whole class about the way I dressed. And for the rest of the year I was a big loser. Bit giant loser, big L on my forehead. And worse than that, then I was just fair game. If the teacher makes fun of her, we can. I was out on the monkey bars one day, shortly after that and a boy climbing under me said, Robyn has holes in her underwear. Like, yelled this out to all the kids. So I was a total loser, kind of played alone for a lot of that year. And you know, here’s what I want to say about that.
Is a lot of today’s parents, and when I say a lot I mean this is standard parenting nowadays. They would have gone in, they would have told the teacher off, they would have been calling the other parents. They would have been, what I call pass blocking. I call it offensive line parenting. Out there trying to solve their kids problems. And I just want to say this. I’m really, really glad that my parents didn’t go solve that problem for me. Because what I learned from that experience is that fourth grade isn’t my whole life. What I learned is that these kids might not like me right now, but I can win them over. I can finish fourth grade strong. I can make friends. I can get past this hard situation that I’m in.
And that resilience and resourcefulness, after a painful experience. I mean, obviously, I’m 50 years old and I’m talking about something that happened in fourth grade. I mean it was painful. I’m glad they didn’t solve that problem. So I wonder how you feel about your experience there in the junkyard?
Rob: You know, I went to them after, a few months later. And I think I got out of that whole situation for like $100, $150 instead of the $300. So this was like, literally I had enough money to do it once this guy came over and fixed my car. And I did, I called them up and I said, I thought at the time that you were being really harsh to me. But I want to thank you. I learned this life lesson, basically. I learned that this is a problem I can solve. Like, I didn’t have to tap your resources. I learned things about myself through this experience. And I told them that and I thanked them for helping me. And I really do feel like that.
And it’s interesting. They did still help us in certain ways. For instance, I went on this LDS mission and I had saved up about $10,000. I mean, I can’t even count the note. It would be thousands of hours I had worked to be ready for that. I had saved up about $10,000, I go on the mission, I come back thinking I’d spent all my money in bank account, and they said, actually we paid for your mission, you still have all the money. Good luck.
So it wasn’t that they were just being harsh, I really think there was this planning there. I think there was this greater purpose to what they were doing. I really think that but I was very grateful and I have thanked them for that. Cause now I know that if something terrible happens, I know that I can overcome whatever comes my way.
Robyn: Yeah. You learn that you can do hard things. And I love what Dad did. How he made you pay for your missions and you were one of six, all six of my brothers, who paid for their own LDS or Mormon missions out of pocket. Saved enough to go pay to be away for two years and support themselves. Like, that’s just extraordinary. And then when you got home they said surprise, here’s all that money back, now you can use it for college, which is pretty cool surprise.
Well, Rob, you’re my favorite brother today, which is saying a lot since I have six of you. But, I think you’re an extraordinary human being. All my brothers are and thank you so much for being with us and sharing your story.
Rob: Of course. Thank you. Thanks for inviting me.
Robyn: I hope you enjoyed those stories of the way my brother Rob and I were raised. Having raised kids between birthdate of 1993 and 2000 to adulthood now, I can tell you some of what I see, almost across the board in parenting among my peers that is really different from how maybe you and I were raised. And like I said, I call it offensive line syndrome. And that is, parents are out knocking down everyone in little Bobby’s path who might cause any pain for little Bobby. So they would be out there talking to the coach who had it in for my brother about him not getting play time or why he got cut. They would go in and talk to my fourth grade teacher, Mr. Hage and give him hell.
As I was raising my kids, I saw countless homework projects that the parents weren’t just involved in, the parents clearly did it. From the planning to the execution to the display at the science fair, or whatever. I saw lots of Eagle Scouts awards that the kids supposedly earned but were clearly a 20 hour a week job for one or both parents. And probably, most disturbingly, I saw a lot of parents who argue with teachers, and coaches, and other parents and even other kids in order to make life easier for little Bobby.
So heaven help the teacher who imposes a consequence for little Bobby for bad behavior. You’re gonna answer to Mama who sees herself as the center or the left guard, making sure that Bobby doesn’t have anything particularly stressful with his life. Get out of the way coach if you don’t play him enough.
As I was raising my kids, I had a lot of friends who were teachers. And just from the comments they made about how much offensive line syndrome there is out there, I would ask them. Because hearing you talk, teachers are the second lowest paid in the United States. And I would say, what’s harder for you in your job? The low pay or parents who come in and want to pass block? And 100% of the time of my asking a few dozen teachers this over the course of about five years, they said, absolutely the latter. It’s not the low pay, it’s the fact that the parents are interfering with their children’s experience of becoming resourceful and resilient.
So what do you think about this? Do you see it? Millennials get to be the butt of a lot of jokes and I have five millennials on my own staff and they are all completely fantastic. Plus, of course, I’ve raised four of them. But as a generation, they take a lot of criticism in the popular media and in the economy for being entitled and sort of soft and sort of lazy. In 2016, Harvard Business Review published a paper revealing findings that successful people always, 100% of the time, have two character traits, resilience and resourcefulness. They differ in a lot of different ways, but all successful people are resilient and resourceful. So at the end of this podcast I’m gonna suggest that you write down, if you’re a parent, put it on a three by five card, tape it to your mirror. Am I helping my children become resilient? Resourceful?
How do you become resilient if you’ve never been hot or cold? Your whole life is temperature controlled. I mean, I’m being kind of metaphorical here because obviously we live in homes that are heated and cooled to be 73 all the time, or whatever. I’m talking more about how you and I developed resilience to the extent that we have it by fighting our own battles. By, when the fourth grade teacher makes fun of your clothes, or your car breaks down and you can’t get to work and it’s two miles away, solving your own problem. We tend to think that our kids can’t solve their problems and we have to do it.
So by working our way out of things that seemed hard and sometimes even impossible, if we have that taken away from us, if we are helicopter parents … If you ever took the Love and Logic course, there’s helicopter parents and drill Sargent parents. And the Love and Logic methodology helps you see the error in those two ways. If we are helicopter parents we are creating weak children. So then we head into adulthood scared and unsure with no real experience in problem solving to draw on. Our kids have never been hungry. They haven’t had to work as hard as most generations.
I had a 30 hour a week job when I was 15 and I had two full time jobs in the summers between years of college because no one was gonna help me pay for college so I needed to dig deep and be very resourceful.
My oldest son didn’t get a job in the summers until he graduated high school. And because of my regret over some of my previous parenting decisions, I am way more vigilant with my youngest son. And this summer, I told him that unless he had enough part time jobs to be working 40 hours a week, he couldn’t drive the car. And I told him, when he turned 16, that he had to start making payments on that car. And how he figured out how to do that was up to him. Last year I started having him pay for his gas and his car insurance. I’m basically trying to help him become a man, a step at a time.
If anything though, if i have any regrets, my regrets as a parent are around doing too much for my kids. All in the name of, I wish I had had a little help when I was young. And now as I finish raising my kids, I’m rethinking that and I’m wishing I’d done things a little differently.
Now my fourth grade story might have sounded pretty heartbreaking to you. It probably reminds you of a painful experience you’ve had in your life. I’ve mentioned before that a million dollar company tried to manipulate me and destroy my business some years ago. And I thought that standing up to them and saving my business during that persecution, I thought it would destroy me. There were many months that I thought it would. And like the fourth grade me, on the playground, while I wouldn’t wish either experience on anyone, I’m glad that I have the resilience that came along with solving those problems.
Here’s what I learned now that helps me with every single trial that comes my way. I learned that I can do hard things. I learned that even if I feel very low right now, that’s not how I have to feel tomorrow or in a week or a month. I learned that I’m not defined by someone’s opinion of me. I learned that just because your teacher doesn’t like you, or that a teacher could mobilize a group of 25 kids to make fun of you for a whole year, is just a blip on the radar of my life. It cannot take me down unless I let it. I learned that I can win people over by showing up over and over with integrity and with kindness, even if people aren’t always kind to me. I eventually did make friends that year in fourth grade. I still got good grades.
I felt uncomfortable and scared because Mr. Hage was such a popular and fun teacher and it was terrifying to have him make fun of me in front of the other kids. And I don’t think he meant to cause harm and I’m sure he’d be crushed to know the impact that had on me that year, which is a great reminder to us all. Another theme on this podcast of course, is to be careful with our words. To use them to build up, rather than to cut down. To realize how very sensitive human beings are. I learned in fourth grade that one event, and even one year does not define my life or who I am. Imagine all that lost learning if a helicopter parent had learned that I was suffering that year and swooped in and taken all my pain away.
Now I’m not saying there isn’t ever a time to rescue. I’d be the first one on the scene if my child or yours was in harm’s way. I’m certainly not saying that we purposefully create suffering for our children. Life will do that. Life provides many learning opportunities. I’m sure right now you’re thinking about some of the low points of your life. The times that you were scared. The times you weren’t sure that you could overcome. And I bet you’re thinking about what you learned as a result of what you went though that wasn’t easy. It sometimes felt overwhelming. And if you haven’t had those early experiences, then what you’re going through now would seem completely impossible to overcome. But overcome it you will. And you know this if you had to do hard thing earlier.
And I believe that the two success qualities, number one resiliency, and number two resourcefulness, are not only forged only in trial. Only when we are digging deep. But also learning resiliency and resourcefulness is like learning languages and math. If we’re gonna be good at it, it has to start in childhood. Science has proven to us that there are windows of time in human development when we are young where our brain is extremely open and flexible to learn math. To learn additional languages.
So I think the helicopter parents are hurting their kids. There, I’ve said it. I think the best thing we can do for our children when they’re on a team but they’re sitting on the bench, or they fail a test, or they get in trouble, is to have conversations with them where we help them expand their thinking. Where we ask meaningful questions that help them access their innate resourcefulness, their resiliency.
I think parents who do their kids’ science fair project, and please, believe me when I say it was the majority in the charter school that I sent my children to. And even the public school that one of them went to, who did some or most of their kids projects. These are overachiever parents. College educated professionals, most of them. They’re worrying in second grade already what colleges their kid will get into. I think the parents don’t believe in their child when they go to do their report for them. They see that the project is hard and they literally think their kid can’t do it.
So we should check ourselves. Do you believe your child can do hard things? Forget about whether he will. Okay? Probably won’t if you step in and do it for him. But can he? It might help to take stock. Take a little moment to catalog all the amazing things that you have done that you thought you couldn’t do. That seemed hard or impossible at the time. Your child has plenty of gifts too. And this is a good opportunity to reflect on that a bit, which is what I’ve done as I’ve been thinking about this podcast episode. Do you believe in your child?
Started conversations with lots of parents the last few years I’ve learned that many of us feel very regretful about helping our kids too much. Which is a very strange thing to say. But with my youngest son, I’m probably as involved as I ever was with my older kids. Because I’ve seen too many youngest children who are just flapping in the breeze and the parents are tired, they’re older, they’re exhausted by what all the oldest kids did and they’ve kind of thrown in the towel. And I’ve been really determined with Tennison to turn some things around. Some entitlement. Some values he’s expressing that I don’t think align with the charactered person I’m working with him to become.
I’ve been really trying to praise him for doing work voluntarily. The other day he said, “Mom, do you need help bringing those groceries in?” See, this is progress. Now, my kids projects didn’t win first place. Pretty sure we never won any awards in the science fair. But they will always remember their science fair projects because they did them themselves. I didn’t have the idea, and I didn’t do the project. I was there to answer questions and help remind them that they can do it. Maybe ask a few questions of them to help them think creatively and I took them to the store for the supplies and that’s it.
Science fair projects are really just an example. But kids who’s parents have offensive line syndrome and do the pass blocking for Bobby, raise weaker Bobby’s. Kids who aren’t sure what their purpose is in life. Kids who get fired from their jobs because they aren’t willing to dig deep or because they can’t just not go to work whenever they have a conflict in their schedule. They are used to being excused and they’re used to being rescued. So it’s kind of the downside of affluence. For several generations now we’ve had no war, we’ve had mounting affluence. And it’s a well-known consequence that in generation three of that situation where there’s a lot of affluence for several generations, that the third generation has some really missing pieces of their character.
It’s like having flabby muscles. You have flabby muscles if you don’t exercise them. And so if we don’t exercise our resilience and resourcefulness muscles, we lose them or we don’t develop them in the first place. Or we don’t realize we even have them. So I really believe we need to develop them in childhood by age 18, gradually. Hard problems to solve are so critical in child development and are part of children becoming well-adjusted adults.
When we take those opportunities away from our children, I believe we’re hurting them. If my mother had heard the dramas I was having with friends in junior high, like every other junior high school girl did, and called up all the other moms and pass blocked for me, I would have missed out on some relationship skills that today serve me very well. So I hope if you’re a parent you write this question on a three by five card and you put it somewhere you see every day until it’s really ingrained in the way that you think about parenting. Am I helping my child become resilient and resourceful?
It’s never too late to start having different conversations with our kids. Now my conversations with my son are around encouraging him to do hard things. He’s taken the ACT four times in the last six months. And these are his scores, 25, 26, 27, 28. And this is what real life is. It’s chipping away. It’s not big, swoop in and win the science fair with a project my dad did, moment of glory. It’s taking a test five times and getting a point higher every time.
So I’m praising him when he helps without asking. And when he works hard in sports or school. And when I see him being kind. I think being kind is the most important thing he can be. And he’ll learn to be kind as I model it to him, not as I lecture him about it. I praise him but I’m also not afraid to correct him. I try. On a good day, I correct my son without anger. The best correction is clear, it minces no words about how his behavior is unacceptable to me and it won’t serve him well in his life. But it’s said with love. I’m talking about on a good day, right? And with a belief that he can do better and that I know he will.
More and more I’m talking to him about money. I did some really cool things with my kids as they were growing up to give them entrepreneurial opportunities. It only took with one of my kids, the entrepreneurial bug, so far anyways, but oh my gosh, it’s fun to see how wildly successful this one child is this summer. She’s on track to make $30-$40,000 on a summer sales job this summer and her manager brought her up in front of all the other first year reps and said, “Emma is crushing it.” She’s the only girl who hadn’t gone home by that point in the summer. Partly because her mom’s an entrepreneur and taught her to work and to sell and to be self-starting.
I’m having conversations with my son about character. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I want my son to know that I stood for something. That I cared about he treats his date. I want him to know that he makes his date feel like a million bucks. I talk to him about when a girl says no, it means no. I talk to him about when he returns his date to her parents that night, she’d better come back in pristine condition, like when she left. I tell him that whoever he’s with, when they walk away from him, should feel happy, encouraged, and uplifted because he’s in this world.
So let’s be parents who don’t make excuses for our kids. Who love our kids enough to let them stand and face the music when they screw up. And say I love you anyway, but what you did isn’t okay. Even when they see the consequences is painful for them.
So I want to express my love to you. Love of parenting, love of doing this show and sharing with you things that are meaningful to me and that I’ve learned along the journey. I hope you’ll share this episode. If it’ll be meaningful to any young parent you know, it’s the stuff I wish I had known 20 years ago.
Remember that right now, before my book Vibe publishes on October 10, 2017, you can pre-order it. So many people have that the price has been driven way down on Amazon and then write us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your Amazon order number and we’ll give you the $19 audiobook right now, for free. Thanks for being here, it means the world to me and I’ll see you next time.