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Guest: Dr. Tim Jordan, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, international speaker, author, and media and school consultant.
Episode in a Tweet: Dr. Tim Jordan shares 5 common CEO parenting mistakes that may hurt more than they help.
Quick Background: You worked hard to build your business. You made mistakes. You learned from them. Nothing was given to you. You had to rely on your grit and determination to earn every inch of your success.
So why should your kids have it any different?
Because even the toughest CEO can turn to mush once we hear “Mommy!” or “Daddy!” We don’t want our kids to have to struggle like we did. We want their lives to be as easy and pain-free as possible.
But Dr. Tim Jordan has found that our best intentions often lead to negative results. And in many cases, the same knack for prescient problem-solving and planning that’s made your business successful can hold back your kids’ development.
On today’s show, Dr. Tim Jordan discusses the five biggest parenting mistakes that CEOs and entrepreneurs make and offers some expert tips that will prepare your kids to make their own BIG happen.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.
Common CEO Parenting Mistakes to Avoid From Dr. Tim Jordan
1. Setting kids up to fail in college.
Dr. Tim Jordan has seen many parents start pushing their kids to bolster their Ivy League credentials as early as middle school. “The emphasis used to be on growing up and learning how to be a good friend,” he says. “There’s lots of social-emotional skills that you need to be successful in college and life, and even those are taking a backseat to academics and the pressure to get perfect grades and all that.”
Dr. Jordan and many other researchers have concluded that where your kids go to college is a lot less important than how they go to college. Over the course of their lifetimes, kids who graduate from Ivy League schools are no more successful or satisfied than kids who graduate from a good state school.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s built a business from nothing, but it turns out grades and extracurriculars aren’t nearly as important to succeeding in college as grit, optimism, self-efficacy, and an openness to new learning and new experiences. Parents who value a perfect ACT score above these essential life skills aren’t doing their kids any favors.
Worse, helicopter parents who don’t let their kids make mistakes are smoothing away the grit that you yourself probably relied on countless times when the going got tough in your business.
“Grit is that sense of do you allow your kids to try things and get frustrated, maybe even fail, try again, push through it, and lift themselves up and succeed,” Dr. Jordan says. “That experience of going after it and not giving up and staying determined and pushing through, that’s how you develop grit. If you are allowed to do that dozens and dozens of time in your first 18 years of life, then when you go off into the world to college, you know that you can handle challenges because you already have.”
2. Letting “externals” motivate them.
Here’s an important exercise for CEO parents: Ask your children why they want to go to college. If they tell you they want to get rich, buy nice things, or become famous, it’s time for a talk about priorities and what really makes life fulfilling.
Of course, financial security is important, and I suspect that even today’s idealistic millennials might feel differently about money once they get married and have kids of their own to support. But you know from your own experience as a CEO that true success requires a higher purpose than profit. Companies that don’t have a vision or values that extend beyond a balance sheet don’t create a winning culture. They don’t attract top talent. Their aims are small, so they stay small until a company that does have a big-picture view surpasses them.
Dr. Jordan believes that it’s not a parent’s job to motivate kids. Our job is to support their motivation. Again, just as it is in business, “Why?” can be a very powerful question. Asking your kids why certain activities interest them, why they think getting good grades is important, etc., can help put them in touch with the core values that are going to make them successful in college and in life.
3. Mapping out their whole lives at a young age.
Your business needs a three-to-five-year plan for growth.
Your kids don’t.
Here’s a better approach: remember those connect-the-dots pictures you used to fill in as a kid? Start at 1, draw a line to 2, 3, 4 until point 100 completes a drawing?
“I tell kids it’s not your job to connect dots,” Dr. Jordan says, “it’s just your job at this point in your life to be open to dots that cross your path. Dots are things like a class at school, it might be reading a biography, it might be a job you have, it might be an internship or service work, or traveling. If you just are open to dots, and you trust your heart, and you do those things, those eventually start to connect all on their own.”
One famous “dot” is the calligraphy class Steve Jobs took on a whim in college. A decade later, Jobs connected that dot to personal computing by creating attractive fonts for the Mac, which kickstarted the digital publishing revolution.
4. Fretting too much about technology.
Sometimes it sure does seems like our kids are living their lives on their phones. But the instant gratification of a Facebook Like isn’t totally to blame.
Dr. Jordan asks, “Where did you hang out when you were a kid? We were riding our bikes, we were out in the woods. Our parents had no idea where we were. When the street lights came on, that’s when we came home. The truth is that in this day and age because of a lot of fears, we don’t let our kids do that. So where do they hang out? Online. We’ve forced them into that.”
Setting some reasonable limits on tech time, such as keeping phones away from the dinner table, is still a good way to teach your kids the value of unplugging. But Dr. Jordan also urges parents to be less fearful about letting their kids out of the house for unstructured play. Data shows that our kids are no less safe today than we were growing up. But when something bad does happen, 24/7 news and social media make isolated events seem like constant threats.
5. Letting your success spoil them.
If you’re successful, your older kids probably know it. That can make it difficult for CEO parents to say no. But just because YOU can afford to buy a new cell phone or car doesn’t mean your kid can too!
“You might want to let your kids know that mom and dad have a bunch of money, but it’s not yours. It’s our money. It doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to it,” says Dr. Jordan.
Instead of whipping out the credit card to make your kids happy, find ways to ignite their own entrepreneurial sparks. Say no. Set limits on what you’re willing to chip in for luxury purchases and force them to come up with ways to earn money. Insist that your college-bound kids work through college to pay their share of the costs.
Advises Dr. Jordan, “If you provide opportunities for them to have a little bit of hardship or to be a little hungry, you don’t pay for everything, then they’re more likely to be motivated to do things like that because it’s not all just given to them.”
- Let your kids be kids. Good grades and test scores are important, but so is the personal growth that comes from playing and experiencing new things with other kids.
- Let your kids fail, especially when they’re young and the stakes are low. The learning will far outweigh the minor consequences.
- Let your kids earn their way. However old they are and whatever it is they want, make sure your kids have some skin in the game.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.