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Would you raise your children like your parents raised you?
I’m trying not to. My parents inadvertently raised me with a faulty value judgment system, and I think they should have pushed me harder to stick at things.
My father made a conscious choice not to tell me what he thought of what I achieved — not praising, not criticizing — and to reward effort. This is actually a pretty good strategy, but he didn’t execute it well as in effect it meant not much of any feedback because he praised the effort he could see and what effort I put in was generally at times when he couldn’t see. He did make the great decision not to force me to revise for my first lot of exams, from which we learned that I didn’t really need to revise.
My mother was very binary. Most things were wonderful, great, fantastic, anything she didn’t like was awful, terrible, naughty. She once described my sister getting her hair cut as “snide” and that “the whole family will be against you” (we weren’t. It was a good haircut).
As a result, I grew up without a good mechanism for judging my own work or other people’s. It’s taken me years to develop one.
I also wish they had made me stick at things that I dropped out of. I was allowed to drift away from playing rugby and judo, both of which I was quite good at and which would have been good things to carry into adulthood.
So, with my kids, I am trying to be more involved, to encourage them through the tough stretches and teach them resilience, to praise effort, but also to give an honest appraisal of achievement, and to get them to develop and stick at hobbies.
I’m trying to give them frameworks to understand the world that I wish I had had, particularly emotions and economics.
And I am trying to give them a shot, however slim, at being “talent” in adult life — encouraging them in sport, acting, art, entrepreneurialism — anything where there is a shot at controlling their own destiny, because I think good 9 to 5 jobs will be increasingly hard to come by. Having a (very long) shot at something different gives them options, and it also helps develop them at people.
Jason Whyte is a father and a writer. Read more from Quora below: