As a dad of eight, I am all about empowering my kids to be resilient, self-reliant individuals. And as a Guerrilla Parent, that means using unconventional methods in order to reach conventional goals.
That means I don’t help them with homework. I don’t get involved in their friendship squabbles. And I won’t be paying for their college.
I believe that too many parents regularly avoid real parenting in many situations. They spend too much money on their kids, money they may not even have. They value friendship with their children more than leadership for their children. And many believe that paying for their kid’s college education is what makes them good, successful parents.
The result seems to be that kids are growing up slowly, if at all, these days, with many adult children living in their parents’ home for years on end. Sure, most parents are acting out of love, with their hearts in the right place. Yet by giving their kids everything, they end up with adult children who have nothing.
Here are eight ways to avoid condemning your kids to a life of mediocrity:
1. Teach self-reliance. We all want our children to grow up and be able to take care of themselves, have their own lives, and fulfill their own dreams in their pursuit of happiness. Help your children develop a work ethic and take care of themselves. We need to teach kids to recognize what they want and truly need, and then show them how to get it for themselves whenever possible.
2. Customize their education. Mark Twain said, “Never let schooling get in the way of your education.” It’s your job as a parent to help your children discover their talents and to develop them through practice, hard work, and involvement in strategic activities. Help them take the classes and experience real-life situations that will help them grow as individuals. Scouting is still one great organization out there that supports this more than anything else I know of.
3. Focus on getting results. More than anything, employers want people who can get results and show a positive contribution. Yes, many places require a degree. Yet even if they get the job, people have to think, act, and get things done on their own. The real trend in the marketplace is the growing need for small business owners and entrepreneurs. It has never been a better time to work for yourself, but you have to know how to get results. Help your children focus on what information and skills they need to do specific jobs.
4. College is NOT for everyone. Give your kids all the options. Somewhere along the way, colleges and universities started cornering the market on higher education, claiming it was the best chance at giving our children an advantage. I firmly believe this monopoly on education must be broken, and we are seeing the cracks now. We must stop worshipping the false god called college. You may even want to invest in a business for your children before a traditional college education. Instead of spending $50K to $200K on college, spend $5,000 on helping them start their own business. I refuse to save for my kids’ college educations or create a belief in my home that college will be covered. They can earn good grades, obtain scholarships, take out loans, get assistance from an employer, or even join the military.
5. Let your kids fail. Parent by the natural consequences. If your kids don’t do their homework sometimes you have to let them receive the appropriate grade. The simple fact is that most kids, and people in general for that matter, don’t learn what they are capable of until they have to learn what they are capable of. This journey is the real education that leads to self-reliance, yet most parents steal this priceless experience from their children almost daily.
6. Don’t rescue your kids. No one likes to see their kids be mistreated. Kids will be picked on and bullied by people of all shapes, sizes, and gender. Although there are times to take matters into your own hands, most kids will be better off if you help them learn to deal with being treated unfairly or with cruelty. We can’t always be there with them every second of the day, so let them do what they can on their own. There are many learning opportunities, especially for teenagers, in this area of their life.
7. Challenge your kids. Find things that they like or love and together create challenging goals for them to reach. Make it age appropriate and within their grasp, yet challenge them all the same. They need to see progress and the power they have to make things happen for themselves. They can learn in many ways they are in control of their own destiny.
8. Love them no matter what. Compliment your kids regularly, and let them know you love them. People call me the meanest dad in the world, yet every one of my kids knows I love them. Guerrilla Parenting requires tough choices, sometimes going without, sometimes letting your kids watch from the sidelines. Yet this only works with a lot of love. They must know what is most important in life, and you must show them and remind them whenever possible.
Children that have everything given to them don’t necessarily end up poor or in jail; rather they end up with mediocre lives where they never really reach their full potential. Are you, as a parent, going to save, rescue, and pay for everything most of your kids’ lives or are you going to lead, inspire, and provide a path for your child to walk towards greatness? You’re the parent, and it’s up to you — no one else.
David T. Fagan is a speaker, author, and entrepreneur of several businesses and a father of eight living in Laguna Nigel, CA. He is the former CEO of Guerrilla Marketing, whose companies have represented everyone from celebrities to well-known experts. David and his wife, Jill, are authors of the upcoming book Guerrilla Parenting and the business GuerrillaParenting.com.