Interpersonal Edge: Work advice for children

Love them enough to set limits today,  so they can handle life’s challenges tomorrow.

Photo by Monstera Productions

Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Interpersonal Edge

Q: I have five young kids and a successful career. What’s the best advice and skills I can teach my kids to succeed? What work advice and tools do you teach your clients to pass on to their children?

A: The best work advice I give clients is to teach their children to have low expectations and lots of gratitude. The best tool I teach clients is to give children opportunities to be frustrated, so they learn resilience and tenacity.

With our best intentions, we may think that making our children’s lives easy is our job. But if we respond to their every whim and problem, we’re only teaching them narcissism and entitlement. If we want to raise kids with a work ethic, we need to give them opportunities for delayed gratification and impulse control.

If kids get what they want when they want it, we give them short-term joy but mortgage their futures. We know as adults that nothing valuable comes easy. The question is: What moments are we providing our children with that can teach them this lesson?

I often say to clients: “I know you love your kids, but do you love them enough to be disliked by them today, so that they’ll be effective when they grow up?” Our own issues with self-esteem can make it uncomfortable when our kids tell us we’re “mean.”

When we don’t react to a child’s criticism, we model caring more about our effectiveness than our ego. With the influence and pressure of social media and peer judgment, raising kids who can make unpopular decisions is a precious gift.

As I write this column, I’m with my three kids on vacation. When I look at their innocent faces, I want to coat them in bubble wrap, to buffer them against all pain. What I do instead is to remind them constantly that what other people do is not about them.

The ability to not take people personally will give your children freedom, power, and less sleepless nights. So much adolescent and adult angst is about trying to figure out, “How that person could do that to me!” The reality that other people might not think about us all that much is both true and liberating.
As a parent, lower your expectations of how much influence you have on your kid’s success. I tell clients that outcomes with children are 1/3 genetics, 1/3 parenting, and 1/3 what a child decides to do the first 2/3. We don’t receive a blank slate when we take home a baby. Neurology, biology, or mental health challenges all impact how much you can do for a child.

When your kids fail, act out, or you get judgment about them from others, remember they’re not raising your child. The only perfect parents are people who never had kids. The rest of us are improvising. Be enthusiastic about failures as learning moments.
When your kids are tiny, all parents have idealistic views. The teen years are hard because parents have to shift from the unlimited dreams of a youngster to a teen intent on showing parents what they won’t do.

Many parents who read the book, “What to expect when you’re expecting,” are only clear on one truth, which is that raising their kids is turning out not to be what they expected.

If there is one last tool it’s this: Find moments in the mess to genuinely enjoy each child. When a child launches into the world with a sense that they’re enjoyable, they’ll anticipate that others will also want to engage them as well.

The last word(s)

Q: As we approach the end of the year, I’m concerned about how to set resolutions for New Year’s. Is there a best way to make progress with New Year’s resolutions?

A: Yes, forget about the pressure of grand resolutions at the end of each year. Instead, make and keep small actionable goals that get you closer to what you want all year long.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.

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