In the previous post I wrote about talking to my girls “one or two” levels ahead of where they were (i.e. I talked middle and high school when they were in elementary school). I noted that there were about five benefits to using this approach. In this post I would like to expand on each to reinforce the value of actively trying to “stay in front” as a parenting technique.
The five benefits I noted were:
(1) I was not chasing the current dynamic that they lived every day, which may be slightly or significantly different from when I was in their situation.
(2) It helped prepare them, whether subtly or forthrightly, for what is over the horizon.
(3) It kept them forward looking, either anticipating or preparing for the next change.
(4) It allowed for future reference once they actually experienced what I explained years earlier.
(5) It set precedence that I knew what I was talking about since many things came to fruition and thus as they got advice for other "future" situations they had confidence in my projected outcomes (and what to do about them) based on a good track record.
The first, I recall the Will Smith lyric that “parents just don’t understand.” And from this I decided that to avoid this phase, whether when the girls were single digits or teens. As such I avoided instances where my perception of them being children was dated. And I noted there were occasions where what the “80s” definition of society was not the same when a parent – including social norms, technology as well as ethnic and gender definitions. These changes were less disruptive because our exchange about those topics were not central to how they lived their social and academic lives.
The second was akin to iterative condition setting. Every “level” introduced unique challenges and I tried to not have my girls go into blind. Though I could not prepare them for every instance, I could reduce the uncertainty and increase their confidence in what is forthcoming. That was my goal in talking one level up.
The third benefit is that it enables a mindset that is important for children and adults. Being forward looking helps preclude real or perceived stagnation. So, talking about what is coming, and how to prepare yourself for that inevitability helps plant in their mind something is always coming/changing.
The fourth served as a perpetual reference when there was doubt about the value and accuracy of advice. I found over the years, though things change, the core tenants of growing up remain the same. Therefore, when I projected future realities of the next level, the predominance played out. At the end of the day, interpersonal relationships with peers (boys and girls), academic challenges, athletic stresses, personal expectation management, sex, alcohol, drug temptations, as well as risk of abuse remained regardless of decade. Yes, technology advanced, social norms were redefined, but they did not eliminate that aforementioned life challenges of our children. And the advice we gave of projected challenges helped set precedence that we lived our life to inform theirs, at every level of living.
The fifth benefit complements the fourth, establishing over a decade’s worth of “cred” that I know what I am talking about. That what I told them would happen in middle school did, and once again what I projected in high school played out relatively close, so when I advised them about post college priorities, how to manage their income, and life balance, why would they question the legitimacy of my advice?
This 15-year tactic allowed for me and my adult children to have age appropriate conversations about lifestyle choices that were not confrontational, but conversational. It meant they openly received, accounted and factored my advice before they ultimately decided what was best for themselves.
It is what I offer to young parents who believe their advice should be heeded but are not sure how to make that aspiration a reality. Employing the cumulative effect is such a practice that I found effective.