With Allyson Hawkins Ward, Chief Executive NCAR at IBM, Author of Please Don’t Come Home: (Except for a Visit); A Field Guide to Creating Independent Adults
It’s perfectly fine to hover over your child’s cradle, but it’s not okay when they’re eligible to vote and taking their LSATs.
Allyson Hawkins Ward’s new book, Please Don’t Come Home: (Except for a Visit); A Field Guide to Creating Independent Adults, is a must-read for parents who want to raise independent and emotionally healthy children.
As an executive coach, Allyson became aware of a problem when many of her coaching sessions designed to help clients with their careers ended up focusing on their high school or college-aged children unable to cope with life without being dependent on their parents, more in the emotional sense than the financial.
Helicopter parents—listen up!
An overly-protective brand of parenting has produced a generation of kids ill-equipped to move out of the shadow of parents who have, for all of their lives, monitored, sheltered, and directed every aspect of their existence. Moving out of the house, going to college, getting a job—it’s scary out there!
Parenting guide for baby boomers.
The generation of baby boomers is largely responsible for creating this atmosphere of uber-parenting, somewhat with good reason. Stranger-danger never existed in the way it has since the wave of child abductions and the publicity it stirred up came into our culture back in, let’s say, the 80s and after. Young children were taught to mistrust, to use passwords, and to keep in constant communication with their parents—and that’s become so easy to do, often to the extreme with tweets, texts, and all the myriad social media sites at everyone’s fingertips.
Hooked on praise
Allyson talks about the phenomenon of over-praising and over-rewarding our children to the degree that they can’t accept losing or not bringing home a trophy for merely showing up at the soccer field. Like being dependent on drugs, they can’t move forward in school or ultimately in their careers without being lauded at every juncture. They need that fix! “You’re really, really setting them up for some very difficult times,” says Allyson, “if you’re not there to maintain that level of praise. Of course, that doesn’t happen in the real world.” Furthermore, she says, “Showing up is not an achievement.”
To help parents cope and hopefully correct the effects of helicopter parenting, Allyson’s book contains a 4-step strategy called GRIT. She explains that GRIT stands for hard work and is a game plan to get our kids ready for life on their own, to show them how to be resourceful, how to advocate for themselves, and how to have the resilience to brush off the inevitable failures.
The value of failure
Allyson makes the very strong point in her book that it is better to praise for effort, rather than for intelligence, citing a study which showed that students praised for hard work were able to take on new challenges and break new ground, whereas those praised for intelligence took the easier path by repeating the same patterns, just to avoid looking bad and losing face. The goal is to continue the journey by growing and improving along the way.
Allowing our children to fail and instilling within them a resilience and resourcefulness which pulls them through those failures is a gift of immeasurable worth.
Whether the title, Please Don’t Come Home: (Except for a Visit); A Field Guide to Creating Independent Adults strikes you as harsh or apropos, Allyson’s book is an invaluable parenting guide. Inside you’ll find:
- The GRIT formula to guide your teen to become an independent young adult.
- Tools with step-by-step instructions to aid your teen.
- The importance of allowing teens to fail so they can succeed.
- AND bonus strategies for the next chapter of your life.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital. Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.
Steve Pomeranz: Helicopter parenting, millennial entitlement, and children who can’t cope with failure: These are all the things that parents fear the most for their children but what causes it and what can be done to prevent it? The answers are all in Allyson Hawkins Ward’s new book, Please Don’t Come Home: (Except for a Visit); A Field Guide to Creating Independent Adults. Hey, Allyson, welcome to my show.
Allyson Hawkins Ward: Thank you. Thank you for having me, Steve. Happy to be here.
Steve Pomeranz: You explain in the book your own personal story. How did you come to write this book?
Allyson Hawkins Ward: I am an executive coach. I work with business owners as well as directors and VPs in corporate America. While I was helping them to get their businesses together and move ahead in their career, there seemed to be a constant theme where each of them had a child who was either in high school or headed off to college or some who were even out of college and who didn’t quite seem to get it, weren’t very focused, were still very, very dependent upon their parents, still living at home perhaps on a couch, and they were frustrated. Our coaching sessions, often times, would turn into a parenting how to, which made me realize just how sorely needed some guidance was.
Steve Pomeranz: Wow, yeah. This whole concept of helicopter parenting seems to be self-explanatory, but describe it for us in real terms.
Allyson Hawkins Ward: A helicopter parent is somebody who takes an overly protective view of their child’s safety and/or is excessively interested in the life of their children.
Steve Pomeranz: When you use the word excessive, of course. Define excessive.
Allyson Hawkins Ward: Let me put it to you this way. If you are someone who is constantly …. Friday night you’re more involved in what your child’s doing and their social activities than your own, that’s kind of a problem. You want to set an example for what a healthy lifestyle is. Hopefully you have your own interests as opposed to being focused on what your kid is doing so much.
Steve Pomeranz: I’m a baby boomer. I was, for the first 12 years of my life, I was brought up in New York City. My mother was a single parent and she worked. We, my brother and I, who is 5 years older than me, we roamed that city like we owned that city. We took buses. We took trains. We did things that today would be considered to be crazy and almost a lack of parenting, almost parental abuse, I guess you could say, in terms of parents not really caring what their kids are doing. What is so different about the way parents viewed their children in that last generation versus this new generation?
Allyson Hawkins Ward: I think there’s a lot of reasons why our parenting has shifted. Certainly, the level of abductions that were happening in the 70s and 80s; that not only that they happened, but they were publicized in a way that they had not been before. Now we have this whole term, “stranger danger” came about. That was a big phenomenon. I’ll be honest. I think one of the other contributing factors, I was also raised by a single parent, which was less common in the time that you and I were probably raised. It’s much more common now. Quite frankly, many mothers and fathers are investing more in their children because they don’t have their own personal relationships.
Steve Pomeranz: Ah, yes. In other words, your child becomes, in a sense, one of your friends, or maybe your best friend.
Allyson Hawkins Ward: Exactly. You hear that whole concept is, “My child is my friend.” No, your child is not supposed to be your friend. Your child is looking to you for guidance. Not to say you can’t have a friendly relationship. I will tell you with my own daughters, I remember when …. I don’t know what grade they were. My oldest one was learning about democracy. I said, “Let me explain what a democracy …” We explained what it was. They said, “We don’t have a democracy in this house.” I am in charge. This is a dictatorship. My daughters and I are extremely close, extremely close. At the same time, they are very clear that one person was in charge. They’re not my friends. We are friendly. We’re friends. Do you know what I’m saying? We’re friends, but I don’t rely upon my children for my social relationships.
Steve Pomeranz: You describe, in the book, years ago when you went to college there was maybe a phone in the hallway that everybody was using on the floor. Also, the price of a call was much more expensive back then.
Today, we all have iPhones and instant access through Facebook and other social media. Does that contribute to this concept of helicopter parenting?
Allyson Hawkins Ward: Without question. Technology has a huge impact on the helicopter parenting in terms of the ability of reaching out. Now I hear, often times, people whose children are in college and they’re texting and communicating with their child not only …. Before we’d be like maybe you’d call home once a week. Now it’s not only every day, but it’s multiple times a day. Every time the child hits a roadblock, they’re texting mom or dad to solve the problem for them. The other thing that we couldn’t do before too now is, as you mentioned early on, Steve, about how you and you brother were roaming New York City and your mom had no idea where you were. All I need to do now is pull out my iPhone and I know where everybody is. I can track my kids.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah. You even have the fantasy thought of maybe putting a little GPS thing, a bug, under their skin so you know where they are.
Allyson Hawkins Ward: Absolutely.
Steve Pomeranz: It’s not crazy because we just are so concerned all the time. One thing I liked about your book was that you actually gave the reader a chance to find out if, in this case, they were a helicopter parent, you’ve got a list of questions there that if you answer and you get a certain score, then you are, or you’re not. I like that. One of the features of the book also was this idea of the way we treat our kids in terms of everything they do is terrific. We don’t want them to feel disappointed or hurt or in essence fail. Where does that go wrong?
Allyson Hawkins Ward: There’s a phenomenon. I can remember growing up and you’d get a first, second, or third place prize, whatever the activity was. I can remember sitting in gymnastics meets with my children and seeing 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th place being called up to be recognized. I guess it was in the 70s or 80s people decided that our children’s egos were too fragile to think that they hadn’t succeeded, but that’s not how life is. What you’re doing is by continually praising your child, “Oh, they’ve done a great job.” when they really haven’t done a standout job. The expectation is when they leave home, they’re going to continue to have that, “Hey, you did a great job. Hey, you get a A just for showing up.” Their feelings are really hurt and they’re unprepared when they don’t get the continued praise when they go off to university. You’re really, really setting them up for some very difficult times if you’re not there to maintain that level of praise. Of course, that doesn’t happen in the real world.
Steve Pomeranz: I don’t know about you, Allyson, but in my life I constantly got awards for most improved. I’ve never really excelled at sports and that type of thing, but they always let me know that I mattered. You mentioned something called the GRIT formula in your book. Take us through that.
Allyson Hawkins Ward: The GRIT formula is the 4 step strategy I used to help parents. My book is really about the how to. Here’s where we are. What are we going to do about it? It’s the “how to” on how we can really support our kids and get them ready not only for college, but also for life.
First of all, GRIT just means hard work. It is hard work. They’re going to have to put the hard work in as students. We’re going to have to put the hard work in as parents. Also, G stands for game plan. Have you got a game plan? What’s your game plan when you get to college? What’s your game plan for life? If I were to say to you, “Hey, Steve Pomeranz, I have an opportunity for you. You’re a financial advisor. I have an opportunity. If you were to invest $100,000 in this opportunity that I have, I can’t be sure what the return on investment is going to be. After 4 years, you might have to give me some additional money.” You’d probably say “What the heck? Allyson, I’m not signing up for that.” You’re a savvy financial guy. As parents, we do it all the time. Our kids go off to school. It’s going to be at least $100,000. You may or may not be paying for all of it. Perhaps you’re contributing to it. You have no idea what you’re getting out of it. You got to sit down and have a game plan when you start off.
The R stands for resourceful. This really a skill that our teens, we all need. There’s so many things that we can do to be more resourceful. It’s absolutely critical because life is going to throw us some curve balls. We have to know how to get back up on the horse and figure how to move forward. In my book, I give seven different strategies on how our teens can become more resourceful.
Steve Pomeranz: Give me one example of that.
Allyson Hawkins Ward: One of the big things that they need to do is to self-advocate. What does that mean? I’ve heard this many time from friends of mine who are high school teachers or college professors. The student’s parent will call in and say, “Hey, my kid didn’t get a good grade. I want to know why, or what they can do.” There’s nothing wrong with fighting for your grade, but it needs to be the student who is fighting for the grade. I even heard a story this summer of a woman who was in human resources at a very large consumer package goods company outside of Chicago. One of the MBA students who had gone to a blue chip MBA program, had finished the summer internship, had received an offer, and the following week the student’s parent called up to negotiate the offer.
This is a person who’s got to be around 25-years old, has already worked, has excelled at one of the top business schools, and has already gotten the job offer, and still their parent is so involved that they’re negotiating. It’s really incumbent upon our students to self-advocate.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, it’s really interesting. That reminds me that personally many, many years ago when I got into the investment business, I didn’t know anything about investments. I didn’t know anything about money, or anything. My family had no clue how to save, how to invest.
As a matter of fact, I always say that whenever we talked about stocks the only thing I ever heard was stocks were bad and people jumped out of windows. That was the extent of our ability to understand that. I do remember when I went for my first job in the industry, I was offered X. Just out of the top of my head, I said, “No, I want Y.” They hired me. I asked later, “Why did you hire me?” He said, “Because you negotiated.”
They saw something in that, which meant that I was resourceful and I guess I self-advocated. I didn’t even know it. Interesting stuff.
My guest is Allyson Hawkins Ward. The book is Please Don’t Come Home (Except for a Visit); a Field Guide to Creating Independent Adults.
One of the statements that you make in the book, which got my attention
was that it is better to praise for effort instead of praising for intelligence. You site a test that was given.
Allyson Hawkins Ward: If you’re not familiar with Carol Dweck and her book on mindset, I would encourage everyone to run out and to read that. That’s the study that I refer to. What’s so important is when people are praised for intelligence, a couple things. One, that they may or may not have come on to that of any effort of their own. They just might be gifted. They might have the ability to memorize things very easily. There’s nothing that they’ve done to garner that. One, we always want to improve. I know you were making a joke about the most self-improved, but we do want to improve. We do want to strive. We do want to continue to grow. We always want to praise that effort. The other thing that happens is when people are praised for intelligence, they can also be afraid that, “If I’m not intelligent, maybe I won’t be valued. Maybe mom, or dad, or teacher won’t think very highly of me, so I better always be intelligent, or I better always appear to be intelligent, but I might cut corners to get there.”
Steve Pomeranz: You want to praise for effort. Why?
Allyson Hawkins Ward: You want to praise for effort because, one, you want to continue to …. This is what Carol Dweck’s book is about is the growth mindset. You want to continue the effort. You want to continue the journey of continuing to grow and improving. We want to make sure that we recognize that you’ve taken some effort here. We want to continue to celebrate that, so we continue along that path.
Steve Pomeranz: In the test that you explained in the book, there were two groups. One group …. I’d like you to tell the story. They were told to work hard. They were reinforced for their hard work. The other group was told that they were intelligent. Within the next part of the test, they were given a choice of certain tasks. Tell us about the outcome on that.
Allyson Hawkins Ward: The student who had been praised for hard work said, “When a new opportunity came along …” They had the opportunity to do the same thing again, or to do something new, they were ready to go on and take on the new challenge. They were like, “I got this.” They were ready to take on the challenge. It’s what I said before. The student who was praised for intelligence was afraid of looking bad. They just wanted to continue to stay at the same level. Of course, we always want to continue to move on to another level and to continue to grow. We want to make sure we’re setting them up to succeed and to perform that way.
Steve Pomeranz: Also, I think, one of the outcomes was the one that was praised for intelligence actually took the easier tasks.
Allyson Hawkins Ward: Yes. Exactly, because they’re afraid to lose face. They don’t want to lose their face of, “I was intelligent, so I want to just do something that I know I can achieve at.” Many times we’ve got to break new ground. That’s how we continue to get ahead. We start new businesses; how we grow in our work is taking on new tasks.
Steve Pomeranz: We’re almost out of time. I wanted to ask you this 1 question, because this comes up a lot when I’m talking with entrepreneurs and reading about entrepreneurs. How important is failure in the building of self-esteem?
Allyson Hawkins Ward: Failure is, I think, is very important here. What’s really most important, as parents, is supporting our children through failure.
A couple things. One, people who are very successful, you look at our top entrepreneurs. The thing that they know is that failing does not mean that they are a failure. That’s such an important distinction.
Steve Pomeranz: That’s the difference, yeah.
Allyson Hawkins Ward: It’s a huge difference. It’s not just that failing’s important. It’s understanding failing does not mean that they’re a failure. As parents, we need to make sure we make that distinction for our children.
You can look at any example of business or sports or the arts. Every one of them can point to by failing they worked harder. They re-tooled. They thought of it a different way. They picked out different resources, so that they can move forward. If you’re constantly succeeding, you’re not striving as high.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, and you get back to that point of resilience.
Allyson Hawkins Ward: Absolutely. Especially, think about it. You go off to university and you’ve never failed. The first time, especially if you go to a more competitive school. I think this is probably the case anywhere.
Let’s say you go to a more competitive school. You’ve been the top of your class probably your whole elementary, and secondary career. Here you are now and so is everybody else. All of a sudden, you’re not getting to be the president of the club. You might not make the sports team. You fall apart.
Steve Pomeranz: There’s nothing like being …. When you’re the big fish in the small pond and then you’re the small fish. I’ve experienced that myself. That’s a great lesson when growing up.
The book is Please Don’t Come Home. I love that. Please Don’t Come Home: (Except For a Visit); a Field Guide to Creating Independent Adults. I highly recommend this book. My guest, Allyson Hawkins Ward. Allyson, thank you so much for joining us.
Allyson Hawkins Ward: Thank you.