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Permission Required

Permission Required

| September 07, 2018

For the last year I have been writing articles about families and money.  Some of these articles have dealt with the actual mechanics of how to teach the proper care and use of money. Others have been focused on the character and virtues that provide a proper foundation for the above concepts.
For the most part, I have received positive feedback on these ideas.  Many have expressed appreciation for refocusing the discussion on the importance of character, values, and ethics.  Others have valued the simple ideas of how to shape the discussion about responsible money management with their children.
What has surprised me though has been the most common follow up response.  It goes something like this:
“These are great ideas, I just wish I had access to this when my kids were younger. It’s just really too late now.” But….is it?
The first several times I heard this or similar statements, I accepted it at face value and went on.  But as time goes by, and similar responses pile up, I am starting to realize something much bigger may be going on.
In my planning practice, I am also seeing this same theme being repeated.  Whether talking to parents of teens, adults, or grandparents of toddlers, teens or adults, there seems to be a resignation that the influencing, mentoring and leading of those younger than us is a lost cause. It is as if our responsibility to lead and shape our family is revoked once our kids reach the age of “supreme wisdom” (17?).  This phenomenon doesn’t just happen to parents either.  In fact, where it seems to be most noticeable is in my discussions with grandparents.  Many of my more experienced clients have been very successful leaders of companies, managers of many, and organizers of grand efforts. They have managed multi-million dollar budgets and shaped their company’s culture in order to achieve amazing results.  But when it comes to intentionally influencing their families, to passing on the character, virtues, and work ethic that underpinned that success, many have expressed that they don’t feel they have been given the permission to get involved.
Oddly though, in conversations with other men my age (40-50), I keep hearing the same thing in reverse. Many are expressing a strong feeling of loss that they don’t have a mentor—someone who’s been there and done that.  Life has become very complicated.  Even mature, successful adults are wanting to know that they are doing it right and most are open to ideas of how to do it better.  Certainly, there must be a way for us to bring these needs and experiences together.
To be fair, many grandparents see the environment where kids are raised today and feel that things have changed so drastically from when they raised their children, that their input would be so “out of date” that it wouldn’t be much use.  Let me take a moment to figuratively stand up and shout “No!  That couldn’t be less true!”  Your children don’t need help with their iPhones, they need help understanding how to live richer, more connected lives.  Your grandkids don’t need another video game or trip to Disney (take me—I’d love to go!), they need help discovering the importance of developing a virtuous character that will take a lifetime to develop.  They need you to help them discover who they can become and the work it will take to get there.  They need your guidance.  They need your leadership.
One word of caution — most parents are not looking for the grandparents to show up with a list of “How you’re doing it wrong.” Getting started in a new realm of any relationship can be challenging.  My best advice is to ask good, thoughtful, caring questions and then focus on being a very good listener.  Listen for fears, listen for strengths.  Try telling some stories from times when you remember being in their shoes.  You might be surprised how interested they are in what you did, why you did it, and what you learned.
Maybe you are not like me.  I’m in my late 40s and I still feel I have a lot to learn.  I still need people in my life who can help me process what I’m seeing, what I’m doing. I still need help focus in on what is really important in my family and how to pass those values that matter most on to my kids. Maybe your kids feel the same way.  Maybe you’re waiting for someone to give you permission to get in there and start.  For what it’s worth, you have mine.