When to Stop Parenting

September 4, 2021

We'll start with a joke. A guy goes to work and he's all scratched and bloody and blue and beaten up. So his coworkers ask him, "What happened?"
           "I buried my mother-in-law yesterday."
           "So, what happened?"
           "She did not cooperate."
           This is an extreme situation when you try to parent somebody you should not parent anymore. Mothers in law can be a pain sometimes.

          What I'm learning in old age is that at a certain point in time, the children resent being parented. Don't want to be told what to do, don't want to learn the experience of the elders. That was not true in the past. My grandfather was the boss. His word was the law, including for my father, who was in his 40s. My father was also the dominant figure in my family and I never dared to disobey him. He continued giving me advice and instructions what to do until he died. I didn't like it, but I listened. Yes it was in the last century. I am 83 now.
           Today, it's a different world. The children become "adults” early. They know the computer technology better than us. I could not operate the latest TV screens without them. I am constantly asking for help with the latest changes to my computer applications. I am the ignorant student. They are the knowledgeable teacher now. They're influenced by TV, by the social media, by external factors, school, their friends, the impact of the family and its control over their behavior is diminished significantly. Thus, they rebel earlier. If you try to control them, they simply run away. You can see that, especially in America, when the children, when they graduate from high school, go to college as far away from home as they can go to. And then find jobs far away from home too. They want to be independent and if you try to continue parenting them, they resent it and they don't call back any more.

     We need to learn to cut the cord and let them go  their way. Unless we are asked for advice, don't offer it, let it be. The extreme cases  are when you try to parent your in-law, son-in-law or daughter-in-law. That's even worse than patenting your own children. They resent you  to the point of the joke.
Interesting analogy is for succession planning in a company. Starting a company is like having a child. You love the company. You spend more time building the company than you spend with your own children.   And the day comes when the company is big enough to have good management beyond the founder and they want to exercise authority too and lead. Can the founder let go? Let them make mistakes or does he or she continue to “parent” , continue to make all decisions to be sure no mistakes are made.  And what happens? Like with children, the good one leave and the weak one stay, accept the stage of disempowerment they are in   and the company will grow only as far as the founder is still active to the fullest. And when he or she dies , the company eventually will die too because there was no successor who leads.

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes