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  • Writer's pictureDr. Thom

Are they listening? Raising our Children by Living in Front of Them


Photo by Dim Hou on Unsplash

I have always wondered if the son of a professional chef asks his father for advice on cooking dinner. Does the daughter of a financial planner ask her mom for budgeting advice? What do our children truly understand about their parents’ areas of expertise and would they be willing to ask about them?


In our home, my office sits in the corner of our over-the-garage bonus room along with a large seating area where our three sons hang out playing video games most afternoons after school. As I am meeting with young people from nearly every U.S. time zone, my high school-age sons are at least within earshot of advice that other people pay money to hear. But are they listening?


This week, our oldest son (who is a senior in high school) came downstairs with his laptop and declared it was time for him to apply to a handful of colleges. Even though Bridget and I had occasionally encouraged him to begin that application submission process, we have been hands off on when he should start doing that. As is the advice for our client students, we believe that he has to own this process, not us as his parents. Up until now, my oldest son has sported a kind of “too cool for school” vibe on applying to college, but apparently that had now changed.


“You should apply early to these colleges right?” he confirmed while pointing to a list of schools he created in our CollegeHub* software.


“Yep, that’s right,” we said.


Over the next hour and half he barreled through applications for three of his top choice colleges. We were thrilled, and a bit surprised.


We sometimes take for granted how much our kids absorb from simply watching us as parents live our adult lives. It’s such an underrated parenting tool though. Amidst all of the advice and lectures we sometimes give them about how to grow up, the most powerful lessons often come from them simply watching us do what we do every day.


I am watching all of the Facebook posts from families dropping off their sons and daughters at college and I cannot fathom what that will be like next year with my oldest son. Will he be ready? Will I? Have I taught him everything he will need? Have I said all of the right words?


I have to trust that along the way, I have taught him to be resilient, thoughtful, kind, and loving not only by my words of advice, but in how I lived out my life in front of him.


*The GEC CollegeHub is a college search planning software tool that our client families use to stay on top of the entire application and scholarship process.


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