Letting Your Children Define Their own Success
Hello, my name is Jane Ballback and I am Jan’s twin sister. I love her new blog, and when she asked me to write about How You Define Success, I was excited to contribute. I am the mother of three young adult children all finishing their own chosen schools or vocations and making their own personal career and life decisions. I am right in the middle of this important time in my children’s lives and loving it!
Because Jan and I were business partners for 30 years, and both developed, instructed, and coached career growth and potential for hundreds of people, she and I share a common value system about “defining success.” That value system is very easy to describe, we think each individual has the right, and the responsibility, to do just that — define their own success.
I will admit that this value system was challenged by raising my three children, since parents spend many years guiding, coaching, and paying for our children’s future “successes.” It is probably all of these factors that lead some parents to believe that they should have a large say in how their children live their lives. I understand this thinking, but I personally do not want to be responsible for deciding my children’s happiness as an adult. I have seen that backfire many times. Our children do want to please us, but at some point that needs to stop when it blocks their own formulas for success.
Throughout my children’s childhood my husband and I were very focused on passing along our value system. We worked hard at modeling our value system of honesty, hard work, and caring for each other while respecting our unique characteristics. We have achieved this goal. All three of our children have been working since they were teens and are very sensitive and caring young adults. They love the world, and the world loves them back. Jaik and Stacee have traveled a more traditional “college” route in their educational and career choices. Jaik is finishing his degree in the Hospitality Industry and learning “food” by working in a restaurant. Stacee is finishing her degree in Psychology and exploring her career options with her Aunt Jan.
Brandon, who has taught me many valuable lessons as a parent, also taught me how to be patient as he figured out what makes him happy and successful. Brandon did not choose a typical college education, because that is not how Brandon likes to learn about the world. Brandon likes to learn about the world, by being in the world. He has always been a highly kinesthetic learner and has also always enjoyed learning anything he can by being “hands on.”
For example, fishing is one of Brandon’s great passions. Because of his love for fishing, he found a job at a Bait and Tackle shop, became a very valued employee while learning many new skills, and had the opportunity to spend many of his weekends entering fishing tournaments — some of which he won. At this point, he and his brother were living together, and sharing expenses. My husband and I “emancipated” the boys from our financial support when they were 23 years old. This had been a gradual process that we began in their teens as the got their first neighborhood jobs. At the Bait and Tackle shop, Brandon was only making $12 an hour, and while he could cover most expenses, anything over the most basic necessities were difficult for him to afford. There’s nothing like the cruel facts of life to teach a “life lesson!”
Finally, last year, when he was nearing 24 years old, he decided he wanted a better professional foundation and decided to pursue a second love in his life — cooking! He decided to attend culinary school, which thrilled Steve and me. He knew that our offer to help with his education was still “good,” and like his brother and sister, we had promised to pay a part of his education. Brandon is now receiving educational loans for the rest of his tuition.
He is currently cooking full-time for the Doubletree Hotel and attending culinary school most evenings. I don’t believe this would have happened, had we continued to support him financially. Aunt Jan was very helpful in sharing her past experiences, listening to Brandon’s concerns, and talking to him about the benefits gained from going back to school — but opening his eyes to looking into a vocational school that supported his passion and need for hands on learning.
What I found interesting about this story is our wealthy neighbors’ reactions to Brandon’s earlier choice of following his passion for fishing. When we explained that Brandon was fishing while working in a Bait and Tackle shop…
- We had one neighbor who was incredibly jealous of Brandon’s ability and freedom to fish.
- We had another neighbor who said to us, “I know you hate that, but you will get used to it.”
My husband and I put a lot of thought into giving our children all of the Building Blocks they would need to find their own unique definitions of “successful lives.” How our children choose to use those resources will ultimately be up to them.