A few days ago, my friend posted a picture of the most beautifully decorated dorm room I have ever seen. It looked like a catalog ad. Knowing my friend, she placed as much effort and thought into preparing her daughter emotionally for college as she did in helping her decorate her room. She has always been a devoted and thoughtful parent.
Since I’m not busy this year buying comforters and setting up bank accounts, I decided I would compile advice for parents of college students. Having made the transition twice, I consider myself a quasi expert. Below are my musings…
Whether you are looking forward to your child being out of the house, or dreading it, or a combination of the two, there’s a lot of change going on in your world. Be gentle and accepting of yourself.
If you are old enough to be the parent of college student, you are old enough to remember life without cell phones. It was cumbersome to call home when we went to college. We may have used one central phone. We may have paid a fee for every minute we spoke; we may not have had privacy. Unless your child is studying in a remote and foreign land, it will be easy for him or her to call home.
Then again – just because it is easy to call, doesn’t mean it will happen. If you want to be called often, be a friend worthy of calling. That’s right, a friend. If you are supporting your son or daughter, you can choose the level of responsiveness that you expect with that compensation, but it’s a choice and it should be considered, not assumed.
If you are feeling an incredibly strong urge to give advice, call a different friend. Call someone who’s known you as a friend for say, 20-30 years and will feel comfortable ignoring you. Don’t give this new friend/your son/daughter advice. Remember that this is a new friendship and it is fragile.
If your daughter actually solicits your advice, even then consider stifling yourself. I remember asking my mother for advice once in college and she said, “You have always made wonderful decisions and I know you will continue to make good decisions. I believe in you and I will support whatever you decide.” While I admit that I was frustrated not to have an “easy” answer from Mom, I have remembered her answer for decades; 3 plus decades in fact.
What advice have you been given that has lasted 3 or more decades?
Yesterday, I was meeting with a senior manager – we’ll call him Saresh – and he was telling me about a problem he had with one of his employees, Chris. Saresh told me that Chris hadn’t been sharing information with the team.
Saresh also told me about a number of other small problems dating back months and years…As we talked I realized that there weren’t a few problems, but a lot of issues; and they weren’t small, some were rather big and impactful.
When I asked Saresh how Chris handled it when he gave him feedback, Saresh said that he hadn’t given much feedback. Saresh felt it was always better to give positive feedback, so he never commented on the things that were going wrong. Not surprisingly, the behavior and problems continued.
We talked about how important it was for Saresh to sit down with Chris and address the issues. He agreed to do just that, but I had forgotten to tell Saresh, “Just a few at a time. Don’t overwhelm.”
So, Saresh sat with Chris and he noted a lot of the problems – some dating back as far as two years prior. This, as you can imagine, led to a complete overload of information.
What went wrong?
Think of how a body needs to be nourished. We need healthy foods day in and day out. Our bodies benefit from moderation and consistency.
Feedback is just the same. Many employees are literally starving for feedback. They want the positive feedback, we can think of it as the dessert, and they also want the feedback that will help them grow, perhaps the veggies. Employees benefit from consistent feedback in small doses, just enough to ‘digest’. This is the type of feedback that they can apply to make changes and streamline and improve practices.
An overload of feedback in one sitting is like Thanksgiving dinner at my mother’s house. My body becomes overloaded and sluggish.
Have you even been overloaded or starved for feedback?
While vacationing last week we went to the local Kmart to purchase everything we had forgotten to pack. While shopping, my son Josh pointed out this sign:
And don’t get me wrong, I espouse making mistakes. In fact, in organizations where there are few mistakes, there’s usually a plethora of stifled minds, stifled initiative and stifled creativity. And since I don’t want to have a stifled mind, stifled initiative or stifled creativity, I go out of my way to make mistakes, just ask my daughter.
Thus, it’s not the mistake that I find amazing, it’s that no one has corrected the mistake. And yes, I am aware that many Kmart employees may not be college graduates and may not be native English speakers, but haven’t others noted and commented on the sign?
Don’t the security guards wonder why customers stop to take pictures of the sign? Or was the sign placed there, for our benefit? Perhaps it was a gift to our family so that the 7 of us would have something to chat about as we piled back into the minivan and made our way back to the beach cottage.
Please let me know and send me pictures to me of what you notice and wonder about.