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Teach Your Children Well

"Teach your children well, their father's hell did slowly go by. . . ."

The lyrics to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's hit song kept popping into my head as I considered my firm's training for our up-and-coming family business consultants.

I learned long ago that my sons do not automatically learn what I think or what I so inadequately state in our father/son talks. My oldest son's recent 14th birthday was punctuated with his first date. The whole family accompanied him and his new sweetheart to see Godzilla (clearly appropriate from the young lady's father's point of view), followed by a meeting of both families at a local burger joint for dinner. Like Godfather II, but without the musical accompaniment, my son and friend ate at a different table. Later he said that his date wondered why both fathers kept glancing at their table.

Before the date, we talked about what to do and say. As I drove the young couple to and from the theater, neither said a word, except in response to my direct questions. Afterward, my son said that a major topic of conversation over dinner was how little they had to say to each other.

Certainly, I have a lot of experience to share with my kids. But, maybe they need to learn some things from other people, too. My wife tried. My son asked his girlfriend what movie she'd like to see. The choice was Godzilla or something called "Deep Impact." She said she didn't really care. Nor did she care where we went for dinner. My son was distraught trying to decide. My wife told him that this was one of the deep mysteries of male/female relationships. His responsibility was to guess which one she wanted to see. If he guessed wrong, he would be in big trouble for not knowing her preferences. (Score one for Mom, he guessed correctly!)

I don't mean to shirk my parental responsibilities, but perhaps some third party training assistance would be useful. People learn from different people in different ways. That's especially true about how kids perceive the advice they receive from parents. If you've been there, you know what I mean.

Do you give sufficient thought to training your family members, key managers and employees? I decided to readdress our internal training. The most difficult aspect of this exercise was to put aside what I think they need to know. Instead, I needed to objectively assess their needs based upon their current and near-term job responsibilities. I decided that I am too far removed from the youngest folks to have a clear idea of what they really need to know to do their jobs. It's a little like me thinking that I understand what is going on in a 14 year old's mind today, even though I was 14 long, long ago.

Not only do I not fully understand what a 14 year old needs to know today, but a 14 year old's receptivity to what I have to say is spotty at best. Perhaps I need someone to take my place . . . a "dutch uncle" so to speak. In the business world, the dutch uncle could be a key manager, mentor, a seminar, an independent director or an advisor. Probably, all of these should be used at various times.

The truth is that I have a lot of experience and knowledge to offer our younger people. But, they need to know more than I do if they are to be successful in an everīˇ“changing world. Diversity of education and experience on an ongoing basis is what enables people to deal with diverse challenges. Teach them your ideals, offer them your experience, but encourage them to learn from others as well.

Don't get too discouraged when they do things a little differently based upon what they learn elsewhere. That's part of growing up---physically, mentally and in the business world. As the song goes, " . . . So just look at them and sigh and know they love you."




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