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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Licking and grooming your kids will help them become confident adults!

Studies show that children who are licked and groomed by their mother more often as infants and toddlers will grow up to be more confident and well adjusted adults.  As confident and well adjusted adults, our kid's chances improve for finding happiness (or at the very least, satisfaction) in their lives through a meaningful job, caring relationship with a significant other, loving and positive relationship with their children, etc.

A quick review of previous Headhunter Dad articles shows no fewer than 8 articles that mention the word confidence (complete list available at the end of this article).  When speaking with recruiters and managers who interview our kids for jobs and admissions to college, confidence and maturity rate highly on their evaluations.  If our kids seem to have their s*** together they have more opportunities in life.

OK, so the study is actually about rats... but the message is the same. Baby rats that were licked and groomed more often by their mothers were more confident and adventurous than their peers in adulthood (Nature article - warning! lots of big science words). Since my son is older (13) I tend to think more often about his career as his applications to college are more imminent than his sister's (6) so I was excited to find a study that shows how our parenting can contribute to our kid's future working life at an early age. 

Perhaps licking our kids is a bit over the top but we can certainly spend more time cuddling with our toddlers while reading to them or at the very least, holding their hand while walking down the street.  This has been referred to (at least in part) as attachment parenting and while the definition for what "attachment" means and how to practice it has changed and multiplied, I find this one to be the best, "sensitive and emotionally available parenting".

While reading about the rat study, I was encouraged about how it might help me to raise my daughter as a well adjusted adult but then I began to worry about whether or not I had "licked" my son enough when he was younger.  Is it too late for attachment parenting in middle school?  Fortunately, it is never to late in my opinion.  And, in this particular case, my opinion happens to be backed up by science, neuroscience to be precise.  The key to applying this to teens is being aware of the changing needs of your children.  Maybe he will not appreciate you holding his hand while crossing the street  when he is 15.  This is why I like the definition above, sensitive and emotionally available. It focuses us on the needs of our kids at any age. The word "available" implies a slightly more passive approach that allows our older kids to reach for independence as they grow but also allows them to turn back to us for support.

So let's get out there and start licking!

Other Headhunter Dad articles relating to confidence:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Programmer, Lawyer, Medieval Weapons Expert, Let Them Choose.

When I was 15 years old, my Dad brought home an Apple IIe computer he had bought used from a friend.  I convinced my parents to buy a book on BASIC programming and was soon impressing my friends and younger siblings with programs that would print my name on the screen over and over again (by copying the code verbatim from the book).  Obviously I was a prodigy.  It was not long after that I decided computer programming would be a great job.  I could play with computers all the time and make cool games and then play more. I can still remember my Mom's response to my sharing this career revelation with her.
"Larry, computer programmers spend all their time sitting alone in dark rooms typing away at the computer and never see any other people.  It is a lonely job.  You are so good with people and you will not like it.  You should do something where you are dealing with people all the time, like sales or psychology."
What could I say?  My Mom was awesome.  I knew she loved me and she was always saying that I could do anything I set my mind to.  And of course, she was older and wiser than me so if she thought I would be miserable typing away in the dark then I should follow her guidance.

Years later, today actually, I am a successful recruiter, my job is definitely about people, and I truly enjoy what I do.  But, I still love sitting at my desk and fiddling with my database, creating scripts to automate tasks, organizing the way the interface looks, linking data.  I think I would have enjoyed the computer life.  Contrary to my Mom's impressions, programs are not written in isolation.  At least not anymore.  There is a tremendous amount of collaboration that goes into creating software and a "people person" programmer is extremely valuable.  

If we are raising our kids right then they are listening to what we say and maybe even considering our advice. We will have built up a relationship of trust where they believe we actually do have their best interests at heart.  Even if they don't show that they understand this all the time.  When someone our kids trust and believe in (us, the parents) tells them that they are not suitable for a certain career, chances are they will take that advice seriously.  They might give up on it altogether like I did, or still pursue it but with enough self doubt as to make it very difficult to succeed. 

Support your kids interests, no matter what that interest may be.  Instead of pushing them away from a career that you disagree with or towards one you prefer, help them to make the most of what THEY want to do.  If they are intent on becoming a professional soccer player but do not have the talent, help them to investigate related careers like physical therapist or sports agent.  Don't just tell them to give up.  

Passion for one's job and career is something I rarely see in the workforce today and even with the best intentions it is a shame to take that away from our kids.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Bunny Whisperer

He gently lifted the shivering and frightened rabbit up out of it's box and settled it on his lap.  He was careful not to squeeze the young animal too tightly but at the same time using enough pressure that it would not jump away or feel that it was in danger of falling.  As the bunny peered nervously around, whiskers and nose twitching rapidly, the boy began to calmly stroke it's back and scratch lightly that sweet spot right between and behind the long, soft, furry ears.  Almost immediately the boy could feel it's tiny heartbeat slow.  With the same patience and care he lavishes on his little sister, he continued to hold the small life in his hands until finally, the bunny drifted off to sleep, safe and secure in the arms of it's guardian.

Kids have 21 years (more or less) to figure out what job they want to do when they graduate college.  If you are like me and think that they should try to clarify that before choosing a college (since it is going to cost them more than the value of your house to attend for 4 years), they are now down to 17 years.  Assuming that any real discussion about what work means is not going to happen until they are almost in high school they have a grand total of 5 years to narrow down the almost infinite possibilities.  We should also keep in mind that in those 5 years when our kids are trying to figure out what job is right for them, they have ZERO work experience and know almost nothing about what different jobs are like.  If only there were an experienced, older person in their life.  Someone who has been watching over them the whole 21 years and knows their strengths and weaknesses.  Someone who has 30 or 40 years of adult experience in the workplace.  Someone who could advise these young men and women on what "might" be a good career choice...  Wait a minute!  That would be us, their parents!

"I want to let them find their own way" is a nice sentiment but not practical unless our kids are independently wealthy.  You can read more about "Choices" in my No Choices for Kids! article.

So what career would you advise for the young man described in the beginning of this article?  A job that requires patience, sensitivity, a love of animals.  Rabbit Rancher, Kindergarten Teacher, Veterinarian?  Since the average salary for a Vet is about $84,000 and a Kindergarten Teacher is $37,000 (not sure about Rancher) I am going to push for the Veterinarian.  A small note here, if the young man says, "No, Dad, I don't want to be a Vet, I want to be a Teacher." that is great.  As long as he has a direction.

Back to the Veterinarian.  My curiosity peaked, I did some research on what it takes to become a Vet and what he can do now.  The first activity meets 2 needs.  Volunteering at a veterinary clinic or animal shelter.  It gives the child a chance to find out if they really like working with animals all the time and the experience will be valuable on their college application for vet school.  Next, science (particularly biology) is important so getting good grades in this subject and keeping up with the curriculum will make the undergraduate degree easier.

According to a few sites I found, there are a limited number of graduate veterinary schools (28).  This makes for very competitive admissions.  Standing out with good grades, letters of recommendation, and specific, focused internships and volunteer activities both in HS and college will make a difference.  Finally, recognize the commitment it will take.  A vet needs a 4 year undergraduate degree, followed by a 4 year graduate degree (Doctor), then you have to pass the licensing exams for both national and state and often start with an internship after all that before getting full time work.

Now I just need to find a place where he can volunteer with animals over the summer!