One of the hardest lessons for me as a dad… when to listen more and hold back my opinion! (a lesson of life-not just in my role of being a dad)! There are times when our children need to know the ‘process’ we followed or a process we recommend but leave the ‘answer’ for them to discover through following the process. Other times, it’s important to be brief and straightforward and say what is right (sometimes referred to as our opinion). The challenge is executing the right one at the right time!
This rang true in a recent discussion with one of my unmarried daughters (3 of our 4 daughters are in this category). Seems she has quite a following of young men. When asked which ‘one’ I thought was the best I quickly realized I was at a decision point and needed to talk more process and less final answer!
The young men all come from great families. I’ve had the opportunity to observe each of them working hard to save for college and each are active in Church and have either completed a mission of 2 years for the Church or currently serving a mission. It would be an honor to have any of them as a son-in-law.
A couple of immediate thoughts came to my mind… (thoughts that I kept in my head and didn’t let escape to the tongue) that this is still my little girl and she is too young to be having marriage discussions! She needs to continue to date and really get to know these young men and allow them to continue to grow and mature. How are they going to be able to take care of my daughter when they haven’t even finished college!?!?!! (Let’s just set aside the fact that I wasn’t finished with college either when I got married—close, I had 1 year left).
So my response was calm (at least that’s my recollection) and I left the monkey on her back as I said that they were are all good young men and I liked each of them. Then continued that as she continues to be patient, pursuits her college education and develops her musical talents that the time will come when she will know ‘the who’ and ‘the when’. But for now, she is still daddy’s little girl!
An example of the brief and straightforward…
As a background, our family generally gathers for evening scriptures and prayers. We try and read a chapter—sometimes only a few verses—and sometimes when it’s really late, only the prayer. We chose evenings many years ago as mornings seem to be difficult as everyone has such a different schedule and a different tolerance for getting up in the morning. So evening works best for our family.
The other day it was time to gather and one of the kids was over at a neighbor’s house. When I went to make the call to ask them to come home and join us, one of my other kids said that I shouldn’t make a big deal about it—just let them play over there and we can have scripture/prayers without them.
I remembered times when some of the family wasn’t present, me traveling or someone at a sleep over. I thought about that and rationalized that missing 1 scripture/prayer wasn’t the end of the world. And then the quick parental inspiration came: I want my family together whenever we can. Gathering for scriptures/prayers is something I enjoy and it makes me happy to end the day together as a family. So my simple response was that they were probably right that missing once was not a big deal, but that it means so much to me when my family is gathered together. And whenever we could gather, we should gather. So they made the quick call for me and the child joined us and then went back to the neighbors afterward.
College preparation starts when they are young--before High School. The expectation should be set very early. When they enter high school they should understand how high school will prepare them for college and expectations need to be set for what they need to accomplish in high school. Set the bar appropriately... GPA 3.5+, extra-curricular activities whether that be sports or choir or music or student government, etc. They also should have service opportunities and leadership opportunities. It's good to have fun in high school but it's also a preparatory step and your youth needs to be prepared. By their Junior year they should be taking ACT / SAT tests. It's good to take some practice tests or tutoring. Don't underestimate the importance of these entry exams.
Also, a big area is financial. You'd like to avoid loading your youth up with college debt, however, you shouldn't be mortgaging your future to get them through. Start having them save for a college fund and also pursuit scholarships. You should know what you can afford and what you are planning to contribute and make sure they are aware during high school so it can reinforce the importance of their good grades and additional efforts that will help them get scholarships.
Most importantly is their decision making process. It develops the whole time they are growing up. Help them to become independent and develop the ability to be on their own. They need to learn responsibility and the value of money. When they enter college, put them on a budget. Let them manage to that budget without bailing them out all the time. Blowing a budget is something they need to learn. 10% miss is much better than a 100% miss. They need to develop that discipline of spending only what they can afford. Too many families and kids are saddling up with too much debt thinking when they make it big time they can pay it all off. Think about avoiding all the debt and getting through college with minimal debt.
Regarding major... don't switch when it extends the graduation date. Too often youth switch and add another couple of semesters. That might help the college revenue stream, but rarely does the cost justification exist. Few undergrad majors are going to get you through life. You will need to learn a lot more in your first job. Graduating with a bachelors degree teaches you to learn and adapt. It says that you have dedication and you know how to complete things. The goal should be graduating within 4 years with your bachelors degree. Get through it as quickly as you can, learn as much as you can and then go get some career experience and prepare to get a Masters degree! Also good to have internships between semesters. Even if they are without pay--the experience is what you need--beyond working at a fast food restaurant (unless you are planning to work in that industry).