Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What determines success?

I enjoy reading the Free Range Kids blog written by Lenore Skenazy. While I try to to subscribe to one parenting philosophy, I like a lot of the principles of Free Range Kids. It's basically anti-helicopter parenting. It's about trusting your kids abilities, and not letting fear dictate how we parent. It's about teaching kids responsibility and self reliance. I feel I was raised this way and some of my fondest memories are of when I was alone and exploring. The Pepper is still young so I can't say yet how I'll feel as she gets older, but I will try to hold onto these principles and help them guide the choices I make as her parent.

This recent post on Lenore's blog caught my eye. A woman was questioning her free range parenting choices. She seemed to feel that kids who were helicopter parented were "succeeding" over her kids. Getting better grades, getting into good colleges, getting jobs. This questioning distressed me and I was prompted to add a comment which Lenore highlighted in it's own post today. What I wrote was:

"I was definitely raised Free-Range. My dad is a hippie, and my mom is from Africa, so that’s just how they were. I had a horse when I was 13 and I was able to walk over the stable, saddle up the horse, and take it for long trail rides into the canyons. All without a cellphone or a way to contact home! I also then had to clean the horse, feed it, etc. At 16 my mom did let me go to Europe by myself though she put me in touch with wonderful friends over there to help guide me. I had a great time.

I was always self-sufficient. I got the sense that my parents trusted me to make decisions, and through that responsibility I was also serious about making decisions (the big ones anyway). I was an honors/AP student in high school, head cheerleader, and involved in the arts programs at school. I did all my own college applications. I did my own studying for the SAT. I did well, I got into a number of good schools. I decided on Berkeley, where I had a wonderful experience. I joined a sorority and held a position on the leadership council. I tried out different majors and after settling on Art History worked to make sure to graduate “on-time.” After college I did float around a bit trying to figure out what I wanted to do. But I got enough odd-jobs (including being a part-time bank teller) to get my own place and move out of my parents house. And once I felt ready to really settle down and have a career I got myself my first job as an assistant at a web design company. I took that opportunity and ran with it. I thrived at work and quickly made my way up the ladder. I moved companies a few times. I am now a Vice President at a tech company (at 30 years old).

All this to say that being Free-Range or being a helicopter parent won’t mean your kids are successful or not. I think that’s a very black and white view of things. To say that I have been successful because I was raised a certain way seems to over-simplify my life. I think there are a number of reasons for my success. And there are a number of factors to other people’s successes or failures.

But, I personally feel that they way I was raised has helped me excel in my work environments. People like working with me because I can take initiative and I’m not afraid to take on responsibility. I also am not afraid to work hard because I don’t feel entitled or expect things to be easy. There have been a lot of times over my career so far that I’ve been asked to do something at work that I’d never done before, and I felt intimidated. But I was able to trust in my abilities and at least try, even if it meant I didn’t do it perfectly. That self-reliance and “grit” is something in myself I value. And I don’t know if it would have happened if I hadn’t been raised Free-Range."

To put it more succinctly and to quote this wonderful woman: "life is cumulative, and you can't devalue any type of experience".

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