Control vs. Influence: They’re Not the Same
Dear Mr. Dad: I have a 14-year-old son and I think it’s high time to start preparing him for the future. We want to ensure that he’s on the right career path, whether than means going to college, trade school, or something else after he graduates high school. Granted, he’s only a freshman, but I’m concerned that he doesn’t seem to have much direction. How do I steer him toward the right career choice?
A: Excellent question—one that brings up the ongoing struggle we parents have to reconcile the difference between control and influence. Of course, we want our kids to succeed in everything they do, from getting good grades to finding the right life partner to landing the perfect job. When our kids are young, we’re pretty much in control and we’ve got a huge amount of influence. As they get older, they take on more and more control over their own lives. We still have influence, but a little less every day. And by the time they’re around your son’s age, we have almost no control at all, and whatever influence we still have is much more powerful if we wait until we’re asked to help rather than offering unsolicited advice (which a lot of teens and young adults will see as an attempt to control them anyway).