Eight years ago, my buddy Bruce got me started writing these blog posts. “It will be good for business,” he said. “And you love to write.”
I do enjoy communicating—“pontificating” is such a negative word. I like sharing my views on parenting, learning differences, college admissions, therapeutic issues. Bruce and I still have breakfast frequently. We talk about our families—having both lost parents recently. We talk about running—we are both slow and getting slower. We talk about our blog posts. “What are you writing about this week?”
Frequently our conversations become columns. At breakfast recently, Bruce mentioned a conference he attended in San Francisco. He was in the middle of a conversation when an another attendee came up and said, “I don’t want to interrupt.” Which means, Bruce pointed out, “I want to interrupt. Interrupting is exactly what I want to do.”
“Great idea for a blog post,” I said.
Bruce agreed. “Can I have it?” he asked.
“I’m not sure,” I replied. "I might want to write it up myself."
Bruce has been a tremendous help to me over the years. He has recommended topics, helped me clarify ideas, encouraged me to keep writing. I like to think that I have been of some small help to him as well. So in this case, we agreed to compete. We are both writing on the same topic. Bruce’s column is called “ Great Minds Think Alike.” You can read his take on the subject by clicking here.
Examples of fraudulent communication are rampant: “I don’t want to steal your intellectual property.” Which means. “I want to steal your intellectual property.” Bruce and I make our livings by selling solutions. People come to us with questions--college admissions, students with special needs, growing our businesses. We have acquired the information after decades of study, travel, and conferences. We frequently hear, “I don’t want to take too much of your time.” Which means, “I want to take too much of your time. Indeed, I want to take as much of your time as I possibly can.” When people want information but don't want to hire us they say, “It’s not the money.” Which means. “It is the money.”
I suppose people can be forgiven for suggesting, “I just have one more question.” Which means, “I have many more questions.” Business relationships can be brief, adversarial, competitive. Bruce and I don't blame people for wanting free information. Nor do we blame them for not being completely forthright about their intentions. Interactions between parent and child on the other hand can be nothing of the sort. We must not say one thing to our beloved children and mean another. We have to be completely transparent and above board.
“I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful 100%”. Which means.
Exactly what it says.
Parents have to model Horton the Elephant more than over reaching business inquiries. We have to tell our children the truth. Our children have to believe us when we talk. And as always, the intent behind our words is crucial. “Go to bed; you need your rest” means one thing if there is an outrageous family camping trip the next day. Putting a child to bed so that you can leave the house to meet your cocaine dealer is something else entirely.
I can not help but wonder if generations of children are attracted to Horton the Elephant because they desperately want to know that they are being told the truth. It's hard enough for little ones to negotiate a big world that borders on incomprehensible. The tooth fairy may have advantages. Raising children who have reason to trust their parents is not one of them.
I suppose, “study hard so you can get an A in algebra” is good advice so that your child can subsequently be knowledgable and successful. But if the intent is to bask in reflected glory and brag to friends about how smart your child is, you might want to reconsider. "I don't care about the grade" inevitably means, "The grade is exactly the only thing I care about."
In sum, tell your kids the truth. Tell your kids the truth about studying; tell your kids the truth about their grades; tell your kids the truth about your motivation.
Which means. Tell your kids the truth.