Light & Shadow – The Middle Ground of Parenting
Reading time: 10 minutes (with credit to the Twilight Zone, photo credit Kevin Delvecchio)
This narrative is a story about the Goodlapp family, it’s a story familiar to many families with college-age children and is timeless as infinity. It’s a story about the middle ground of parenting, between light and shadow, between science and instinct, and it lies between the pit of parent’s fears and the summit of their knowledge. It spans the dimension known as trepidation, in an area we call “…my child wants to quit college.”
It’s December, and Mary, the Goodlapp’s eldest daughter, is home from college. A traditional holiday meal is prepared, and as usual with two boys and a daughter, it never seems to be enough as everything but the salt and conversation is consumed.
Life is good but increasingly expensive. Dad’s a Controller and Mom is a P.Eng specialising in high-rise building science, so living in a metropolis is necessary. Combined earnings are enough to qualify them as Middle-Class by Liberals and as One Percenters by Progressives. Neither classification qualified them for any tangible social benefits. They have just enough earnings leftover each month to contribute to their children’s education and retirement funds.
“I don’t want to be an engineer!”
Suddenly out of left field, Mary announces, with little thought about the $75,000.00 spent to-date, that she doesn’t want to complete the Spring semester of her third year in Mechanical Engineering. Taken aback, both Goodlapp’s exclaim in unison, “but you’re doing so well, a 3.0 is a decent mark, you should finish it as it teaches you how to solve problems.” “But I don’t want to be an Engineer” Mary replies, “I don’t see the purpose of taking a subject I can’t stand. I’m struggling to even identify with my peers. I’m doing this more for Mom than I am for me! Not to mention, a 3.0 isn’t a decent mark, it wouldn’t get me beyond middle management in an engineering firm.”
“Science might or might not validate a parent’s aspiration.”
Mom, a little offended that she didn’t disguise her efforts to influence her daughter’s career sufficiently replies, “You don’t need to be like me and join an engineering firm, 60% of engineering graduates don’t end up in an engineering career. It’s a pathway to other opportunities, stick it out for this semester and let’s revisit this conversation next summer.”
Dad, ever the pragmatist when it comes to staying out of the middle, quietly concurs with the suggestion while his inside accountant voice, is saying, “You understand that the school bill will be pushing past $110,000 with no guarantee of completion in year four?”
“Don’t need to be like me”
We live in a world where the cost of education does not lend itself to youthful experimentation.
Imagine if the Goodlapp’s and their daughter Mary knew before ever applying to an engineering program, that mechanical engineering was the least likely discipline she would enjoy; and if she was determined to become an engineer, the statistical probability of rising above middle management was 40%? The presumption is that the Goodlapp’s $110,000 and Mary would have pursued a profession where Mary’s potential to succeed would optimally correlate.
“Clarity to sweep away career doubts”
The science to allow for correlation between what career Mary would enjoy and what she would be good at exists. With 85% predictive accuracy, science can provide enough vocational clarity to sweep away a young person’s personal career doubts. Having this insight to know your potential to achieve excellence prior to selecting a career path or even validating the path taken is a powerful tool for self-actualisation.
“Know your potential”
Behavioural science has come a long way since the day’s when high school guidance counsellors subjected their students in the 1960’s to personality tests authored by alchemists and wizards. Unfortunately, many of those cheap and cheerful assessment tests are still in circulation; some recent creations are more granular in the number of attributes assessed but very few are able to predict on-the-job potential.
Our assessment is used by Global 1000 corporates, Olympic Sports Associations and military for a variety of applications. For example, nuclear generation plants have used it to identify which control desk operator is most likely to stay at their post in the face of a meltdown; the Airforce have used it to identify Top Gun potential while Special Forces use it to identify team driven but independent-minded counter-insurgency operatives capable of slipping behind enemy lines.
“Identifying achievable career goals”
Less than 50 practitioners across North America and Europe are certified to use this clinically based assessment. Given its statistical accuracy, my executive search firm Rutherford International and our NEXTalent Talent Marketplace apply this science-based approach to assess leadership, executive potential and competency gaps in project management teams. Our warranties exceed industry average, so no candidate is presented to a client without undergoing an assessment to determine their functional potential. We’re pleased to make this assessment available to the family and friends of our clients and registrants.
For further information on our methods or how we might provide career counsel to a family member, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.