Ready To End Rebellion With Our Children?

Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.

–Robert Fulghum

For generations, humans have traded in the spiritually bankrupt practice of telling children what to do with their work lives rather than encouraging their children to define what they most want. We can distill the practice and its impact in one phrase:

“Don’t be you.”

I once asked Jack Canfield to describe how he prepared his two sons for the world of work. He responded,

“I never told them what to do with their lives. I suggested they find something they loved doing. Then, I placed all of my attention in building their confidence in being able to deal with anything the world dished out to them.”

If we are truly committed to raising healthy, successful, and happy children we simply must encourage them to find something they love so much they become willing to deal with the chaos of change. When humans go through life without a clear and meaningful purpose, they quite what they are doing. They seek comfort over action. In other words, there isn’t a reason to take a risk or to embrace the discomfort of self-change.

The world of work is in ever increasing turmoil. I believe that much of our civil unrest lies in the fact that upwards of 48% of America’s workers view themselves as “underemployed.” Much of the disruption is rooted in the disappearance of task work. Much of the push from parents to pursue certain jobs and professions because they believed that security was to be achieved over satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy.

At the core of that transaction, we are telling our kids to distrust their thought and dismiss the human truth that all of us have a unique purpose. This is an upside-down-approach to today’s realities.

The most calamitous view parents can take with their children today, is to short circuit a child’s creative imaginings by telling them phrases like, “No one makes a living doing that.” “That’s a bad idea, go get a real job.” At the core of that transaction, we are telling our kids to distrust their thought and dismiss the human truth that all of us have a unique purpose. This is an upside-down-approach to today’s realities. For example, today’s average college graduate will change careers, not jobs, 4-6 times. In this wildly different world, learning how to sell, influence and build support systems is critical for navigating through disruption. How many families are helping their children trust their own ambitions?

For years, I have been facilitating rapid and positive change in their careers. I’ve observed thousands of people define their best career options. Observing this progression time-and-time again has led to my conviction that all of us have unique Career DNA. But, when we dismiss a child’s imaginings, when we tell them their ideas are out-of-sync with reality, many of them will listen. They will question their dreams. Worse, many will start giving us the words they believe we want to hear.

No wonder they will rebel. In fact, the human spirit will force them to rebel because whatever beauty is in there is more powerful than all of us. When an industry comes to the end of its shelf life, children with deeply personalized vision, mission and purpose will move more quickly, reinvent more soundly, and become much happier with the results. Telling our children to settle for far less will lead to mediocrity. The healthy ones will rebel.

There are no guarantees of success. The time that we spend with our children ought to be invested in increasing their probability of success and developing a new mindset:

Define What You Love

No one has the right to define our lives on our behalf. Instead of putting down the embryonic vision of our children, encourage them to explore their interests. Find ways to provide access to the work that most excites them. Find mentors who can speak to them. But, never put down the beginnings of vision because they will stop or they will rebel.

Develop Courage Skills

One of the fundamental reasons so many of today’s workers are underemployed is because they have not developed the very skills that allow them to create change. The skills and qualities we want to develop include the ability to:


The need for strong multi-dimension sales capabilities grows everytime change accelerates. We will want to help our children develop confidence in presenting themselves, speaking to others, asking great questions that reveal the other person’s expectations and gaining entry into fresh opportunities.

Build Effective Support Systems

Whenever someone accepts an Academy Award, they usually start thinking everyone that got them to the podium. Many parents would assume they bought that support after becoming rich and famous. Actually, they became rich and famous by building a support system.

The most common reason people don’t define what they really want to do with their lives is rooted in the notion that people will not help them. However, once we define what we want to do with our lives, our success is almost purely based on the quality of the people we get to help us.

Active learning

Developing curiosity in our children is paramount in tomorrow’s success. Any savvy employer will quickly determine if the candidate in front of them is devouring knowledge or simply clocking in and out. Why is this so important? Active learning builds continual value into the talent pool and it lowers the probability of becoming obsolete and laid-off.

Perhaps the greatest gift we can instill in our children is that while security used to be derived from getting a good job, today’s security is based on our ability to grow, to change, to cast off obsolete ideas, to innovate, and to become better versions of ourselves every single day.

Sounds like the exact opposite of clocking-in and clocking-out, doesn’t it?


David Harder
David Harder
DAVID founded Inspired Work in 1990, which has helped over 42,000 professionals transform their relationship towards work. Individuals from all walks of life attend Inspired Work’s public programs to launch new careers, new business or to become more successful in their existing role. He views work as a profound opportunity to become more fulfilled, contributive and effective. Mr. Harder’s leadership, employee engagement, executive development and social networking programs are used in a wide variety of organizations including The Walt Disney Company, HBO, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Loyola Marymount University, University of Southern California, The United Church of Religious Science, Morgan Stanley, and many others. Inspired Work’s leadership programs, career development and team building programs produce some of the worlds most outstanding satisfaction numbers in any business: 92.6% out of a hundred. David has appeared on many business and human-interest programs including CNN, KTLA News, KFWB News and Business News Network. David’s book, new book, The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press) offers an entire “crack-the-code” approach to engagement.

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    • Hello Lynn,

      Thank you for your comments. The quality of attention we give our children has direct impact on how they succeed as adults. That said, we learn nothing of value by studying dysfunction. So, while family unity might be more difficult to find, I know hundreds of parents who are rock stars in raising children that are not only unified with the family, they are equipped for a bright future. Let’s study them.

    • True David, but we have to also look at the core and as a single parent who fought the good fight, unity for how I could make it was important, yes, let study them.