Dr. Lee Hausner is an internationally recognized clinical psychologist based in Los Angeles, California, USA. She specializes in helping successful families raise resilient, hard-working children. In February 2019, Dr. Hausner was a guest on Kalika Yap’s Wonder podcast. The three-part series reveals practical ways that entrepreneurs can overcome unique challenges in raising their kids.
When Lee Hausner’s daughter moved from the Los Angeles public school system into the one in Beverly Hills, she picked up math right where she left it: in an advanced class. But the new class was much more advanced, and Hausner’s daughter began to flail.
“I need a tutor,” her daughter said. “I’m drowning.”
Many parents, especially type-A, entrepreneurial ones, would have gotten the tutor. Hausner knew better, and she made a call that would have been tough for other high-achieving parents. She took her daughter out of the advanced class and put her in a regular one. Hausner knows what she’s doing. She is a PhD psychologist who has worked with successful families for more than two decades, helping them raise resilient, thriving offspring. She is the author of Children of Paradise: Successful Parenting For Prosperous Families. Before that, she was a senior psychologist in the Beverly Hills School District.
One of the most common mistakes she sees is high-powered parents pushing their kids to be high-powered, too. It’s hard for those parents to let their kids take a path of less resistance because it seems like quitting, she says. But it’s not.
“Entrepreneurs push themselves,” Hausner says on the Entrepreneurs’ Organization podcast Wonder with Kalika Yap.” They think that they can put that kind of pressure and pushing on their children. That’s where the disaster occurs.”
When something like math becomes stressful, kids will avoid it, Hausner says. So, it’s better to have them engaged at a lower level than struggling at a higher one.
Nor should parents fixate on grades, she says. “Your hard working B student is just as valuable as that child who brings home As. If you have your child in a highly competitive environment, then that child is not going to make straight As. That’s not the focus. The focus is being a responsible student. There are strategies for that.”
Raising responsible students
Here are the four steps she recommends for raising a responsible student:
- Make your child attend school every day “unless you put a thermometer in their mouth and it registers a temperature.”
- Make them do their homework “and they take it back to school. It’s not on the floor, it’s in the backpack.”
- Kids should have designated study time at home every single day.
- If they come home and say, “Oh, I did all my homework at school,” then they use that time to read, write or review for exams.
Hausner started working with wealthy kids after she went to work in the Beverly Hills School District and saw how many hurdles they face.
“I came into that district thinking these children should have the best of everything,” she says. “The best houses, the best travel, the best nannies. I was absolutely floored by the complexity and the challenges in the families that I was dealing with.”
How wealth impacts children
Wealth can distort a child’s world. Many scions of wealthy families struggle with drug addiction, alcoholism and depression. Bill Gates famously says that he plans to give his children enough money to do anything, but not enough to do nothing. Kids who don’t have to work often don’t develop a work ethic. Hausner agrees.
“When you’re in a more affluent family, things just appear,” she says. “You come home, and the brochures are on the desk for the spring vacation, and there’s a new car in the driveway, and they’re laying a new carpet in the den.”
Kids see the luxuries but not the work that pays for them, Hausner says. That’s why wealth usually lasts three generations before the family is middle class, or worse, again.
The difference between good parents and responsible parents
Similarly, Hausner says entrepreneurial parents should strive not to be good parents, but to be responsible parents.
Good parents try to do everything for their children. Responsible parents let their children do everything they are capable of doing by themselves. That doesn’t mean you let your 13-year-old drive in Los Angeles. But if your 3-year-old wants to help you make breakfast by bringing you the eggs, you allow it, because what’s a broken egg?
The difference shows with homework. A good parent may dive into homework at the first sign that their child is struggling. A responsible parent helps a child find ways to do homework independently with other resources. “Do not do homework,” Hausner says. “If you’re planning to do homework, you better be planning to go to college.”
One trick: When your child comes to you for help with something, count to ten and ask yourself if he or she can do any part of the task alone. Say your daughter says she needs a topic for a writing project. A good parent might say, “Well, why don’t you do a wonderful thing about Alaska. We took that trip, and we can go down to the travel agent and get these posters. Then we can go to the market and get little sugar cubes to make igloos…”
A responsible parent, meantime, might say: “I bet you got some great ideas. Why don’t you think of three or four ideas and then come and let’s talk about them?”
Suggesting a strategy isn’t as efficient as suggesting topics—and entrepreneurs love efficiency—but, often, the longer road is better for your kids.
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