Dennis Trittin is a successful author, publisher, educator, speaker, and money manager committed to helping young people reach their full potential. As founder and CEO of LifeSmart Publishing and the author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and co-author of Wings Not Strings: Parenting Strategies to Let Go with Confidence and Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, Dennis combines his world-class leadership experience with passionate advocacy for the next generation.
Arlyn Lawrence is the co-author of “Wings, Not Strings, Parenting For The Launch,” and “What I Wish I knew At 18” – Leadership Life Skills and Leadership Curriculum. She is also a book editor and publishing professional. That’s what she does for a day job and she is a wife and mom of five grown children and almost eight grandchildren!
If you’re worried about the day your tween or teen leaves the nest or you have a child that is unmotivated, and you worry about their future, give this podcast a listen!
Scroll down to read the full episode transcribed.
In This Episode You Will Learn:
- What you can do to prepare them for adulthood
- How to set your child up for success in the real world when they leave the nest
- Powerful parenting strategies to prepare our kids to thrive in the real world!
Where To Find Dennis and Arlyn:
Dennis and Arlyn’s books: Wings Not Strings: Parenting Strategies to Let Go with Confidence, What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead, & Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World
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Find more encouragement, wisdom, and resources:
Sheryl also has an Inner Circle Weekly Parenting Program with a community of like-minded moms, personal coaching, and tons of resources to equip and support you to love well, navigate the challenges and meet your tween and teen’s unique needs during these pivotal years.
And here is the episode typed out!
Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. If some days you doubt yourself and you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve ugly cried alone in your bedroom because you felt like you’re failing. Well, I just want to let you know you are not alone and you have come to the right place.
Raising tweens and teens in today’s world is not easy, and I am on a mission to equip you to love well and raise emotionally healthy tweens and teens that thrive. I believe that moms are heroes, and we have the power to transform our family and to impact future generations. If you are looking for answers, encouragement, and becoming more of the mom and woman you want to be, welcome. I am Sheryl Gould, and I am so glad that you are here.
ARLYN: Well, my name is Arlyn Lawrence. I’m the co-author of “Wings, Not Strings, Parenting For The Launch,” and “What I Wish I knew At 18” – Leadership Life Skills and Leadership Curriculum. I am also a book editor and publishing professional. That’s what I do for a day job. And I am a wife and mom of five grown children and almost eight grandchildren.
SHERYL: Wow. How exciting, eight, we’ll have to talk another time about how you keep up with all of that.
ARLYN: That’s a whole other book. A new season of parenting and grandparenting for sure. But successfully launched five grown kids. All five went to college, four are married, one just moved out and started her dream job. So yeah, that’s me.
SHERYL: Well, congratulations. So you’re putting everything that you share, you have put it into practice. So you’re gonna share that with us today.
DENNIS: And I can vouch for that as a dear friend of hers and knowing her kids as well as I do. So I’m Dennis Trittin, and I’m the president and CEO of Life Smart Publishing. And we are all things kids and equipping kids to be prepared to soar in adulthood and preparing the parents to guide them along the way.
And we have a little smaller family, we have two children both grown. And as of last weekend, our daughter just got engaged. So this is a time of celebration for our family. We’re not at the grandchildren stage yet. But it’s just an exciting season in our lives to see our kids further along than the moms that are probably joining us today. And part of what we love to do is to bring hope because we’re a bit on the other side of this launching. And we’ve been there and done it. It can really share that message of hope and all of this investment you’re doing out there moms, it will pay off.
ARLYN: Maybe that’s our next book, right? “Life After The Launch.”
SHERYL: Yeah, well, and we need hope. And we need encouragement. And we need those things, those practical things that we can do. And I have to hold up your book wings. And I love the curriculum. It’s so helpful. I love your parenting for the launch. And of course, I have interviewed you about that.
I love this one that I’m using with my mom’s because you have questions at the end of the chapters. It is so practical, it really raises self-awareness of like, how can you ask the question like, it’s not that we’re doing it wrong. There are no perfect parents because what you know, where might we have an opportunity for growth? And you say that over and over again in the book. And, you know, I just want to give a big shout out because this is a must-read for all parents and we’re going to launch in a little bit and talk about some of these things.
I want to read just a quote from the book, “Few transitions bring as much joy, tears, and anxiety to parents as to when their children graduate from high school and head off into the real world. Questions race through our minds,” which I’m like, “Yes, yes, yes.”
“Have we taught them everything they need to know? Are they on the right track? Will they make good decisions? How will our relationship change? Are they ready?” And I’m an empty nester now, my daughter’s a sophomore in college. So I’m living this, and then you give the statistics, which are really sobering. Can you share a little bit of the sobering statistics that we’re seeing with our youth today?
DENNIS: You bet. Well, one of the things that we bring to the parenting table is perspectives on how young adults are doing. We always want to be a step ahead as we parent. And there is a lot to be excited about. But there’s also a lot to be concerned about.
One of the overwhelming statistics is that of the students who go to a four-year college, only 59% of those students graduate and get their degree in six years. That means over 40% of kids out there who have their dream of going to college succeeding and having that amazing job and so forth. 40% of them are having their dreams threatened in one way or another. And so from the standpoint of, are they college ready? Well, many are not.
Another set of statistics that we get from employers is just how disenchanted they are with the preparation of the younger workforce. And what they’re always saying to us is, they’re missing these attitudinal, soft skills, character skills that they’re looking for. And we call them leadership skills, and they’re lacking.
Some other statistics that are going on have to do with the increasing incidence of mental health issues in schools. And one of the biggest challenges today in universities is keeping up with the demand for mental health services that students are seeking. And so whether it’s from how we are prepared? Both in terms of leadership skills, are we prepared in terms of our own mental health? Are we prepared with the kind of skills that employers are looking for? So you get that great job? There’s a lot of work that needs to be done.
SHERYL: Wow, yeah. And what do you make of that? What do you think are some of the causes of this?
DENNIS: Yeah, well, I’ll just briefly touch on a few things. I think, number one, our schools are failing our students, and I’m talking about high schools and colleges, in preparing their students for the next step with practical leadership and life skills that they’re going to require.
If we, as parents go into this season of life, assuming they’re going to all learn it in school, they’re not. So we have to be very cognizant of what they’re learning about finance, career readiness, and about a lot of leadership skills. And that’s one key factor, I think technology is a huge factor where so many students are spending way too much time on technology, and the statistics of anxiety, depression, coincide with the introduction of smartphones. And so we really have to be concerned about that.
I would say those are a couple of the main factors. Family dysfunction is another one. And then finally, which is the topic of today’s parenting, there are a lot of parenting strategies that we’re employing that, although well intended, are not doing the job in really preparing these kids for life on their own.
ARLYN: Which brings us to the title of our book.
SHERYL: I really like how you break it down in the chapters. And one of the questions that I have is about the different parenting styles. I saw myself and all of them, and how I’ve done that in different areas with my kids, and then how it impacts them. And I was like, “Oh, yeah, Been there, that doesn’t work.” So can you touch on a few of those because I’m sure that I’m not alone in that?
ARLYN: Just gonna say we all do it. We all do it. It’s just to the degree that we use those different strategies that affect our kids negatively. So the first one, I think there have been countless books written on this one too, is helicopter parenting. The helicopter parent is that parent that’s always over your shoulder, you know, that boss is always micromanaging and making sure you did this or didn’t do that. And if you didn’t do it, they’re going to do it for you.
And, you know, hovering like a helicopter, sending texts constantly wanting to be in charge, or not even just constantly wanting to be in touch, excessively so inappropriately so. So that would be helicopter parenting, the hyper-involved parent.
We talked about in our parenting for the launch book about this generation of parents is really the first generation of parents who not only were, you know, dads fully in the delivery room where they weren’t in generations past. I mean, they are involved in everything. They’re at every practice, they’re at every party at school, they’re doing everything full on hyper-involved. My parents were certainly never that involved in my life when I was growing up.
Secondly, the performance parenting would be a parent vicariously living through a child, and experiencing life through the child and the child’s achievements, the child’s appearance. It’s almost a reflection on them themselves. So the child earns rewards with the parent for performing for achieving. And also the parent themselves is performing using their child. So that’s performance parenting.
Control is another strategy, which is parenting out of fear. It’s the kid who’s armored up to go out on their bicycle, so much so that they can’t even ride the bicycle. And that’s a form of physical control, but then also emotional control, which is making sure our kids don’t ever go anywhere or do anything or talk to anyone.
DENNIS: Then the permissive parent, which is on becoming best friends.
ARLYN: We’re going to be best friends, we want our kids to be happy, and we want them to be our friends. So you know, we do want our kids to be our friends, that’s actually, the end game is that we get to have a healthy adult relationship with our kids. But many parents are advocating way too soon, wanting that buddy-buddy relationship before kids is ready for it. And they let go, and there are no parameters whatsoever. So those are probably the four main ones.
SHERYL: And you talk about how we can swing from how we were parented, and then we end up swinging the opposite way. And I relate to fearful parenting. I see that a lot with moms today because you’ll hear every horror story that comes down the pike, like stranger danger and all those things. So we’re so scared. And then I think that texting, I see that’s a real issue.
Because when we were at school, and we were feeling anxious, we couldn’t text. We had to learn how to manage our anxiety. And now what happens is the kids are in the bathroom, I’ve got a test I haven’t studied for, or I don’t know where to sit at lunch. And so then the mom’s texting back out of anxiety because she’s taking on that anxiety. And I think that we had to figure it out. And now, our kids, we’re just constantly in contact with them. And I think that does cause a lot of anxiety for not only us as parents but the kids too.
ARLYN: They have to learn their own coping if that’s the case because they get in their mind relief or help is always a text away, as opposed to, “Oh, my gosh, how am I going to deal with this?” What am I going to say? What am I going to do? Taking risks, all of that gets circumvented. If all they’re doing is constantly texting a parent to get bailed out of the situation.
DENNIS: The interesting thing about self-awareness and parenting that we’d like to bring out in the book is the unintended consequences of some of these things.
So imagine the kid who is being texted all the time. What does that say to them about the lack of belief and confidence that the parent is showing them? So we need to kind of put ourselves in our kid’s position a little bit and say how are they going to receive the way we communicate and the way we constantly hover. Hovering is the biggest cause of a lack of self-confidence and a lack of willingness to take risks and go out and live their dreams.
And if you’re being parented in a way where the kid feels like, “Well, my parents don’t think I can do this on my own.”
SHERYL: Yeah, it can be a very subtle message and we don’t realize we’re sending that. Then the kid rebels too and is disrespectful because they know instinctively like, “I want you to believe in me.” So they’re always pushing back and that causes so many power struggles too.
ARLYN: So you know what I think is really the subtle part of it is a huge revelation for me: control feels helpful. So you feel like you’re being the best parent in the world, you feel like you are absolutely doing the right thing.
It really requires a large degree of self-awareness to kind of pull yourself up short and goes, “Okay, this feels helpful, but, ultimately, is it? Then, have the humility to say, “Oh, my gosh, maybe it’s not.”
SHERYL: Yeah, but Arlyn we know that if all our kids listen to what we told them, then everybody would be happier.
ARLYN: You know, I mean, the mistake I made as a young person that I could have avoided if I’d listened was to admit some of the adults in my life at that time. But I learned from those things.
SHERYL: Exactly. This brings us to the next point where you have a whole chapter on being an empowering parent. And so please help us tell us what does that looks like?
DENNIS: Okay, well, one of the things that we like to talk about is parenting today with tomorrow in mind because what we’re doing is we’re setting the stage. Not only for our child to become a flourishing adult, but we’re also setting our relationship up for that long term adult to adult relationships.
The reason we called our book, wings and not strings, is we like to use visuals. I’m a very visual person. And sometimes I need that crutch, but are we releasing an eagle to soar, to be able to navigate the winds of life and the turbulence to fulfill their dreams? Or are we releasing a kite, there are the strings that we feel that we need to control, or choose to control and manipulate. So it starts off with this concept. Well, really, we are releasing that Eagle to soar. And through empowered parenting, we’re going to be facilitating that.
One of the things that we talk about a lot is thinking of our kids as they get older, and certainly in the teen years as a future adult. So we kind of have to get over this, you know, they’re, they’re not my little kid anymore. And we have to start really focusing on Am I training a future adult? And am I teaching and training for independence? And if we think about it that way, then some of those things that are just shared, are going to go away, because we’re gonna almost judge ourselves as to how well have we prepared them for independent life in the real world, as opposed to how important is it that we’re still needed and helpful and, and all of this.
So the philosophy that we bring to the table is that it’s teaching for independence. We’re raising that future adult.
SHERYL: I love that because I thought of it when I was taking notes in the book. I was thinking of it like that needs to be our North Star. I want to talk about having that vision. And so we need to be reminding ourselves as parents that we are raising an adult. Is what I am doing going to help them be more independent or dependent?
One of the things I think could be super helpful is we tell them and we don’t ask. It’s shifting, because when you were saying that I might have to shift and we have to stop thinking of them. Not only are they growing, but we have to be able to shift with that. And that can be tricky for us.
ARLYN: Be students of our children, too. We have to know them, just like you would get to know any other adult. You kind of check yourself before you ask your friend a sensitive question or where you know. You’re kind of maybe intruding on a personal area, you would say, “Can I ask you a personal question?”
You wouldn’t just barge into your friend’s personal space. And we need to start giving our growing children that respect that we would other adults to protect their personal space, their personal thoughts. I mean, obviously, it’s different because they’re a child, but become a student of your child. What’s the best way to approach them? How do you have those sensitive conversations? And respect is huge.
DENNIS: In our style of communicating, morphs into more coaching. I think we talk a lot about how you move from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat. One of the ways we do that as the maturity chasm starts to narrow and our kids are getting closer to us in that regard. We take on a coaching type of mindset.
That means sharing with versus talking to, in sharing the why. Why certain things are important as opposed to this is what you’ve got to do. And I think that provides that respect kids need and deserve. Just like we want, and that mutual respect and coaching style are very powerful for the teen years.
SHERYL: It helps them to connect the dots because their brains aren’t fully developed. So when you’re sharing the why, it’s helping them to connect cause and effect.
DENNIS: Yes, right. Then, linking the why to leadership skills that are a part of that when they demonstrate these things. This is why the “why” is so important. It’s preparing them to be a great leader. That’s what’s out there. I’m leading the why.
SHERYL: Yeah. Can you think of an example to help our viewers?
DENNIS: In today’s world, we see this the most in career readiness. And a lot of young people don’t have jobs, or certainly, if they do have jobs, they’re maybe sitting there mowing lawns, or things like that. They’re not working at employers. They have a real disconnect of thinking that employers are there to serve them because they were hired. As opposed to an employee, who’s hired to serve the company.
Being able to share what are the most important qualities that businesses are looking for when they hire employees. Qualities, like having high standards of excellence, having integrity, and being dependable, and having a great work ethic. Those are the things that are going to help set your kids apart, especially today. And so being able to say, when you demonstrated this great work ethic, that is a leadership quality I admire.
SHERYL: Yeah, affirming them, and catching those things they are doing. I want you to speak to a couple of things that you said, I’m trying to make, I guess our kids happy. Like that is a big thing I say, wanting our kids to be happy. And it’s well-intentioned, right. What happens when we try and make our kids happy?
ARLYN: Well, that really comes under permissive parenting very many times. We can’t stand for them to not be happy. But what the problem with that is, then they never learned to deal with the normal discontents of life, and they become very entitled. They think they always should be happy.
And I think you and I, as grown and mature adults know, that we are not the reality. We are not always going to be happy. And when we’re not happy, we need to learn to deal with that. But we have an entire generation of young adults, many of whom have been taught that they can always be happy.
To Dennis’s point, they’re getting into the workforce thinking that they need to be served in the workforce. It’s understanding that wait a minute, there’s something I need to bring to the table here. And if we’ve never done the hard work of making them accountable to be able to contribute, instead of just consumers. They’re going to just grow up entitled.
SHERYL: Yeah, wow.
DENNIS: And we’re seeing that in a big way, whether it’s on college campuses, where the students feel like they ought to run the roost. And we’re seeing it in the workforce, with employers. And so there are things that we do, and maybe well-intentioned. One of the things we like to call out in our wings net strings book is, what are the downstream attitudinal character consequences of the way that we’re parenting?
What is motivating us to parent that way? And it’s like, maybe we need to if our kids are showing attitudes of entitlement. The question then becomes, are there things we’re doing unintentionally in our parenting that might be contributing to that, and what might be some things we can do to help change that?
ARLYN: And I think that’s one of the hallmarks of our work is that we do ask parents to have a higher level of self-awareness. It’s not all about what we want to manipulate our kids to do. It’s not about what their desired behaviors are, but it’s also a huge healthy dose of what am I doing to contribute to this negative thing that I’m seeing? Am I willing to do the hard personal work to relinquish that?
So for example, if my identity is caught up in being a mother, and the way that I feel needed, if I’m constantly either helping my children or making them happy, that’s going to cause consequences in them. Now I can manipulate their behavior and say, “Oh, my kid’s entitled,” or “Oh, my kid doesn’t respect or doesn’t appreciate me.”
Or, we can turn it on ourselves and say, “Oh, where’s my identity? What, what am I doing here?” And that, again, requires a healthy dose of humility and willingness to change ourselves and not just trying to change them.
SHERYL: That is so powerful. Instead of criticizing our kids, we can think, “Okay, where might I be contributing to this? How can I change how I’m actually parenting my kid to help them? So it’s like inside out parenting, right?
ARLYN: And it’s not even just about parenting, it speaks to the core of our identity. Where am I finding my identity? Do I know who I am? Do I like myself? Am I okay with me? And then when we’re okay with ourselves, and we can be better parents to our kids.
DENNIS: Can I share an example of the mother that didn’t do this? It’s a true story from Seattle. A dear friend of mine was a senior executive at one of the major technology companies. They were interviewing for a key sales position and narrowed it down to three finalists, candidates. They deliberately waited until the last interview for their favorite candidate, who winds up showing up for the interview with his mother. This is a 24-year-old guy. And mom shows up. My guess is he didn’t ask mom to show up. My guess is mom wanted to show that her kid was the best one for the job. And of course, she cost him the job.
The interview ended and my friend told her to never do this again because other companies are going to react the same way.
SHERYL: Wow, she probably wasn’t aware of what she was doing. Oh, that’s a painful story. And that can happen. And the son must have thought on some level, I need to bring my mom, you know, and just not been empowered.
ARLYN: He had not been empowered to believe in himself that he could do it.
SHERYL: Well, just before we are done with the call, I want to make sure that you just give our listeners some just tidbits of what are some proactive things that we can do. And I will add that everybody listening has to get this book, and you have to, at the back even have some real checklist, which is very helpful to ask ourselves. But what are just a few of the top three or four things that you use?
DENNIS: Okay, I think the first thing we need to do, and maybe this is a little philosophical, is we need to release the control that we feel of being responsible for our children’s success and happiness.
When we release that Eagle to soar, we are not only helping our kids, but we’re helping ourselves because no parent should feel responsible for their kid’s happiness, success, and things like that. We’re there to set the stage to do all the coaching and training but that’s a burden none of us should share. So that would be one of my points.
ARLYN: I would say cultivate self-awareness in yourself and also in them. We should help them learn to appreciate who they are unique. Call out those things that you see them succeeding in, set them up to succeed, but then be willing to let them fail and affirm the positive. Help them cope with the negative. Don’t try to eradicate the negative so they never have to experience it.
DENNIS: Right. A third thing I would just share is when it comes to the tangible preparation of our kids, focus on those life skills that they’re going to need to know and be able to do themselves. Without reminding, whether it’s budgeting, whether it’s time management, whether it’s career readiness, and all of those things. Those life skills are going to be super important.
We can’t count on our high schools to be teaching those to our kids. And then finally, the core leadership skills that these kids are needing dependability in. We talked about that and having integrity, great interpersonal skills, and being a good friend picker.
We talk a lot about the importance of relationships in our work because that’s really what life is about. We want a great relationship with our kids. We want them to be making great decisions about who they choose to spend their time with, and helping our kids be great friend pickers is one of the hallmarks of the work that we do.
SHERYL: Yeah, thank you. Those are so helpful to think about how we can be helping them so that they can prepare them for the launch. And let’s not hold on to that kite.
ARLYN: It’s about freedom, not control. If you distill it down to the essence of how I set them up for freedom. And you talk about focusing more on character development, versus focusing on the performance. Exactly trying to control.
DENNIS: One of the interesting things about that is how many times I’ve been seeing comments from the business community when it comes to recruiting. We hire for attitude, and we train for skill.
Most young people think success is all about whether you know how rich your family is, or what your GPA is, or whatever. But to an employer, they will tell you, it’s attitude, leadership qualities, and character. Those are going to be the greatest determinant of who they hire and who survives in reaching their full career potential. So those soft skills are critical to build. And then when the kids demonstrate it, we call it out and we affirm it.
SHERYL: Yeah, and to reframe mistakes. We have to reframe mistakes, as that’s actually going to build resiliency. They’re going to learn and grow so much from making mistakes.
So that’s how we grow. That’s how we learn. Well, thank you so much for being on here and sharing your wisdom. And I’m going to share the links to your blog, but tell them where to find you.
DENNIS: Well, I encourage all of you that, just like Sheryl, we want to be available to help answer questions, and so forth. So dennistrittin.com is a great go-to place. It has all the information about our books, our blog, and how to sign up for our newsletters. All the contact information is there as well.
So if you want to send us an email with your situation, your questions or where to find this or that you’re struggling with this, we are here in the Pacific Northwest to support you wherever you are. And that’s what our desire is.
SHERYL: Yes, thank you so much.
ARLYN: To have a community like this to talk about these things and to have the support. I say all the time, parenting is a team sport. So I just want to call you out and affirm you. Thank you for what you’re doing for all the families that are benefiting from this group because it’s so important.
SHERYL: Oh, thank you and thank you to all that you’re doing and helping parents and empowering them and all the leadership work you’re doing. So I’m very grateful to know both of you and to have you here with me.