Don’t Push Your Agenda

We all know someone who is a super-sized college football or basketball fan. That person who bleeds their school colors, has at least one room decked out in their school’s paraphernalia, and wouldn’t think about driving without their alma mater’s flag flapping in the wind out of a window of their car. They reserve every Saturday in September and October for game day, and their mood for the day can change dramatically depending on whether their team wins or loses.

I was watching one of those home improvement shows on HGTV, and a couple like I just described was on the show looking for a second home near the university where they met and fell in love. They apparently return to their alma mater for a lot of football games and other events. They said they’re tired of staying in hotels. They also thought they could use this home when their 12-year-old son attends there. Well, they hope he will choose this university they both attended because they love it and know he would too. They take him there all the time, and I’m guessing they talk about it a lot.

As I watched the show, I wondered what happens if that child decides on another college or decides not to go to college. These parents have been pushing their school on their son for so long that I wonder if he knows about other good schools. And if he does choose a different school, is he already anticipating how disappointed his parents would be? On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with being enthusiastic about your alma mater. However, as parents, do you realize the messages you might be sending to your children? Do you think about the stress you might be putting on them, for example, with your desire for them to attend your school?

This can extend to other things too. There can be other ways in which parents push their agenda onto their children. They have a great career in mind for their child, and they drop hints all the time in hopes their child will embrace the idea. This can be especially true in family-owned businesses. Or there is the parent who played high school football or was a state champion swimmer and is dying to get their child involved in their sport. They buy them all the equipment, sign them up for lessons, and encourage them to watch the sport on TV, hoping that will push their child into stepping up to the plate.

Parents, be aware of your actions and the messages you might be sending. If you are expecting a child soon or you just had your first child, get rid of all the expectations you might be carrying about how you think your child is going to turn out. Just wait and watch to see what is going to happen. It’s okay to daydream about some things—I think it’s natural—but you might want to keep some of it inside your head. Watch for signals from your child as to what direction they want to go. Encourage them in the areas they seem interested in, even if it’s a far cry from what you expected. You can advise when asked and share your story as appropriate, but do your best not to push your agenda on them. That will give all of you a better chance of winning at home.