On Getting Fired

I heard a psychologist recently offer this piece of advice for parents:

Parents go through stages of development, just like their kids do, and school administrators have to understand where parents are because this often affects their students in important ways.

In the early years, parents are project managers; they organize their kids, check their backpacks and agendas, and make sure they take their lunch with them to school. Primary school students are almost always comfortable with this level of supervision.

If you are driving with your 8-year old and he sees a friend, he might say, “Dad, there’s Biff. Honk the horn so he sees us!” Five years later, that exact scenario plays out in a completely different way. If a dad is driving with his son and spots Biff, before he can think of hitting the horn, his now 13-year old shouts, “ Please don’t honk!” as he throws himself under the dashboard.

The developmental challenge for the middle school parent is complicated. Your son has to “fire” you for his own good, as a necessary first step towards independence. Once this happens, there are just two things you need to do:

First, you have to grieve because a wonderful stage of life is now over.

Second, like any project manager, once you’ve been fired, you have to figure out a way to get rehired as a consultant.


14 thoughts on “On Getting Fired

  1. I’m about to be fired by my daughter (as eloquently described by you), but my son still has me honking at Biff. Nice to straddle both phases for the time being.

  2. Nice piece, Jim; nice to know when you’re not the only dad struggling to stay relevant.

    My dad built a hockey rink in the backyard to stay connected. Today I have to coach all my kid’s friends to stay relevant. My son seems willing to give me the time of day as long as I’m “Coach” in the eyes of his friends.

  3. Thanks for this wonderful statement of parental bewilderment and changing roles. Can I use it?

    The last line is tremendous. (Why won’t my kids bring me back as a consultant?)

  4. That is very good. How many times have you been fired or perhaps more positively, how many consulting contracts have you signed?

  5. A story from Thursday’s National Post. The daughter is the manager. And the dad is the consultant… and project manager who outsources the work to be done.
    A Chinese manager outsourced his 12-year-old daughter’s homework to nine of his employees.

    The senior executive’s plan was disclosed when one of his disgruntled workers told a local newspaper.

    The worker, who gave his name as Mr. Chen, said it took three days to finish the work. “We stayed up late for two nights,” he said. “The girl was quite demanding. She only needed to do one of the four options but insisted on doing them all, without getting involved herself in any way.”

    We stayed up late for two nights
    Students were asked to follow their parents to their home towns and either draw a picture, create a video, take photographs or write an essay about the changes over the past decades.

    Mr Chen, a professional photographer, said he was in charge of taking the pictures.

    Other workers were drafted for the video and the essay, one person had to upload the work on to the school website and the company driver transported the team around town.

    The newspaper said the local primary school had cautioned the boss, who remained unnamed.

    1. Raising a kid is like sending a rocket ship to the moon. You spend the early years in constant contact and then one day, around the teenage years, they go around the dark side and they’re gone. All you can do is wait for that faint signal that says they’re coming back.

  6. Great post. I’m entering your phase 2 below with my daughter (she’s under the dashboard), but still comfortably in phase 2 below. Great simple message. Thank you.

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