What Do Your Kids Think You Do?
July 28, 2014

What Do Your Kids Think You Do?

by Brian de Haaff

If you are reading this, have kids, and have a title that starts with Dir, VP, or C (or aspire to one of those titles), you probably worry about two things: your children’s safety and that they will not get into Stanford. The first is highly unlikely and out of your control and the second is almost guaranteed.

Well-to-do parents often try to protect their kids from every risk and give them the greatest opportunity for success. We put plastic covers over the edges of our coffee tables, insert protectors into electrical outlets to keep the little guy from sticking his tongue in and getting electrocuted, and leash our kids at airports. We also do everything we can to help them succeed.

We drive our precious tykes to guitar lessons, tutors, and karate all to make them well-rounded and to prepare them for something we never really talk about by name: work.

When work does come up at the dinner table for a colleague of mine, her daughter bites her upper lip and says “Excuse me, but this is so boring, can we play “name the animal?” And the conversation quickly turns to descriptions of colorful reptiles, furry beasts, and birds that squawk.

I think this is common for lots of families — “work-talk” is taboo. And most kids have no idea what their parents do, or worse, why they work in the first place.

Sometimes this is because parents are tired of thinking about their job when they get home and do not want to talk about it. And that’s understandable. But, it is probably not a good reason to avoid the topic entirely. Others just might not have thought about what they really do and why. Have you considered why you really work? My guess is that it is probably for something more than just the money.

Try writing down what you do and why you do it. Here is a template and my own example:

GOAL
My goal as the CEO of Aha! is simple: help people achieve. And my success depends on enabling:

  • Customer achievements

  • Employee achievements

WHAT YOU DO
I help software companies build product strategy and visual roadmaps.

WHY YOU DO IT
I build companies because I am motivated to create important and lasting products and organizations that change how people work and live.

I think my kids understand this, because I do my best to talk about it in ways that they can comprehend.

I think your kids should know what you do and why you do it as well. I talk about my job openly with my kids because I am concerned that they will not discover:

  • Who they are

  • What they like to work on

  • What they want to accomplish

  • Their role in a community

I worry about this much more than what university they are going to attend. I want them to grapple with what they are going to work for.

When we have friends or family over for dinner, some are surprised when my kids ask, “What software companies did you speak with today?” Or ,”How many customers signed up today?” When I answer that one, they quickly press on with, “And how many paid seats?” I see the questions as a sign that they are engaged and curious about this funny thing that we do more than just about anything else in our life — work.

If you are interested in teaching your kids what work is really about, start talking about it. Here are a few questions you can ask them to get the conversation started.

  • What do you think I do at work all day?

  • Why do you think I work?

  • Who do you think I work with?

  • What type of jobs do you like to do?

As working parents, our kids should benefit from our experiences and to do so they need to learn about them. Another reason we avoid talking about work is because we do not want to bring our frustrations home. But that is part of the story — it is okay for kids to know that there are good days and painful ones.

When you love what you do it is more like play than work. Help your kids find that groove by engaging them in what it means to have a job and a higher purpose to work towards.

Do your kids know what you do at work? I would love to hear your thoughts. Comments on Hacker News.

Brian de Haaff

About Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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