3 Pearls of Wisdom for Moms to Teach Kids to Succeed
by Therese Allison · 05 May 2021 · 8 min read
Let’s face it, there isn’t a roadmap or manual for raising kids. There particularly isn’t one for teenagers. In sync with Mother’s Day, I am sharing 3 “Pearls of Wisdom” (success tips) with examples of how I mentored my children. To help moms and others succeed, these business and life skills are featured in my new book, “Playing for Keeps – How a 21st-Century Businesswoman Beat the Boys” with relatable stories.
It was 2011, I had just arrived at my son’s apartment at UCLA. I walked up the stairs into his room and noticed some familiar pieces of furniture. I had just moved and downsized my home, which was fortuitous for my son and his roommate. While not your typical pieces of furniture donated by mom, it was a couch and a pool table. Yes, I said a pool table. He was the Captain of the UCLA Hockey team, and their room was the gathering place for the team. So, a pool table was just the ticket.
As I looked around his room, I noticed a list posted above his desk. I suddenly recognized the items on the list. In his junior year of high school, he said “Mom, will you write your business story for me?” A couple of weeks later, I handed him my story. It was 10 pages of pretty boring stuff, as I was an insurance broker. In the end, I boiled it all down to a one-page lessons learned, or a “cheat sheet” if you will. I figured that he was in high school with many distractions. To keep it simple, I thought that if he just learned what was on that page, he would be good to go for a successful future.
From my “cheat sheet” that I used to mentor my teens and others, here are three of my “Pearls of Wisdom” based on my “hard-earned” 18 years in business. These tips are just part of my 10 pages of notes turned into a book:
PEARL OF WISDOM 1 - PAY YOUR DUES WITH NO SHORTCUTS
As moms, there are times when we want to rescue our kids from learning the hard lessons. Instead of doing things for them, teach your kids that there are no shortcuts.
I love this quote. It is something that a teenager can relate to: “The elevator to success is out of order. You’ll have to use the stairs…one step at a time.” – Joe Girard
I came from a family of humble means. As a result, I put myself through college. During my sophomore year, I started working in a restaurant named Spike’s Place in San Luis Obispo. I started out waitressing and after six months, I was approached to take a management position. Knowing that it would look good on my resume for a career, I said yes. Little did I know that I would be trained from the “ground floor” up and there definitely wasn’t an elevator! I spent a week in each position, starting with washing dishes, then as a cook, then as a stocker, ending with bartending. It was the best training because when we got busy, I could call the shots on where we needed the most help.
Fast forward into my business career, in my second job out of college, I was kicked onto the proverbial streets and was told to build a book of business in the insurance brokerage industry. After a year, I would transition to an all-commission pay structure, which we referred to as “you eat what you kill.” Going through that experience, I had no choice but to be scrappy with an attitude to solve problems, which ultimately allowed me to survive and thrive in the business.
Fast forward to raising kids, I have found that it is easy for moms to want to rescue their kids when things get challenging. It goes against our nature to see our kids struggle. Instead, my mantra is:
If you want to prepare your teenager for life, don’t rescue them when the going gets tough.
It can be tempting but don’t write that paper for them when they are up against a timeline. By doing their work for them, you are sending them the message that you don’t believe they can do it. Remember, no shortcuts.
All three of my kids played sports. As they became teenagers, I rarely spoke with their coaches. I am a firm believer that sports can train our kids for the game of life. If they have a difficult coach, it will train them on how to have a difficult boss. It is a great lesson for our kids to learn that you have to work for it to have the top spot or that promotion when they are in the work world.
My oldest daughter was a synchronized skater. When she joined her first team, she was 14 years old skating with 19 and 20 year-olds. She kept asking the coach, over and over, what do I need to do to get a full spot? She persistently worked on it until she earned that spot. Eight years later, when she went to the World Championships, she knew that she had earned it herself. As a mom, that was the biggest gift that I could give her…back off and let her do it herself. While I was happy that her hard work paid off, I knew that that experience would be invaluable for her later on in life.
As a mom, let your kids pay their dues. If you do, they will have the confidence to work through whatever comes their way later on in business and life.
PEARL OF WISDOM 2 - TREAT PEOPLE THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED
I am a firm believer in the motto “treat the janitor the same as the CEO.” If you provide the example of being kind to everyone, you will give a leg up to your teenager when they go into the work world.
Insurance brokers have a reputation for being “bottom feeders.” They don’t rate high on the honesty scale. Even worse, brokers are known for treating carrier representatives and underwriters poorly.
One year, I had a sizeable increase in the rate for my largest client. I had a good relationship with that carrier, because “people do business with people they like.” I asked my representative to go back and ask the underwriter for a wash in rates (no increase.) She came back and said that, because it was me, they agreed and then proceeded to tell me how poorly they were treated by other brokers.
While mentoring my son, I would always tell him to make his boss look good. Give him/her credit. Make your co-workers look good. I told him that it would bode well for him in the long run. Well, it did. At age 27, he became one of the youngest Principals in a multi-billion company headquartered in New York.
Teach your children to be a cheerleader for others. This will be one of their largest success factors later on in life.
PEARL OF WISDOM 3 - ALWAYS TAKE THE HIGH ROAD AND OWN YOUR MISTAKES
Early in my career, I learned the importance of owning up to your mistakes and coming up with solutions.
Thumbing through some proposals one day, I noticed a big problem in a rate calculation for an insurance client. It wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t my largest client. The mistake would cost them 30% more than I presented. Worse yet, the Board had signed off on it because they trusted me. Instead of trying to hide it or blame it on someone else, I dealt with it head-on. I came up with a solution and made an appointment with the CEO. A few hours later, I sat in his rather intimidating office waiting for him. He walked in and sat in his leather chair. I proceeded to tell him about my mistake and offered a solution. He hesitated for about 15 seconds as my young career flashed before my eyes. He said, “Therese, everyone makes mistakes because of how you handled it, you will keep our business.” That meeting was probably one of the most significant moments of my career, as he had a tremendous amount of influence in the healthcare niche that I worked in.
It is important for you to teach your children that everyone makes mistakes…it’s how they handle them that counts. Honesty works best. When you don’t know the answer, say so.
Give your teenager the gift of knowing that they are not going to know everything. Explain that it is perfectly fine to say to someone that has a question: “That is a great question, I will have to get back to you with an answer.” And teach them to make sure to follow through with the answer. If they get into the habit of this skill as a teenager, people will trust them when they enter the work world. Their boss and/or clients will come to realize that they are not being sold a “bill of goods” and will want to do business with them.
There are no easy shortcuts for mentoring your children, and especially teenagers. I hope that these three of my Pearls of Wisdom from my book with real-life examples will help you raise your kids. You can read more business and life success tips in my new self-help memoir: “Playing for Keeps – How a 21st-century businesswoman beat the boys.”