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16 | Relating to Your Young Adult: Collaborating

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Our children, at any age, are always hoping to feel loved by us. 

Receiving love from your mom and dad is a primary psychological drive. It’s a reason why psychologists are always trying to get you to straighten out your relationships with your parents. 

As parents, let’s make sure we fulfill our role. It’s our unique opportunity. 

Collaborate as they transition to independence

COLLABORATING will help you stay in that role. 

Thinking in terms of COLLABORATING with your young adults during their transition to independence helps shift the relationship to a life-long, loving, adult, relationship. 

Because collaboration means both parties are working together towards a shared goal. 

Collaboration is sometimes a style of approaching a conflict. It’s also a way of working towards shared goals. 

Pursue Interests without locking into positions

“A summer job” is a shared goal when a parent and a student are both hoping the student will find a decent summer job. Hopefully, the student is a self-starter, but she might need some ideas, some transportation, some boundaries around hours, to cooperate with the family vacation, or so forth. 

A tip for being a great collaborator is: to learn how to pursue an INTEREST instead of taking a POSITION. 

Positions are the particular solution we propose; these serve a larger Interest. An Interest is the larger thing that you are trying to accomplish with your “position.” 

Ask “For what purpose am I taking this position?”  If you ask that question enough times, you will usually see your larger interests.

For instance “Get up, shower, and be at your computer by 8 am Monday-Friday looking for a job” is a position that a parent might take when it comes to looking for work. It’s reasonable, right? I think so. 

I’ve been conditioned by 30+ years of white-collar work and the idea of taking an approach that falls short of a disciplined process that maximizes whatever resources and can bring to the situation is hard for me to grasp. 

But the 8-to-noon model is just a “position.” Imposing my work ethic on a young person living at home isn’t likely to be effective: there’s no buy-in. If it’s not their idea, if it’s not an idea they feel positive about, then they are not likely to follow through. 

The Interest is shared to get a summer job. There are unstated interests, perhaps “harmony for the household” such that working the night shift is disfavored by mom and dad. Parents also want their students to learn and grow from the experience, which means the student has to do most of the “figuring it out.” An unstated interest is likely “feeling supported instead of terrorized by mom/dad”. 

Our workplaces are poor models for collaboration

The collaboration mindset is a very hard transition for a lot of us to make, especially white-collar workers. 

You are used to going to a meeting, talking to the boss, the supervisor, or the committee, and having a “conversation.” 

When someone reports to you, you have some expectations.  There is a “problem” that they are “working on” and that’s what the “conversation” is about. They will explain what the problem is, outline a range of “solutions” and make “recommendations.”  You will ask questions and make “suggestions” until you are satisfied that they will go away and “handle” the situation in the way that you approved. 

That can be very collegial. It can be a great process, but it’s not collaborative.

The employee reporting to you will eventually lose his job if he doesn’t make you happy. 

That’s coercion. 

Don’t think so? 

Think about a second conversation – one that happens when you go to a discussion with someone outside the company. Someone that might work with you. Or they might not. Or you are already working together but you have to actually cooperate with each other to get things done. 

That second conversation isn’t going to look and feel like the first one, is it? It’s not even close to being the same. 

Yet we can sit down with our kids to have the first type of conversation and wonder why they can’t “be professional about the situation.”

Collaborate as a default mode

We collaborate with other adults all the time. We approach them in an upfront non-manipulative way. We let them know what’s on our mind and why we’re thinking in a certain way, and we’re inviting them to problem-solve with us. 

Our young adults are fitting into that adult category now. We work with them as they transition to being fully independent. We find ourselves in different roles, like Netflix-provider, education loan co-signer, insurance carrier, landlord, child care resource, and church lady. 
We want to collaborate when possible. We want that to be our go-to mode. The default mode is to collaborate.

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