When should parents be truthful with their children? Is that even up for question? It sure is, especially when it comes to college expectations.
Here’s my latest fingernails-across-the-chalkboard story.
I met with parents and their daughter to discuss college. The daughter told me that she was applying Early Decision to an Ivy League college. When I asked how she justified her choice, I got this thoughtless answer: “I thought it was the right thing to do.” When pressed for something more substantial, she said that everyone was really supporting her choice and that she could get in.
To make matters worse, her grades and test scores were less than what the school required. It was clear I was watching a reality show based on a fantasy. This student didn't have a snowball's chance of getting into her dream school. Even if she had the proper credentials, there was still a 94% chance of getting rejected.
To this student, reality was just a zit.
I turned my attention to the parents, and slowly the meeting started going downhill. I asked them both how they were going to pay for college. The mother, who has been out of work for two years, said that she was hoping to get a job that would pay for her daughter’s education. If by chance the Ivy League school accepted this student, a school which was charging $60,000 a year, the father then disclosed that he only had enough money saved to pay for the first year.
I asked what he was hoping for. Yep...that his wife would find a job and that his daughter would go to her dream school.
I asked the daughter, “Did your father tell you that he only had enough money to pay for just one year of college?” She was never told.
In front of his daughter, I said to the father, “So you didn’t tell your daughter she would have to drop out of college after the first year, you went along with all her teachers and friends telling her she could get into a Ivy League school, and you’re hoping your wife finds a job to pay for her education.”
“That about sums it up,” he responded.
My sons once told me I was good at summing things up.
I asked the father, “Why are you being irresponsible? Your daughter was never told you couldn’t afford what she wanted, that she won’t be accepted at this college, that her mother might not find a job to pay for college. I don’t get it.”
The look on everyone’s face was a stark admission (pun intended) of no planning, no realistic goals, and not enough money. In other words, this family was living in the world of delusion and in the classic fear of the unknown. This 17-year-old girl was, to say the least, misguided.
And this story is all too common.
If you don’t have a plan, you have no direction. With no direction, there’s no destination. With no destination, there is only fantasy, hope, and crossed fingers. Is this any foundation upon which to build our children's lives? Incredibly, I still have a good head of hair.
What's the takeaway? Too many parents aren't being honest with their kids. A teenager's dreams and hard work could easily turn to dust because a parent is irresponsible. I witnessed it up close, and it wasn't pretty. Before I left the conversation, the student was in tears.