Friday, January 20, 2012

Dealing With Your Parents

Some of you bristle when your parents start giving advice.  Don’t completely write off what your parents say, no matter how annoying they seem (Proverbs 15:5).   They know you well and you should bring all important decisions to their attention to get their input.  They love you and would be honored to be consulted.  When you start hiding things, you erode the bonds of trust.  Because your parents know you so well, they can almost innately know what will work for you.  William McRae in his book Preparing for Your Marriage explains that if you are dating someone and your parents intensely dislike that person, then you should beware because these marriages tend to not last.
If your parents did not go to college you will obviously be getting technical support from classmates, study group members, faculty and counselors, but your parents should always be allowed to speak in to your life (Proverbs 23:22) (Leviticus 19:32). 
“You don’t trust me,” says the daughter.  “You need to just get over it and let go already.  I’m grown up.” And now, using my powers of an older adult who works with young adults I will translate what your parents hear when you say this.

“Waaaaaaaaah! See how childish I am, Wwwwaaaaah! Let me have what I want. Waaaaaaaah!” 

Why would any sane parent extend more freedom to a child who shows a lack of maturity?  You must earn your respect, by being mature and proper submission is a sign of maturity. Here’s an adult tip:  Next time you don’t get your way from your parents, suck it up and accept it without pouting.  You can state that you disagree, but that you will obey because you respect them.  Wow!  That’s an adult response many adults never seem to learn.  Submission is a powerful form of love and it shows your strength of character. 
            Joseph (Genesis 39:20-23) and Daniel (Daniel Chapter 2) are excellent examples of submission.  Joseph became second in command to Pharaoh king of Egypt, but he started off as a faithful servant.  Daniel likewise was servant to the evil emperor of Babylon.  Both treaded the fine line of submission to authority while remaining faithful to God’s commands.  Joseph was thrown in jail over his convictions and left to rot, while Daniel was thrown to the lions.  Both were protected by God.  There will be times when you will stand your ground and God will supernaturally protect you.  Unfortunately God doesn’t always choose to do this and you will never know which it will be (Hebrews 11:35-40).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Quest for Better Student-Parent Relationships

Get The Book Now!
     Below is one of the most amazing tools for those of you looking for a breakthrough in the relationship with your parents.  Warning, this tool is dangerous and should only be wielded by people who truly want a breakthrough. A parent-student contact clarifies expectations and responsibilities so that everything is out in the open.  As mentioned in earlier posts, if you do not show your parents that you are moving forward in life they will be less likely to support you going forward.  

     Most young adults would instinctively run from such an agreement but the things that seem counter-intuitive are often the best decision to make (Prov 14:12) (Prov 11:14). This agreement will show your resolve to execute a well thought out plan of becoming financially independent through your college education. 

Parent Student Contact Template
The contract can be modified to fit the intent of the situation in any way. Contracts can be annulled by either party, but must be renegotiated by both parties.   

Student Responsibilities:

·          Work hard and accept responsibility for my own learning.
·          Maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average.
·          Do all of my work to the best of my ability.
·          Make good use of private study time.
·          Ask for help when I need it.
·          Attend all classes.
·          Keep parents informed about important college matters.
·          Abide by the college rules.
·          Employment; I will get a part time job. The exception will be my first semester. For the first semester I will not work and commit myself to college and getting acclimated.
·          Graduate from _________ University in four years
·          Manage my money wisely and do not obtain credit without consulting parents.
·          If I drop a class I will be responsible to pay for any replacement classes.
·          I will always attempt to choose the best option that considers my own well-being, health, and safety.

Parental Responsibilities:
·          To be positive, helpful, and supportive.
·          Pay for tuition, room, board, books and fees (or whatever you agree)
·          Pay for transportation to and from _________ University.
·          Provide a weekly allowance which is to be paid one time at the beginning of each semester.
·          We have read the above stated responsibilities and agree to jointly work toward the successful goals of completing your college experience at _________ University.

Student Signature: _____________________    Date:___________

Parent Signature: __________________     Date:____________

Parent Signature: __________________     Date:____________

This contract will take time to hammer out so you should enter the negotiations with the understanding that you will need to accept less then you want.    It is highly possible that after the contract is complete, you may be disappointed.  It could feel that nothing has really changed.  This could be true, but the important thing is that you have agreed to be held accountable.  This builds trust with your parents and they will be more likely to take you seriously.   We all long to be seen as competent by our parents, and this feeling does not go away with time.  I believe it increases. When you make good decisions, it brings joy to your parents.  A parent-student contract is a way to honor your parents, because you are seeking their advice and truly submitting to them. 
  • Proverbs 13:1     A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes.
  • Proverbs 15:20    A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother. 
  • Ephesians 6:1-3   "Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—  “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. 
Regarding the contract,  if it contains a lot of changes from how you were operating, give it time to feel normal.  Go easy on each other as it will be a bit weird as you both adjust.  The reality is that much will change due to the nature of your demanding schedule.  This is a new phase of your life.  It will be different.  Please trust me.  You should not worry about constant nagging and micromanaging from your parents because you will be so busy studying and working. Parents need to see you doing well.  The onus is on you to do things that build their trust.  It doesn't work the other way around.  

It would be foolish to slap a 10-year old child in a car and let him go cruising. A wise parent will look at the capabilities of their child when determining what is appropriate and will not set arbitrary dates when certain privileges are extended.  Don't expect your parents to blindly trust you to make adult decisions, you must show yourself capable.  This contact is one of many things you will need to do to earn that trust.

See: Billy Grahm on Deadbeat Adult Children

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Talk Part III

Although you will negotiate with your parents to set up a new working relationship, you are not an equal power party.  The more financial support you receive from your parents, the more you will need to bend to their rules.  Significant $$$ = power.  If you are living at home, you need to realize that the roof and the food represent significant financial support.  Follow the rules of the house. 

St. Mary's College
For the few of you who live in dorms or apartments, you will naturally have more autonomy just because of the separation of distance. You must still figure out what is expected of you.  Why would any sane person ask what is expected of them?  Doesn’t it just encourage the parents out there to multiply the rules and restrictions?  The reason you initiate this conversation is because you are reassuring your parents of your ability to finish college, thereby showing them that their investment in you (while still carrying risk) is less risky because you have a plan.  

Your parents will be more likely to support you for a longer amount of time if you have done this step correctly.  The other critical reason why you must establish this is that you are an adult and that is what adults do.  It would be great if the parent took the initiative, but if this is not happening it is up to you to start the conversation. 

Picture yourself entering a dark cave without a flashlight. As you walk deeper into this cave you rationally know that however far you walk into it you can retrace your steps to get back out.  Walking farther along the cave you stumble your way around a bend and the light from the entrance dims.  At this point it is dark, and you know that if you just turn around you can get out.  That is probably what will happen.  You will give up your walk and leave the cave.

But what if while in that dark bend, someone yells from the entrance and tells you that the cave is not a cave, but rather a tunnel through the mountain.  This person also tells you there is a pile of gold waiting at the other end.   So you proceed into the dark, feeling along the wall, in what you feel is the right way towards the other end and the pile of gold.  As the tunnel seems to turn again, a new fear creeps into your mind.  “What if there are dead ends inside of this?  What if I get lost and never get out?  This isn’t worth it.  I think I’ll go back.”  You know it is a tunnel, you know there is gold at the end, but you are worried about the unknown. 

Funding a child through college is similar to this experience.  A parent knows all their child’s flaws and how they could lead to failure. Parents know about dropout statistics and they also know of families saddled with the endless college debt of a 3rd year dropout.  Add to that a child that is unsure of what they want to do and has just changed majors for the third time compounding yet another two years of college expenses.  Do see why a parent may fear, putting their trust in you?

Rewind!  You are back at the entrance, you are told it is a tunnel, you are told it will be dark, but there will be a tiny indicator light at the end of each section of the tunnel.  These lights are similar to the little lights you see on a Christmas tree.  While the indicator lights will not be enough to light your way, it will be just enough to point you in the right direction.  There may be obstacles that you could trip over, and you will need to still feel along the wall, but those little lights will be there.  Oh and yes, the big pile of gold is still there, are you willing to risk it?  Of course you would.  This is doable, this is reasonable.  You will go much further if you just have a little indication that it is going to turn out alright. 

So, how can you reassure your parents so that their patience and financial assistance won’t wear out?  Remember this: A parent who is supporting an adult child needs to see the light at the end of the gravy train tunnel.  Without any clues they will turn around sooner.   A parent-student contract is a great tool for this purpose.  Parents often say it this way, “As long as you are going to school I will support you.”  Even though they say this don’t believe this is all they want.  There are more stipulations, so you might as well get them out in the open so that there are no surprises.

Negotiate everything and later when you run into something that was not negotiated go back to the table and negotiate that.  Write everything down. Next Post:  Parent Student Contact Template

Monday, January 2, 2012

Boom vs. Bust

In economics we teach something called the business cycle.  The idea is that economies tend to have ups and downs.  We can be in a growth or recessionary part of the business cycle.  While it may feel as if we are in a recessionary cycle, you need to know that by classic definitions of growth and recessions we have been in a growth phase since the third quarter of 2009!

The following graphic shows the growth and shrinkage (recessionary) cycles.

Gross Domestic Product is a measure of the total wealth generated inside of our country.  A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of GDP shrinkage. 
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis
Starting in 2007 we have had quite an economic ride with ups and downs.  Growth slowed again in 2011 but never went negative.   Remember that it is possible for a company to have more profits with less workers.  This is due to ever increasing productivity.  This is how the nation can have a growth in GDP with a decline in jobs.

The following chart measures unemployment levels:

Source Bureau of Labor Statistics

Are you are still with me?  Then you deserve the punch line:  In your life you will face many turns of the business cycle and you should plan for these ups and downs.

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.    Proverbs 6:6-11

There will be times when if are breathing and willing to work you can find a job and get pay raises easily.  There will also be difficult times where work is hard to come by.  Each phase of the business cycle requires a different strategy.

During Good Times
Resist the urge to increase spending and begin putting away savings for the lean years.  Do an analysis of your skills to see where you are vulnerable for any possible downturns.  Maybe you can work less and bank those hours towards college credits.  Some companies are more liberal with benefits like subsidized education.  Take advantage of this and invest in your education.  Increase giving.  God had given you more so you should bump up both your tithe and giving during good times.  Resist the urge to job hop looking for continual raises.  In union jobs, you are giving up seniority when you move companies.  The bad times are coming so you should prepare.  If possible use this period to start a sideline business. Resist the urge to get caught up in get rich quick scams and focus on the basics for growing wealth.

During Bad Times
Be thankful for what you have and do not harden your heart towards those who drop into poverty.  Help where possible, hire someone if you can.   If you lose your job, don’t give up looking ever.  Drastically cut spending where possible to preserve savings for a possible long unemployment.  Divide time between your sideline business and job hunting.  You may have to adjust your expectations and take a lower paying job.  If the new job is lower paying you must adjust your spending to the new reality.  This is hard, but the whole family needs to take a pay cut.  Ironically this is the best time to invest.  It may be scary to think about investing because you may be afraid of locking money away that you may need due to a job loss.  Realize that your job is not secure even if it seems secure, so you must take reasonable investment risks at times.  This may be the best time to buy your first house.

Learn this lesson about the current economic climate.  You can’t trust your feelings to gauge the times so you should follow these basic strategies so that you can safely ride out the business cycles that you will experience throughout your life.  Many of the people around you will be reacting improperly because they do not understand the business cycle.  When investing the rule is to buy low and sell high.  This sounds easy but will cut against your feelings because the best time to buy will be when prices are falling.

You don’t operate in a bubble and not everything is under your control.  Even with good economic decisions you may still get wiped out through some freak event.  This is the natural hazard of being a living being on this planet (Ecclesiastes 9:11).  The idea is to limit self-inflicted financial wounds.