You Have to Take the Stairs
You probably have heard of helicopter parenting, but have you heard of elevator parenting? Probably not because I just coined the phrase. I am looking forward to hearing your comments about it after you finish reading this. It needs to take hold and be shouted from the rooftops that this elevator parenting, it’s a thing! A real thing! Yes, we have all witnessed it and most of us have lived it, either as the child rider or the elevator parent! So what exactly is the elevator parent you ask? I thought it up after reading a quote by Zig Ziglar, famous motivational speaker. “There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs.”
This quote got me thinking about how we play a huge role in our children’s success. We play a roll in both the immediate and the long term success of our children. So what does it all have to do with elevators? Well, we all know that the easiest way to get up 5 stories is by using the elevator not by climbing the stairs. The unfortunate truth is, many parents are escorting their kids, elevator style, to what they say is success. These parents “work the system”, they talk to all the right people, they excuse bad behavior, they cover mistakes, they “help” with homework, they excuse kids from responsibilities so they don’t miss out on the big event, and a plethora of other hidden manipulations all for their child to be recognized, or get the grade, or receive the trophy. We all want our kids to be successful, but is success only measured in grades, and points, and trophies? Unfortunately, many kids perceive success to be just that, all the while falling short of knowing who they really are outside of those things. Hard work and hard times, good habits and good intentions, learning from mistakes and building self-esteem are all bypassed for the immediate reward or recognition.
Here is an example of a staircase parent verses an elevator parent. Suzy has learned that ONLY IF she brushed her teeth and puts her clothes in the hamper and goes to her bed the first time her mom asks her, THEN she will read her a bedtime story. Johnny, on the other hand, has learned that after mom asks 6 times for him to go get ready for bed he will still get a bedtime story read to him if he keeps crying and begging. Both kids found success at the end of the night and got that bedtime story but in Suzy’s case she was held accountable for the success, whereas in Johnny’s case the parent handed the success to Johnny without him having any ownership to the success. Johnny’s mom went into elevator mode. She wanted him to have that nighttime story, probably because that time meant as much to her as it did to him and she heard that to raise smart kids you should read to them everyday. She held his hand, walked him into the elevator, pressed the button for him, and lift off!
All the way to the 5th floor! All to find out that it was more exhausting to take the elevator with the power struggles that ensued and the repeat commands that were not followed. The immediate success might of happened but it wasn’t effective for long term success. Johnny continues, to this day, to push the envelope with his coaches, his teachers, and his bosses and wonders why he doesn’t get the grade, or why he isn’t a first string player, or why he hasn’t gotten the promotion(leaving him on the 5th floor). Suzy might not have had as many successes with getting bedtime stories, but because she was responsible for the success by taking the proper steps getting her “to the 5th floor” she later reached the top of the Chrysler building, which is 77 stories, by the way! Her mother sacrificed a few bedtime stories to teach the greater lesson of responsibility for her own actions. She taught Suzy that her choices matter. They were on a staircase working to get to the 5th floor one step at a time. Now, Suzy instinctively puts in the work and desires to grow and learn because she was the owner of her own journey. Her mom walked up the staircase beside her and cheered her successes and helped her up when she stumbled.
This year my son Thomas is a junior in high school. He really hasn’t had many struggles in the classroom. He takes AP classes and is in the top ten of his class. This year he has struggled in one particular class. I have grown weary at times and wanted to go into the teacher and show her the 95% or higher he has in all of his other classes and say, “how is it that he can be getting 95% and higher in all of his other classes and he can’t get better than 80% in this class?” I wanted to tell her she is ruining his chance to stay in the top ten of his class, and that potential scholarships ride on this grade. I could do that, but I haven’t. I know that Thomas needs to be responsible for the outcome of that class. I took video games away until he talked to the teacher about why his grades were so low in that class. He saw some improvements but still experienced some trouble. He worked harder and communicated with his teacher. Still the grade is lagging. He said he is giving up on his goal of top ten and is convinced he cannot attain it with a B in this class. I asked him if he is ok down deep in his gut about that. He really isn’t but it is how he is processing it all at this time. We don’t know what the outcome long term will be and if he’ll stay in top ten or not, but here in the moment I have stepped next to Thomas in support of him as he takes control of the situation giving him experience facing tough times, teaching him to communicate, and showing him we love and support him as he takes this really big step closer to becoming independent and thriving.
Are you walking beside your kids up the steps, or are you taking them on the elevator. Remember: There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.