Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in January 2016.
When asked to name some of the greatest minds in history, many would respond with Plato, DaVinci, Descartes, or Tesla. Certainly there would be controversy in assembling such a list, and ordering would be nearly impossible.. However, when it comes to establishing a clear front-runner today, it’s much easier than looking back through history. Clearly, one man would rise to the top… Jeff Foxworthy (and you were worried this was going to be an idle diatribe about college rankings!).
I am confident we can all attest Foxworthy’s portfolio is impressive and wide-reaching, from The American Bible Challenge to Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader to the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. What launched such success, brilliance, range and influence? Well, certainly his education at Georgia Tech did not hurt, but ultimately it was his astute ability to help others with effective, actionable self-realization. Foxworthy utilized extensive qualitative research to develop what is known in modern psychology as You might be a redneck. His approach was simple—systematically use “if – then” prompts to suggest indicators of this condition and help listeners self-diagnose: If your family tree does not branch, then you might be a redneck. Valid and noted, sir.
I think many parents can use Jeff Foxworthy’s approach to take a pulse on how they’re doing. Ultimately, this litmus test comes down to pronouns.
- If you’ve recently said, “We are taking the SAT next weekend” then you might be overly involved.
- If you said to a friend in the bleachers last week, “Our first choice is Columbia” then you might be overly involved.
- If, as your daughter was leaving for school the other day, you said, “Let’s ace that Calculus exam!” then you might be overly involved.
Shift from Parent to Partner
Listen, I get it. We’ve already established that people love their kids, so your desire to help and see them thrive is absolutely commendable. But this spring is the right time to make an intentional shift from parent to partner. We talk a lot about this concept in our orientation and first-year programs. Stepping back (not away), changing pronouns, and providing opportunities to make practical, diurnal decisions before heading to college is critical.
If you have a high school senior, they are going to be on a campus somewhere in a few short months (grab some Kleenex, but keep reading). And once there, your student will face options and opportunities each day that you’ll never know about. Bolster your confidence in them now by stepping back and empowering them as they navigate this spring. If you have a junior or underclassmen, you can set a pattern now for your support and direction and control of the college admission process.
Going for a college visit soon? Let them find the hotel and make dinner reservations. Talk through the budget, the details on logistics, and what they’re wanting out of the trip beyond seeing the school.
Son was deferred by a college? He should be the one to reach out to his admission counselor or to verify that all necessary transcripts or supplements have been received.
Laundry/Credit Card bills? Who is taking care of those things? And who will during freshman year in college? Or who will when they’re 24? The time to provide opportunities to become more independent and more aware of limitations is now—while you are there to answer questions and give guidance.
I’m no Jeff Foxworthy, but I hope you’ll take these prompts to heart, watch your pronouns, and seize the opportunity to start making that frightening yet crucial shift from parent to partner today.
(By the way, our survey is still open! More than 200 people have already shared their thoughts–we hope you’ll join them!).
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