A Little Happier: Some Sage Parenting Advice from My Father.

My father gave me some wise advice when he told me, “As a parent, at some point, you have to switch from advisor to cheerleader.”

I hear advice all the time: “Parents need to let children make their own mistakes, let children fail, give them independence,” etc., but I understood that idea much better when my father put it into those terms.

And thinking about my own experience as I was switching from law to writing, I realize how valuable it was for me — when my parents acted as cheerleaders rather than advisors when I was making a challenging decision.

Now that I’m a parent myself, I realize that this is far easier said than done.

Have you had to hold yourself back from giving advice to your children, or other family members?


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  • statmam

    Hey, there was no early cutoff this time! (Listening on Android, Samsung Note 3, default browser.) Thanks to whoever fixed that problem.

    • K

      After seeing your comment, I went and listened to this using the Stitcher app on my Android phone. No early cutoff! Wackadoo! Gold star to those who worked on solving this for us listeners.

      • gretchenrubin


    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! That’s great to hear.

  • Abi Franklin

    I don’t have children of my own (yet). However, I know this struggle. I’ve always tried to play adviser to my little sister. She would say I was bossy and needed to mind my own business. Even in adulthood, she’s made some decisions I haven’t agreed with. Our relationship changed dramatically for the better when I started acting more like a cheerleader.

    Funny how she didn’t want my advice when I was trying to give it to her, but when I started cheering her on despite my opinions, she calls me all the time for my thoughts.

    • gretchenrubin

      Great example.

  • Kelly

    I am dealing with this exact issue with my 22 year old daughter. She just graduated from college with a degree that will require a graduate degree to get a good paying job. Graduate school will cost a fortune and she is struggling with what to do – keep going with her schooling, or take a gap year and work. I have been trying to “give” her advice, but it is just creating more stress and tears. Please thank your dad for this advice and I am going to print it out and put it where I can see it every day until SHE figures out what to do.