HomeVOLUME 6September 2021When to stop parenting

DR. ICHAK ADIZES explores some aspects of parenting, in particular when to let go of the role, and how to develop mutual trust and respect between parents and children. He also extrapolates his ideas to succession planning in organizations, so as to enable growth and continuous improvement.


We’ll start with a joke. A guy goes to work and he’s all scratched and bloody and blue and beaten up. So his co-workers ask him, “What happened?”
“I buried my mother-in-law yesterday.”
“What happened?”
“She did not cooperate.”
This is an extreme situation when you try to parent somebody you should not parent anymore.

What I’m learning in old age is that at a certain point in time, children resent being parented. Don’t want to be told what to do, don’t want to learn the experience of the elders. That was not true in the past. My grandfather was the boss. His word was law, including for my father, who was in his 40s. My father was also the dominant figure in my family, and I never dared to disobey him. He continued giving me advice and instructions on what to do until he died. I didn’t like it, but I listened. Yes, it was in the last century. I am 83 now.

Today, it’s a different world. Children become “adults” early. They know the computer technology better than us. I could not operate the latest TV screens without them. I am constantly asking for help with the latest changes to my computer applications. I am the ignorant student. They are the knowledgeable teachers now. They’re influenced by TV, by social media, by external factors, school, their friends; so the impact of the family and its control over their behavior is diminished significantly. Thus, they rebel earlier. If you try to control them, they simply run away. You can see that, especially in America, where children graduate from high school and go to college as far away from home as possible. And then find jobs far away from home too. They want to be independent, and if you try to continue parenting them, they resent it and they don’t call back any more.

We need to learn to cut the cord and let them go their way. Unless we are asked for advice, don’t offer it, let it be. The extreme cases are when you try to parent your son-in-law or daughter-in-law. That’s even worse than patenting your own children. They resent you to the point of the joke.

An interesting analogy is for succession planning in a company. Starting a company is like having a child. You love the company. You spend more time building the company than you spend with your own children. And the day comes when the company is big enough to have good management beyond the founder, and they too want to exercise authority and lead. Can the founder let go, and let them make mistakes, or does he or she continue to “parent,” continue to make all the decisions to be sure no mistakes are made? And what happens? Like with children, the good ones leave and the weak ones stay, accepting the stage of disempowerment they are in, so the company will grow only as far as the founder is still active to the fullest. And when he or she dies, the company will eventually die too, because there was no successor who could lead.

Just thinking and feeling,
Ichak Kalderon Adizes


Dr. Ichak Adizes

Dr. Ichak Adizes is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading management experts. He has received 21 honorary doctorates and is the author of 27 books that have been translated into 36 languages. Dr. Adizes is recognized by Leadership Excellence Journal as one of the top thirty thought leaders of America.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here