Are Parents Really Doing This?!?!

Because my parents sure as hell never asked my advice about major life decisions (all bold emphasis below is mine):

When Helen Barahal was deciding whether to sell an East Harlem apartment she was renting to tenants, she asked her son, Marcus, for advice.

I knew that the neighborhood wasn’t that good at the time, but it was going to change,” Marcus said. “I told her to hold on to it because I knew we would make more from the rent instead of selling it.

Ms. Barahal heeded his advice and has kept the apartment (worth about $100,000 when she bought it in 2000), which is now being bought for four times as much.

It was a “Marcus-approved sale,” Ms. Barahal said. Marcus is 11.

But age, as they say, is just a number. Ms. Barahal’s broker, Jeffrey Gardere of the Corcoran Group (who happens to have a doctorate in psychology), said that Ms. Barahal, like many parents nowadays, does not simply listen to her child. “She relies on what he has to say,” Mr. Gardere said.

Parents have long depended on their children to be in-house experts on fashion, technology and pop culture, to introduce them to fresh music, purge their closets of ghastly apparel (“mom jeans”) and troubleshoot household electronics. And generations of parents have encouraged their children to weigh in on family decisions like choosing a winter vacation spot or a replacement for the belly-up goldfish.

But the nature and pervasiveness of child-to-parent advice has reached new proportions for a variety of reasons. Many parents — who have shed their status as old fogy untouchables and become pals with their progeny — are treating their offspring as worldly equals. They think of their computer-savvy, plugged-in children as confidants, and so they look to them for advice on life decisions, as well as major purchases: cars, computers, vacation packages, real estate, home décor.

An article in the Journal of Business Research for April says today’s children “encounter decision-making at an earlier age,” are “taking on greater roles and responsibilities in family purchases” and are influencing their parents’ buying decisions far beyond areas where children are the “primary product users.

Sandi Mendelson, a chief executive at Hilsinger-Mendelson, a literary public relations firm, said she seeks advice from her daughter, Karah Preiss, 17, because, “I just respect how she looks at the world.”

“There’s a lot of trust,” said Ms. Mendelson, who lives in Manhattan.

Karah — who figured out which television the family should buy and turned her mother onto the band Coldplay — also obliges her mother’s publishing-executive friends when they want to pick her brain about what’s in and what’s out. She said she enjoys weighing in, as well as hanging out with her mother and her mother’s friends.

Is this an isolated practice? Are children that saavy at earlier ages these days, or have we become a nation of petrified people in a state of arrested development, too afraid to make an adult decision on our own? How many of you who are parents of young teens and pre-teens heavily rely on their advice and, if so, why?*

*Beware, aspiring writers: if there’s a smidgen of truth to this, a tween who’s the child of a power-editor may be deciding whether you get your next book deal.

nytimes.com: Mommy and Daddy’s Little Life Coach

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13 thoughts on “Are Parents Really Doing This?!?!

  1. >seem like those portrayed in the stories are smart, insecure women with no common sense. women who lost their man (for whatever reason) and don't wanna lose their kids also, hence the "ju-v" involvement to provide some sort of "self-worth" for the kid and parent. most daddies wouldn't put up with that shit, even if he's bringing home LESS money to babycakes.

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  2. >Interestingly, I rely on my youngest son more than his two oldest siblings for certain things like music and an occasional helping with technology question. I have always had a better sense of style than all three of my children so they usually rely on me for fashion advice. I recently had to take Kris (my youngest) to Barneys to have him try on every brand of jean they carry to prove to him that his butt ain't made for True Religion jeans.However, on a broader base this is a cultural difference. Kris and my other two to a less extent have always gone to exclusive private schools and as you can imagine he was in the minority. One of his schools does not use last names for teachers, administrators, etc. so everyone is on a first name basis. Somewhere along the lines these kids get the impression that they are equals and that their opinions actually matter. As a result you have this midget know-it-alls walking around TELLING their parents what to do. So I really can see where the arrogance and condescension is born in a lot of the younger generation. That said, that was one "school lesson" that was discouraged at home.

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  3. >wow..actually I can relate to that type of behavior in my youth. It wasn't as though my parents were seeking my approval, rather they were including me in their decision making process.I can appreciate being included on the little things, but on a larger scale thats a huge risk to take. I am glad it worked out for ole girl and her son. This time it had a happy ending.

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  4. >I don't rely on my child, who is almost 17, to make decisions. I have asked her things. Kids can have untainted visions. It is not all about maturity. As the saying goes kids speak the truth until adults tell them otherwise.I remember being 12 and my mom was with a no good man. I told her I did not want to move cause we would wind up living in with my grandma. Lo, and behold, the man kicked me out cause he did not want me around. He never liked me, he treated me like furniture. He wanted my mom all to herself. I lived with my grandma for 2 months before my mom moved out of her boyfriend's.I am not saying go to a child for counsel especially on major decisions. It is enlightening at times to hear what is all a child's mind.

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  5. >We allow our kids to be "somewhat" outspoken. We want to encourage their ability to think, something I think very few kids know how to do; most just do as they are told. Therefore, we listen to their input on small matters some of the time for things like entertaiment. I don't think we have ever involved them on a major decision. That is solely an adult responsibility.However, I do ask my 18 yr. old her opinion on various books, whether she likes them or not. She is an avid reader thanks to my encouragement. Now that she is older, sometimes I'll let her read a book first, to see if it's worth my time. So Lo I think there is merit to your literary remark especially if the writer is appealing to that market.

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  6. >Juan! Do u have kids at GDS? IF so, OMIGOD!!! I know many people of color had issues with that no last name practice – but, I'm tellin' u – it was/is the BEST SCHOOL EVAH!

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  7. >As a child of outspoken family – while i didn't have input on MAJOR issues (like who we got to live w/ post-divorce:-), i recall my Dad – at least listening to me when there was a need for directions someplace. I've always had great visual memory. As i got older, my mother was more accepting of my opinions.in retrospect, i felt like an apprentice of my parents – i would be given the chance to prove i actually paid attention & learned from them.

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  8. >CG, I feel ya to a point on the old school ways. Some were harmful to kids though. I can list a bunch of things that had me scratching my head and having to figure out when I was grown. I am part old and new school. I really hated that believe an adult over a child. I had a teacher who was verbally abusive and my peeps acted like the kids were the problem. Years later a family friend's child had this teacher and they witnessed this crazy azz teacher.

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  9. >CapCity, yes Kris went through 8th grade at GDS. The high school has too many drug issues. Actually many of my Jewish friends have the same issue that I had and one selected Jewish Day School over GDS for that very reason. Small world, small world indeed.

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