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.