I've Never Been More Thankful for My Hands-Off Parents

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How did being raised by clueless parents affect your development? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Stan Hanks, CTO of Columbia Ventures Corp, on Quora.

OK, this is a time-shifted answer, but it's still completely true.

In the 1970's, in high school, I had zero help from my parents with anything school related. It was well known that unless I went to the local (well, 55 miles away) community college and lived at home, I was on my own. So I learned to be resourceful, resilient, and creative. It was a huge blessing. I needed to take the SAT? Cool, that meant I had to figure out when and where it was offered, how to register, how to get myself there (that turned out to be "after traveling all night 350 miles home from the most brutal football game I'd ever played in which I suffered a concussion, drive home, shower, then drive to a campus 55 miles away, stopping for breakfast on the way, not forgetting to bring extra pencils"). Prep for the SAT? We laughed at the one kid in our school who did a Kaplan course. You either knew this stuff, or you didn't (I'm a 99th percentile scorer, I guess I can take that approach).

Same with applying for financial aid. Being a National Merit Scholar was a plus, but I had to figure everything else out on my own. To do that, I had to make phone calls, talk to adults, read stuff, actually write letters and wait for responses, fill out applications, make presentations. Most of which I had to figure out from scratch.

Nutrition? You ate was was served. If you wanted to eat something else, you had to either figure out how to pay for it "out", or cook it "in", with the caveat that you might have to pay for the thing you were going to cook if it wasn't just laying around.

New bike? They'd probably buy that. Parts to repair after a crash, that's on me. The first car was on them, but when I did something they disagreed with and "lost" it, the replacement was on me, as was gas, and insurance.

I was so unbelievably freaking lucky. I still lived at home, didn't have to worry about rent, didn't have to worry about clothes (mostly), didn't have to worry about food (other than as noted), and I still got to learn all of these amazingly useful - no, critical - life skills within a safe learning environment. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I look at my wife's older kids, and their dad arranging all this stuff for them - the AP test prep, the SAT test prep, actually arranging the testing for them, actually filling out their college applications and financial aid forms. It's mind-blowing. They don't value any of it, they didn't learn anything from it. It was just there, given to them. As if it were their right.

I don't get it. It's inconceivable to me as a parent that I'd deprive my son of the chance to learn the stuff that he's going to need to know as a functional adult. He's young enough that I'm showing him how to learn - how to figure things out that you don't know, where the resources are "hiding" in this digital age. But more and more, I give him responsibility. You want to do it, you need to figure it out. If that means scanning YouTube for a tutorial, then doing it, awesome. If it means reading then doing it, more awesome. But there's no way in hell I'm sending him into the world with an expectation that "stuff just gets done for you". Because that's not the way that it works.

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