Living Columns & Blogs

Present your poker face at decision time

During a recent college tour in North Carolina for our rising high school senior, Addie, one of the admissions counselors advised us (parents) to use our “poker face” during the campus tour. She explained that, if we outwardly express our preferences, we will be influencing our child’s decision, one way or another.

I thought that this was really good advice, because my wife and I really want Addie to make the decision that she believes is best for her — not what she thinks we believe is best. With that said, with the life experience that we have as parents, there are times when it’s important to offer some perspective and guidance. With the advice from the admissions counselor, I found myself asking Addie about her perceptions more often than offering my perceptions.


▪ Think back to how much your parents influenced the big decisions in your life. Did they advise you strongly, or did they let you make your own decisions?

▪ Encourage your kids to make educated, informed decisions by deeply exploring their options, then engage your kids in a conversation about the pros and cons. Don’t be afraid to challenge your kids by asking some open ended or probing questions to help them verbalize what they are feeling or thinking.

▪ Encourage your kids to examine how well their values align with the values and characteristics of their options. For example, when deciding among colleges, it’s important for kids to choose a college that aligns well with their own values (e.g., large or small college). Of course, it’s also nice when their values align well with their parents’ savings account. 

The local fathering effort, in cooperation with the National Center for Fathering, provides monthly Action Ideas to stimulate conversation between fathers and parents. To comment on this article, or for more information or to join local conversations, contact Robert Orndorff at, or Marc McCann at