Last week, in Part 3 of our series “3 Ways to Help Your Son Achieve Independence” we discussed the 2nd “E” factor: Engagement. We also talked about the 3 c’s that are absolutely instrumental in keeping your son engaged. In Part 4 of this series we will talk about the 3rd “E” factor: Education. Education ranks #3 on our list and for good reason, because if you can master the first two “E” factors (Environment & Engagement) you’re already winning the war against failure to launch. However, incorporating Education into your battle strategy can help you ensure victory. With that said, let’s talk about Education.

The most important ingredient in a great education

recipeThe most important and an essential ingredient to a good education would undoubtedly be a great teacher, wouldn’t you agree? But wait you ask, isn’t the curriculum the most important part? The answer is no. Yes, a great curriculum is extremely important and yes it’s also an essential part of learning, but a great curriculum has little to no impact without a great teacher! It should come as no surprise that for the last 70 plus years studies have consistently shown that teachers are the number one reason why a student or classroom will either succeed or fail regardless of the curriculum or educational model used. If you don’t believe me, listen to Camilla Benbow who is the dean of one of the top-ranked education schools in the entire country.

‘Of those elements that are within the control of schools, teachers are the most important determinant of how much students achieve. Family and personal attributes of students have the greatest effect on achievement. But among the elements of schooling that promote performance, teachers have the most impact by far.’  -Benbow


The right teacher is the key, especially with failure to launch syndrome

Yes, the teacher makes all the difference and guess who the teacher is? You! So, if you’re the teacher, then home would be the classroom. But remember, before you teach, your classroom must be in order and if you’re wondering how to do that, read Part 2 of this series and get reacquainted with the 1st ‘E’ factor, Environment.  So, are you a great teacher? If you’re reading this then I’m assuming you’re not quite there yet but you want to be, yes? Well, if you want to be a great teacher, then I suggest you go back and read part 2 and part 3 of this series. Am I sounding like a broken record yet? Good! By now I should have drilled it in your head how important Environment and Engagement are in this process. Of course, great teachers are also great learners. That’s right, great teachers love to learn and it’s their own insatiable appetite for learning that quickly rubs off on their students, getting them excited in the process. If confidence in your own ability to become a great teacher is beginning to wane, let me take this moment to reassure you that you have what it takes. How do I know? Why else would you be reading this article if you didn’t care for your son and also love to learn? Now that we’ve established you have what it takes to be a great teacher, let’s move on. We’ve talked about the classroom (home) and the teacher (you),  now let’s talk about the curriculum shall we?


Recipe for a ‘failure to launch’ curriculum


Now, before you start hyperventilating from the mere thought of taking on such a monumental task as developing a curriculum dedicated to ‘failure to launch’ that will essentially cover hundreds of different topics all designed to help your son achieve independence… stop, take a deep breath and relax. Truth is, you don’t need to worry about constructing the perfect curriculum worthy of a nobel prize nomination… in fact, I recommend you don’t. Why you ask? We’ll because the best teachers don’t follow a rigorous unforgiving curriculum, no matter how good it might look on paper. The best teachers use a flexible curriculum that allows them to engage their students in real time, while still challenging them to think outside the box, take healthy risks and ultimately problem solve. Now I want you to think back for a moment when you were in school… a long, long time ago. Who was your favorite teacher? Was it the braniac know-it-all that could recite the periodic table by heart? How about the muscular hunk that just so happened to double as the swim coach? What about the chill, easy going hippie that really didn’t care if you even came to class? Or was it the teacher who challenged you, believed in you and genuinely cared about you. You know, the one who made you feel as though he or she designed each lesson around you.  Hmm… I wonder who your favorite was? how_much_you_careLet’s face it, the wise-old adage, “No one cares about how much you know, until they know how much you care” is true. So, how do you show your son you care? If you don’t know the answer… then you guessed it, re-read part 2 & 3 of this series! Back to the topic at hand. How can you develop a great failure to launch curriculum? Well, it’s a lot like baking a cake, you need to add the right ingredients at the right time if you expect anyone to eat it. So without further ado, let’s get baking!


Using the 7 staples to achieve independence

Now, every cake whether it be a strawberry cake, a carrot cake, a coffee cake or a chocolate cake share the exact same essential ingredients, namely: eggs, flour and sugar. These are staples found in every cake and for the most part, do not change. The same holds true when developing a successful failure to launch curriculum. Stick with the staples… the things that do not or rather should not change. When setting up a dynamite ‘failure to launch’ curriculum, remember the acronym P.E.R.S.I.S.T. which stands for Practice, Results, Exemplify, Step by Step, Individualized, Simplistic and Timely. Let’s discuss each in detail.



Yes, this one will take time but anything worth mastering does. Now, you don’t need to wait around for your son to come home to practice teaching, you can practice on others too. Family, friends, co-workers, even the dog (you’ll understand why in next week’s post). Only practice will help you get more comfortable with teaching so it eventually becomes natural and effortless. Teaching is most effective when your son doesn’t know there’s actual teaching going on, which means you need to think outside the box. You can’t approach this like you would a traditional classroom and lecture. He needs to know you care first, so build on the relationship and go from there. Remember to be honest and transparent from the get go. Young people have a knack for uncovering hidden agendas and discovering ulterior motives and you’ll definitely lose trust if you go about it this way. Instead of trying to take him for a ride, let him take you for one. The best way to do this is to practice listening first and talking second. Always look for those little teaching moments and take full advantage of those moments when they come. If you’re listening, you’ll recognize these moments when they happen.

Tip: Steer clear of lecturing… no one wants to listen to someone give advice that was unsolicited to begin with. Listening and asking the right questions will do the talking for you… trust me.

“Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused. But on a higher level.” -Enrico Fermi


good_exampleExemplify… it’s often overlooked and underrated, but it’s one of the most important tools in a parents toolbox. Unfortunately the “Do as I say, Not as I Do” approach is far too common these days which really creates some havoc at home. If you want to have some influence with your son, you’re going to need to “teach by example”… which is, without a doubt the highest form of teaching, period. Believe it or not, this essential ingredient is often the hardest for people. Why? Because it’s easy to say one thing and do another and most of the time people don’t even recognize when they’re doing it. Its called hypocrisy and it will destroy your credibility faster than beans through a cowboy, so don’t do it. With that said, we’re all human and all of us are going to fall short some of the time. When that does happen, it’s best to admit you’ve made a mistake. In fact, admitting you made a mistake is a great way of ‘exemplify’, is it not? Before you teach something, be somewhat proficient in what you are teaching and be willing to learn from others including those who may be much younger than you, your son for example… hint, hint. Be objective… there is no such thing as one right way to do things. Encourage ‘healthy’ mistakes and give positive feedback when he’s taking action. Don’t be so quick to give the answer or find the solution to your son’s problems when he’s struggling, when you do, you rob him of the ability to learn how to problem solve. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t help guide him in the problem solving process. How do you do that? By asking questions! By asking questions you challenge your son to come up with his own answers which is the ultimate goal and that is the essence of problem-solving.

Tip: Leading by example is a double-edged sword. If you want him to be strong, you must be strong. If you’re fearful, scared and anxious all the time, he will most likely be fearful, scared and anxious.  You can’t expect your son to believe in his own ability to achieve independence, if you doubt his ability to do so.

“Dad needs to show an incredible amount of respect and humor and friendship toward his mate so the kids understand… Kids learn by example. If I respect Mom, they’re going to respect Mom.” -Tim Allen



Only use a curriculum that works. It doesn’t matter how many fancy bells and whistles it has if it doesn’t produce the results you want. If handing him a book and telling him to read “A beginners guide to…” doesn’t work, which I don’t recommend…. don’t use it. Try different techniques, methods, approaches and activities… find the best way for him to learn. Once you find out what works, use it and reuse it. If you’re a little unsure as to what constitutes ‘good results’, it can be summed up in one word: ACTION! Why? Because action leads to Experience which is the 4th ‘E’ factor. If your son is taking action, he’s gaining valuable experience and if he’s gaining valuable experience, he’s well on his way to achieving independence. Now, if he’s not taking action don’t rush to judgement so quickly, the curriculum may not be the problem. Instead, revisit the first two ‘E’ factors, Environment and Engagement and make sure those are in-line first. If you feel you have a good handle on those, then go ahead and tweak your curriculum and see if that works. If that doesn’t work, seek a professional; someone with the knowledge and experience to help you identify the problem and get you back on track.

Tip: Poor results are not always indicative of a bad curriculum, a bad teacher, or a bad classroom. There are times, where the ownership needs to be placed squarely upon the student’s shoulders.  Learning means growing and growing means changing and changing is never easy. You can’t help someone who refuses to change and is only interested in doing things their way. In cases such as these, for the welfare and betterment of your classroom (home) the only choice left is to expel the student (son), meaning he will need to leave. This is often the hardest decision for a parent to make, especially mothers who have a son who is failing to launch.

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” -Winston Churchill


Step by Step: 

There’s an order to all things  in this world and for good reason. The same can be said for learning. Learning is far more productive when done in sequential order. Truth is, many if not all skills can not be learned properly without first learning the skills that naturally precede it. Confusion and frustration are always the result of not teaching things in the right order. For example, you can’t learn calculus before learning algebra, geometry and trigonometry first. The same can be said for other skills as well. If you want to teach your son how to manage money, you don’t give him a credit card and a crash course on proper budgeting and call it good. That’s too much, too fast! Let me explain this concept another way. bicycle_seat

Teaching step by step is like teaching your son how to ride a bike for the very first time. Would you start by buying him an adult-sized mountain bike with state of the art thumb shifters, clipless pedals, and full disk brakes and then expect he’s going to know how to ride it? Of course not! You start him off with a small bike. One that is just right for his size, with the basic one gear setup so it’s easier for him, maybe throw in some rainbow streamers for fun and then you teach him… step by step. It’s perfectly normal for there to be some hand-holding at the very beginning… that in no way means you are doing the work for him. It just means you are more involved in the teaching process at this point. As his skills improve his confidence will also, which means less and less hand-holding, until eventually he’s able to ride his bike on his own or in other words, achieve complete independence without any more assistance from Mom or Dad.

Tip: Enabling is the number one enemy to learning. Protecting your son from every hardship or obstacle that may come his way is detrimental to your son’s ability to learn, problem solve, not to mention his confidence. By all means, give him the tools to help him succeed but don’t rescue him when things get tough just for your own peace of mind. Without consequences, learning can not take place. Good teachers don’t do their student’s homework, they give them the tools, resources and support they need so they can do it themselves.

“The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher.’ –Thomas Huxley 



You’re son is very different from you and his brothers and sisters too. Raising your son based on what has worked for you or his siblings may not be the best approach. Teach him based on your best understanding of who he really is, with his own personality traits and unique interests in mind. He’s a different person and therefore will need different instruction. Discovering your son’s primary motive, learning style and strengths will go along way in understanding what direction to take when developing a failure to launch curriculum. Of course, incorporating some hands on learning or learning by doing is always a good idea, because this is how boys learn best. Be creative, open-minded and resourceful, if he doesn’t learn well one way…try another. Practice, practice, practice!

Tip: Be careful. It can be easy for parents to confuse their own personal aspirations with their son’s,  pushing their son toward a path they want for him, instead of the one he’s chosen for himself. When you push your own agenda or only teach what’s important to you, you in essence force him to bake something he doesn’t want to eat, which will only cause resistance. What do I mean by this? You as the baker (teacher) need to be sensitive to the fact that your son may not want a strawberry cake, a chocolate cake or a coffee cake but rather wants a carrot cake.  Focus on the 7 staple ingredients and then let him decide what he wants to bake with them.

“But the fact is, no matter how good the teacher, how small the class, how focused on quality education the school may be none of this matters if we ignore the individual needs of our students.” -Roy Barnes



Keep it Simple! A lot of talking on your end is the fastest way to complicate things. Instead, choose to listen first. Some of the most powerful lessons are taught in silence. Start with something easy and go from there. The more complex you make it, the harder it will be for him to grasp what you’re teaching and the easier it will be for you to lose focus on what’s important. A simple and practical curriculum will help you stay focused and remain flexible, which is key. The easiest lessons for us to learn as individuals are those that are relatable. This is exactly why so many of the best thinkers, philosophers and teachers that ever lived used parables to teach and with much success! Everything you teach should be something that can be easily applied, understood and relatable. It doesn’t need to be extravagant for it to work, in fact it shouldn’t be. Have you ever heard of the story behind the space pen? The story goes something like this:

pencil_russian_nasaIn the 1960s the space race was underway and NASA astronauts complained that their pens wouldn’t work in zero gravity. As a result a highly-trained team of NASA engineers went straight to work and was able to create the wonder pen. The wonder pen worked upside down, in a vacuum, in zero gravity and even underwater, but it took months to build and came at a cost of a million dollars. During the same time, the Russian astronauts were presented with the same problem. There solution was simple: they used pencils.

Tip: Don’t try and compete with the world, you’ll just end up being frustrated and annoyed. A more productive approach is to leave the world at the front door. That means less TV, less facebook and twitter, less Xbox and Playstation and more family time. Try to eliminate any distractions. Placing healthy restrictions on phones, laptops, TV, and music will not only help you be more attuned to your kids needs, it will also help your kids be more attuned to yours.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius



Why is it so important to have a flexible failure to launch curriculum? Because the perfect time to teach anything whether it be soft skills or hard skills, is always when you can practice it and apply it in real time. This approach is rarely used in today’s classrooms, especially colleges and universities, where you sit in class for a specified amount of time, listen to a lecture about something that has very little relevance to you and with no ability to apply what’s being taught in real time. Most academic institutions today expect their students to use root memorization as the primary method of remembering what is being taught in hopes the student will still be able to apply the information months or even years down the road when it becomes more applicable. Bar none, timing will be one of the most important staple ingredients in your failure to launch curriculum. This ingredient is so often overlooked because it’s not well known in today’s schools and classrooms. But why? Because the focus today is not placed on the individual needs of the student but on the collective good of the entire class. Our education system is not the only reason young men today are failing to thrive. Regardless of the reasons, one thing remains certain, young men today are not prepared to deal with life.

Tip: For those young men who tend to drag their feet, creating reasonable time frames for your son to apply what he’s being taught is extremely helpful. Remember, imparting knowledge is not the overall goal! The overall goal of any ‘failure to launch’ curriculum is to produce ACTION! If there’s no action, then there’s no learning. If you’re implementing the curriculum correctly but are still finding it hard to get your son to take action, go back and refer to Part 2: Environment, paying close attention to the 3 R’s of a healthy home. 

“Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.” -Octavia Butler


The next step to help him achieve independence…

I think you know what you need to do now. It’s time to lead by example and take that first step toward helping your son achieve something he never thought he could, true independence! I challenge you to take immediate action on one of the 7 staples taught today. Remember, learning doesn’t take place without action first. Forget about developing the perfect ‘failure to launch’ curriculum for now and just take action, no matter how small it may be. By doing so, you are following the first and most important principle of P.E.R.S.I.S.T….. Practice!


A Quick Summary:

The 4 “E” factors we’ve found to be the most effective in catapulting young men to independence is Environment, Engagement, Education, and Experience. We learned the number one ingredient to receive a great education is a great teacher. We further learned that their are 7 staple ingredients needed to bake a great tasting curriculum for young men struggling with failure to launch syndrome. They are Practice, Exemplify, Results, Simplistic, Individualization, Step by Step and Timely. We also identified what the overall result should be when implementing a successful failure to launch curriculum… ACTION! The last ‘E’ factor: Experience is the direct result of implementing the first 3 ‘E’ factors correctly and it’s Experience that will lead your son to independence and ultimately a successful more meaningful life.


Supporting Articles on the Subject:

1. John Hopkins School of Education, Diversity, Learning Style and Culture by Pat Burke Guild
2. A Hoover Institution Journal, The best teachers in the world by John E Chubb
3. Building an Opportunity Culture for America’s Teachers, How America’s Best Teachers Could Close the Gaps, Raise the Bar, and Keep Our Nation Great by Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel


Coming up next week:

Next week we will be learning about dogs. That’s right, dogs! Believe it or not there are some staggering parallels between the techniques used to rehabilitate dogs and those used to rehabilitate young men. Cesar Milan, also known as ‘The Dog Whisperer’ is the best at what he does. He’s famous for taking some of worst behaving dogs and turning them into great dogs! It’s time to share some of his secrets and how they can work for you at home.


A big thank you to all our readers! We know there are a variety of different transitional living programs out there today for emerging adults and we sincerely appreciate parents like you who invest their time and energy toward improving themselves and their families. We hope you found this information to be both empowering and useful in helping your son achieve independence. Please take a moment to leave a comment or ask us a question. Thank you!





About The Author

Brook Price dedicated himself to helping others early in his life. He grew up in Sunny Orange County California, then joined the Marine Corps at the age of 21 serving five and half years as a helicopter crew chief and then as chief accountant. His journey with this type of work began when he volunteered as a Young Marines Instructor during his time in the Marines, helping kids get off the street, improve their lives and develop as a leader. After his tour Brook left the Marines to pursue a career in experiential therapy by attending Southern Utah University where he majored in outdoor recreation with a minor in psychology.

Brook has seventeen years experience working for a variety of different therapeutic and transitional programs across the nation. His thirst for knowledge drove him to learn and study successful therapeutic models and programs across the country, most notably Outward Bound. Brook has experience working with therapeutic, residential, military, wilderness and transitional programs for adults and adolescents.

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