All will be revealed in the wash: how raising teens can help you connect with clients!

I apologize in advance for this lengthy post, but I assure you each part has a point.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a fellow author friend about life as a mom. She has two grown sons and I have a preteen and two teens in the house, so I hoped to glean some secrets from her. I explained that I’ve been having trouble finding ways to connect to my children. When they were little, I was in charge of our time together. I chose fun activities to do with them–going to the park, McDonald’s, or shopping. They were all so compliant and willing to do whatever I chose, as long as we were spending time together.

Looking back, life seemed easier when they were little. Sure, they needed me more and pulled me in different directions to get my attention, but I managed to find family group time as well as individual time for each of them. I attended their school functions and even volunteered to help with their sports and hobbies. Hugs and gratitude were givens. Basically, I knew my place.

Well, all that began changing when my boys hit their teen years. I’ve always believed that raising mature, responsible adults is my main job as a parent. Although, we always found time for fun as well. My boys began doing chores at eight years old and even their own laundry at thirteen. While I taught them homemaking skills, my husband taught them survival skills–how to tow a trailer, back a truck, tie a knot, etc. We wanted our children to be well-rounded contributors to society and not “have to” depend on anyone else for their survival.

What I didn’t plan for, during all these teachable moments, was the day they truly wouldn’t need me.

Even my twelve-year-old daughter can now fix her own breakfast, using the stove! She does her own laundry and knows how to stain treat as proficiently as I do! My oldest son is now about to turn twenty. He can move out if he wants. My middle son will turn eighteen in a just a few months and is driving now as well. In all honesty, either of them could leave the house at any given time to go do whatever they want. They don’t because they respect our house rules. But they could.

I recently retired from fourteen years of child care in my home, hoping I’d be able to spend more quality time with my family. All those years of caring for other children, while my children searched for a moment of affection or attention throughout the day, typically having to wait until the others went home. Now I have the time and the open spot in my lap, only … they don’t long to fill that spot anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, my children have never been neglected. I’ve always made time for them and I’ve been home with all of them since birth. But it seems I’m still somehow making up for lost time. The overachiever in me caused my children to become too self-reliant. I find myself feeling awkward during the day, wondering how to best approach them or ease my way into their day, their world, their lives.

Back to my conversation with my friend, about this very topic. I asked, “What do I do? I feel like I’m sitting around waiting for one of them to come talk to me, to ask me something, to need me. But they don’t. I don’t want to be one of those helicopter parents or to try to be their “cool best friend.” I used to know exactly what to do with them, what they liked and didn’t like. How can I make myself available to them without seeming desperate?”

The phone line went silent for a moment before she said, “That’s a tough one. Maybe you should do some laundry.”

I chuckled, not really giving her response much merit. We moved on to other topics and then hung up. I finished my work for the day and looked around my house. My children were in their respective rooms doing their own thing. So, I decided to do some laundry.

If you’re still with me so far and wondering what the heck raising teenagers has to do with marketing your product or business, stay with me. All will be revealed in the wash!

See, raising teenagers can be like approaching people about your business. You have something they need, even if neither of you know what it is yet. What you have to offer can impact their lives tremendously. What you’re doing matters! Therefore, you must make yourself appealing and available.

Thirty minutes into laundry tasks, my kids seemed to “come out of hiding” to approach me. We talked about various things as I continued folding towels and scrubbing stains. I appeared to be busy, but in a way that my kids knew they could still approach me if they did want or need something.

It was then that I realized, when my head is stuck in a book or I’m planted on the couch with my laptop, those things become barriers. My kids know not to “bother Mom” while she’s working, just as they had learned when I was operating the daycare. Even though I was home–physically available–I wasn’t always mentally available, or another child was vying for my attention. Eventually, my own children learned to figure things out for themselves.

Your customers will behave much the same as my teens. Listen to their stories to learn their problems and learn how you can best help them. Let them know about your product or service–i.e. what you can do for them—ONLY after you have connected with them and have proven your value. Then make yourself available. Sometimes, even if you can’t solve their problem but you can inspire them to come up with their own solution, you become an even bigger resource.

So, the next time you think about joining a Facebook group and posting all about your books or your business without having ever even exchanged a simple comment or private message with these people, reconsider because they will tune you out just like my teens tune me out if they feel our connection is forced or initiated out of obligation rather than true interest.

Take the time to comment on some of their posts, but don’t hover or stalk. Be a supportive or helpful resource but not a know-it-all. This is how you build rapport, just as you do with your children.

This is how you create lasting relationships, in business and in life. And just like with laundry, there are cycles in business. Patience and timing both play major roles.

The next time you feel your clients (or children) aren’t connecting with you, make yourself available, go do some laundry, and be patient. All will be revealed in the wash!


Here’s a post you might enjoy on how to find YOUR perfect clients.

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