Firing My Son

Welcome to the "On Balance" guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

By Paul Kidwell

I just hired my son to design a web site for me. He's 15 years old with a strong talent for web design. I thought I'd help him fill some idle hours and put a few extra dollars into his wallet.

After our initial meeting, the project seemed like it was moving forward. I had given him a fair deadline of two weeks. For his first "deliverable" I asked him to provide me with an estimate of how many hours he felt it would take him to design the site. I requested he give me that information by the end of the day. That was Saturday.

By Tuesday I still had not received the answer to my request.

On Wednesday, I fired my son.

This being his introduction to how business operates and the larger life lesson of the personal commitment involved in doing what you say you'll do, my overall goal was to help him learn responsibility. Also, I liked the idea of spending time with him on this project, as there are fewer and fewer opportunities for us to interact as he grows older and I become less and less integral to his life.

When I told my boy that his services were no longer required, he thought I was kidding. I guess he felt that because he was "friends" with the boss, that his job was secure. When he realized that I was serious and I told him my reason for his dismissal, he began to cry. When tears come from your child it's intimidating, to say the least. My instinct as a parent was to comfort and not castigate, but as his boss, I knew he could have avoided the tears if he had just done the job for which he was hired. My decision stood, despite the intervention by my wife.

In spite of the firing, the goal of teaching my son responsibility for this project was accomplished. He did not commit to the job we had agreed upon and so, became responsible for getting fired. Lesson learned? Not sure. Only time will tell. Of course, there is also the lesson of giving someone -- particularly the uninitiated -- a second chance. Even in business, people should have a heart . I still have a reputation as an understanding father to uphold. The last thing I want is to come across the "www.dadisajerk.com" web site developed by my son. As I said, he has shown a precocious talent for this web stuff.

I told him he has until Friday to convince me to re-hire him.

Paul Kidwell lives in Boston with his family and works as a life science public relations consultant and freelance writer.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  September 4, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs
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Comments

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First? Well done Dad - I think. What was your wife's input?

Interesting that this was a work/business related project as compared to an around the house task. If my kid were 15 yrs old I think I would be testing/teaching resposibility with tasks closer to home...

I am curious did his peers know about this job for the summer? Or was this just a subcontracted project?

Posted by: btpduc748 | September 4, 2007 7:26 AM

Also as a heads up to the blogoshere: dadisajerk.com doesnt exist.

Fo3

Posted by: btpduc748 | September 4, 2007 7:28 AM

Also as a heads up to the blogoshere: dadisajerk.com doesnt exist.

Fo3

Posted by: btpduc748 | September 4, 2007 07:28 AM

Yet...

Posted by: educmom_615 | September 4, 2007 7:37 AM

Paul, what you did to your son is exactly what my cousin, the Great White would do to his offspring. What an Indian giver!

Posted by: Mako | September 4, 2007 7:39 AM

btpduc748: Welcome to the real world.

Mr. Kidwell: Done like an employer. It will give your son a taste of the corporate world.

You might consider advice given on working within the family on Taunton Press' BREAKTIME forum -- sub it out.

All in all, I'll venture to say that you didn't have the brightest idea in the world on family relations.

Next time you decide to imitate the corporate world, use some of the other things from it: Premium pay for a rush job. If you'd taken that assignment outside you'd have discovered that anyone taking it on would have charged you at least double, if not quadruple, fees for rush/overtime work.

Consider the other side of not getting a response in the time you demanded one: "Sod off, I'm not interested in your work" is what it tells me.

Ta.

Posted by: rmlwj1 | September 4, 2007 7:44 AM

Whahahahaha! The Great White Indian giver. There goes my coffee all over my keyboard.

Posted by: FatDaddy | September 4, 2007 7:52 AM

A more talented manager might have given an inexperienced employee a chance to correct the problem. Procrastination in a teenager isn't exactly news. Still, maybe the kid did learn something.

Did dad?

Posted by: tbfee | September 4, 2007 8:09 AM

Jerky thing to do. These types of lessons often backfire. As someone with sad experience on their side, I can tell you, NEVER go into business with your family.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 8:14 AM

Expect a Lawsuit for wrongful termination. Then you will have to sue him to hand over what he did do. But it will be a long drawn out fight, unless the contact stipulates that all ideas and intellectual property are property of said business...
I think you are in for a bigger headache than if you just renegotiated the contract....

Posted by: Krazijoe | September 4, 2007 8:24 AM

At least someone looks out for me!

NY Lifeguard Rescues Shark From Swimmers

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-ODD-Shark-Saved.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Posted by: nonamehere | September 4, 2007 8:25 AM

Good story. My grandfather once fired his 8-year-old great-grandson (my newphew) because the boy wasn't doing his share of stacking firewood, which was our family chore at the minute. The old man worked high-steel construction his whole life and was used to cutting slackers loose and sending them off the job site. I don't know if my nephew learned from it, but it made an impression on the rest of us. We worked like hell.

Posted by: rburke30 | September 4, 2007 8:26 AM

Wrongful termination my dorsal fin! How about failure to met the terms and conditions of the contract by the son?

I will have to ask some of my (lawyer) cousins out there for the legal term. Lack of performance?

Posted by: nonamehere | September 4, 2007 8:28 AM

lack of specific performance?

Posted by: nonamehere | September 4, 2007 8:30 AM

Mako

"I will have to ask some of my (lawyer) cousins out there for the legal term. Lack of performance?"

Lack of performance is why your mate shaves her landing strip...

Posted by: hillary1 | September 4, 2007 8:32 AM

Bring on the "evil parent" crowd because a father actually disciplined his son...

Posted by: JoshHamilton | September 4, 2007 8:36 AM

You are one cold hearted bas***d

Posted by: usjmail | September 4, 2007 8:36 AM

ISTM that dad did give employee-son a second chance, and then a third, before terminating his employment.

He didn't fire him until Wednesday, four days past the deadline, and all he was requesting was an estimate on how long the work would take. I presume that
dad-employer reminded son-employee that the deadline had passed by and that the employer was not going to tolerate this tardy behavior much longer. I also presume that dad-employer spelled out the consequences of not meeting the goals to his son-employee prior to this agreement being entered into.

I wonder if the lesson he wanted to teach was the one that was learned, though, and the article didn't provide enough background info to find out.

Posted by: johnl | September 4, 2007 8:38 AM

My question: did you talk to your son about missing the deadline before you fired him? You wanted something by the end of day Saturday - did you say something to him on Sunday? Monday?

One thing I've learned with kids (AND employees, who often ACT like kids) is that you need to check in with them when they don't meet their deadlines. Make sure the expectations were clear (although failure to perform is NEVER a communication issue). If you had not let him know that his failure to meet your deadline could result in termination, did you really communicate your expectations? Someone should never be surprised when they are fired for lack of performance. Good communications is another valuable lesson we need to model for our kids.

That said, I think it is great that you are working to teach your son about business but make sure you're managing him for what he is and not treating him as a seasoned professional who should have known better.

Posted by: parentpreneur | September 4, 2007 8:39 AM

Your unsuspecting son should have sensed (telepathically?) that you were about to have one of these 'i teach my son a lesson in life' - brainwaves...I think a better way of teaching reliability is by being a good role model, rather than importing corporate rules to the family. Being humilated, rejected AND fired even before the first job is not really an encouragement for professional life. I think your true motive was maybe to reassure yourself of your power about him that you felt was weakening?

Posted by: chwurr | September 4, 2007 8:39 AM

Well done Paul. You have likely done your son a great favor by teaching him about the consequences before he's in the real world and has rent to pay. My father often said "sometimes the best thing a parent can do for a child is to let them fall."

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 4, 2007 8:53 AM

I second parentpreneur's questions, though the writer did say 'give it to me by the end of the day.' He then waited a couple of days (thereby given him a couple of chances to come up with the first deliverable). I'm sure there were reminders...By the way, in high school, there aren't many reminders. You have to get your homework done or else get a zero (a big grade killer if done more than once). His first deliverable was similar to homework in nature. He didn't do it so he 'earned' a zero.

I venture to enquire those naysayers if they have teenagers. I believe the answer is no. Sure, the lesson learned is not always the one the parents wants learned, but I think, in this case, the teen is learning his lesson well. And better now, instead of in his first outside-the-home job!

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 4, 2007 8:53 AM

In general, I think what Paul did is fine, but the issue does arise as to what kind of a manager he is. Specifically, how well did he communicate? Were the expectations clearly set; did he attempt to correct the issue once problems arose or did he just sit back to see how bad it would get?

And in particular, did Paul communicate well with the employee representative (the wife/mother) what the expectations and consequences were?

It's a good lesson for the kid IF followed up on well, and it can also be a good lesson for Paul.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 4, 2007 8:55 AM

bye guys,

you are such sore losers. You much prefer to discuss your little pathetic lives (pregnancy weight gains, parents getting ... well, older, with all the logical consequences, hoochie kids outfits) than to do smth about it. I'm with the guest writer from the last week, the business lady: be the best in your business, watch your children grow, cry, laugh, and at the end have something tangible to show for all these years. I like talking to random people, but you guys are just too banal, except for the consistently thoughtful persona of Army Brat, the court jester (in Shakesperean sense) Abu Ibrahim, and very occasionally Fred.

Posted by: super | September 4, 2007 8:55 AM

well, if this were either one of my teenage boys, they would do something like this just so they WOULD get fired. Be interesting to hear the kid's side of this story.

Posted by: jjtwo | September 4, 2007 8:56 AM

jjtwo,
Why in the world would your boys WANT to be fired? Because they didn't want to do that particular job? Because they don't want to work at all? You make your boys sound like they are consummate slackers.
Remember: this kid likes to make websites. It is right up his alley. It is a good task for this particular kid.

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 4, 2007 8:59 AM

hmmmm, not sure what to say about this guest blog. I have five nephews and only one is not a procrastinator. That said, none of them would cry over being fired by their dad. My brother used to take two of them with him to lay tile, but they were kind of slacking off so he told them they couldn't come back until they learned to work harder. One decided to work harder the other decided he didn't want to learn the trade. I am not judging or being snarky, but maybe this kid is a little immature to handle the responsibility and pressure of such an assignment.

Posted by: Irishgirl | September 4, 2007 9:02 AM

I hope you got all those discussions on Paper! It's gonna be hard proving it really happened in court...

ALWAYS write down counseling and any verbal agreements!

Posted by: Krazijoe | September 4, 2007 9:03 AM

The kid sounds like any other contractor I know - he has competing interests and does the job if it is worth his time.

Did you expect him to do the work at the "family rate" or around the cost for a private contractor? When I was mowing lawns at his age, my paying customers got on time service, attentive landscaping, and I'd clean their dog area for free because I needed their business.

My dad, who paid me in "because you live here, that's why" got his lawn mowed within a couple days of when it was needed and a passable job depending on who I was meeting that day for fun. He had to badger me to do it and I'm sure he would have fired me if there was competition in my market, but my tardy and grumpy pro bono service was the best deal in town.

I guess the point is that you get what you pay for. If you want to teach him how the real world works, establish minimum standards and then try using performance bonuses for meeting certain milestones. That's how I get my remodeling contractor to get his butt in gear.

Posted by: shead7 | September 4, 2007 9:13 AM

Bye super, and don't let the door hit you on the way out!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 4, 2007 9:13 AM

Bye super, and don't let the door hit you on the way out!

For real!

Posted by: Irishgirl | September 4, 2007 9:14 AM

Dang, I'm surprised by all the negativity, given the standard "you're all spoiling your brats" comments we get here.

I think this was a great idea (I am going to give Mr. Kidwell the benefit of the doubt and presume that he was clear in his expectations). Probably the single best career lesson was my first teenage job working for the hard-*** of all times. She was fair, but she also figured she was paying me to work, so if I didn't have anything to do, I'd better find something, or she'd find it for me. I learned really quickly that work is work, not chat time or hang-out time -- which served me well when I started my career. She'd never have put up with people blowing off a task like Mr. Kidwell's son -- anyone who did that would find himself out on his ear by Sunday morning, no second chances.

If you're going to have a successful career, you're going to need to learn that lesson at some point. How incredibly valuable to learn it before your first "real" job, when you may really need the money, and when you probably won't be so lucky as to get a second chance.

Posted by: laura33 | September 4, 2007 9:23 AM

dotted_1 - I'm not saying my boys would want to be fired, but if they did, they would do something like this boy did (ignore a request). That is typical teenage boy behavior.

And believe me, they would act this way even if it were an activity they liked. It could be because they just didn't feel like doing it, or they just didn't want the pressure of a deadline, or something better came along, or if, or if...

Posted by: jjtwo | September 4, 2007 9:26 AM

I recognize that you're trying to teach your son a lesson here, but what he might need more than cold-reality business lessons at fifteen is a bit of mentoring. Web development and design is a profession -- not mowing lawns for spending money -- and at fifteen your son needs some guidance in the industry.

Estimating a job is a difficult task and even after more than a decade in the field it still gives me the willies. Does he know how to estimate a job? Does he have an understanding of what professional web development looks like? Has he even learned to think in terms of deliverables?

You may have taught him that missing deadlines carries penalties, but I think in the process you missed the chance to teach him a whole bunch of more useful lessons about how to be a professional and competent freelancer.

Posted by: john | September 4, 2007 9:27 AM

john - good points, it could be the reason this kid didn't give his dad an estimate was because he had no idea how to come up with one. maybe this dad's expectations are a little too high?

Posted by: jjtwo | September 4, 2007 9:31 AM

I'm shocked by some of the comments. So what if it's "typical teenage boy behavior"? Are you going to say that to his teachers as well? "Oh, sorry Mrs. English Teacher, he didn't do his essay, but that's just typical teenager behavior. Why are you giving him an F? You're missing an opportunity to mentor him and teach him how to be a responsible student." Give me a BREAK people. This dad did exactly the right thing. Some people here are acting like he sent the kid to debtors prison, or something. It's called "logical consequences."

Posted by: lizae | September 4, 2007 9:34 AM

lizae - explaining this as "typical teenage boy behavior" is not the same as excusing it. I'm not excusing this, just offering a reason for why this kid might act this way. Yes, he should suffer some consequences, especially if he was asked to do something a teenager should know how to do, or could figure out.

Posted by: jjtwo | September 4, 2007 9:41 AM

He cried? I just don't believe that part of this guest blog. 15 year-olds usually sulk and walk away, they don't cry. If he did cry, you might have a sensitive child that doesn't need his daddy playing mind games with him like this.

Posted by: jsb2 | September 4, 2007 9:48 AM

There is so little detail in this blog post that I have a hard time cheering Mr. Kidwell's decision. Did his son have difficulties understanding the assignment and was too afraid to ask? Did his son simply not know how estimate the hours, and again, was too intimidated to ask? OR was his son simply a slacker? Us readers don't know.

No matter what the circumstance, Mr. Kidwell's son would have likely benefitted more from a reprimand and some mentoring than outright being fired. Even in the "real" business world, inexperienced employees aren't fired after first mistake that they make.


Posted by: Tirade1 | September 4, 2007 9:49 AM

The worst think you have done here is to memorialze in cyberspace the fact your son cried at 15 for losing a job. That will come back to haunt him for decades. Nice job dad. Not.

Posted by: jethro1 | September 4, 2007 9:50 AM

If you're going to pay him then he needs to realize it's for real and step up to the challenge.

I agree with John. Are you sure he knows how to do what you're asking? Not everybody flows into a work breakdown schedule naturally. Some fatherly guidance might be in order.

Are you supplying materials? Maybe a copy of Project would be fun for him to use.

Overall I think that's pretty brave of you to trust your son with something your business will use. Working with family is harder than you'd think.

Posted by: RedBird27 | September 4, 2007 9:51 AM

There is not enough information in this post to be able to judge the situation. When family members are involved, all sorts of baggage can get dragged into the picture. Who knows (except for the family members) what kinds of family-dynamics-history could be impinging on the actions of the various parties?

In general, though, I would rather see a parent provide mentoring, as John pointed out, and support on how to deal with jobs outside the home, than to set up a situation where the young man would be fired like this.

Posted by: dc_ca_2004 | September 4, 2007 9:58 AM

I have not (yet) hired or fired my kids, but my son did make a $20 bet with his sister on Sunday that he tried to welch out of when he lost it(using the old "Monopoly Money" substitution). I made him honor the bet. He was furious but I stuck with it.

His kind-hearted sister let him off for $4.

Both kids learned a good lesson.

Good job, Paul. There is nothing cold-hearted about being a firm parent.

I would like to hear your son's side too!

Posted by: leslie4 | September 4, 2007 10:04 AM

My mother rescinded an offer of employment to my sister when she was in college. She was supposed to start working on a Thursday (for the company where my mother was the HR manager) and the day before called up and said that she was going to stay at school and party for the weekend.

Now the offer had been extended weeks before and a start date had been discussed at length because her starting was key to fill in for a vacation.

My mother made it clear that her offer letter indicated a start date that had been negotiated and that if she couldn't start on the agreed upon date, she would have to find other employment. As a result my mother had to call a temp agency at the last minute to fill the slot in order to cover vacation. (temp agency = extra cost)

My sister was rehired 2 weeks later on a part time basis after she found another job. Was it the wrong thing to do? Not sure, but my sister did learn an important lesson about making commitments and keeping them.

Posted by: postgradeducated | September 4, 2007 10:10 AM

I recognize that you're trying to teach your son a lesson here, but what he might need more than cold-reality business lessons at fifteen is a bit of mentoring. Web development and design is a profession -- not mowing lawns for spending money -- and at fifteen your son needs some guidance in the industry.

Now that is a good point. I plan on mentoring my son so that he will come to appreciate work, not thisnk dad is an ahole and work sucks.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 10:10 AM

Okay, "firing" your child is a great way to teach teach your teenager accountability - I'll give you that. Yeah, it's harsh, but at least your son may now respect deadlines, Mr. Kidwell.

But...if you were acting in a contractor/client relationship, you needed to let your son know that. For all your son knew, this was nothing more than another chore. Especially if you were planning on paying him an hourly wage similar to mowing the lawn. How clear did you make it to your son that you were expecting him to act as an independent contractor (like yourself)?

If nothing, your son has now learned some Valuable Contractor Lessons:

#1 Get a signed contract before you start work (and a deposit, if necessary).
#2 Where deadlines are concerned, keep that communication flow wide open, to the point of almost annoying your client.
#3 The chummiest clients are usually the ones that are the most demanding.

No matter what, Mr. Kidwell, you should use this as an example of how freelance contractors need to have a process.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | September 4, 2007 10:11 AM

The only thing that paul Kidwell taught his son was that his father is a poor manager, poor communicator, and a flat out jerk.

For the first thing, giving someone a deadline of 2 weeks, then asking how many hours the project will take is ass-backwards. Hello!!! First thing any good manager will do is get an estimate of the level of effort a project will take BEFORE setting a deadline. Duh!

Setting up some artificial family sponsored kangaroo corporation for a 15 year old, then blindsiding him with a disciplinary action over a stupid detail that could have been easily resolved just to teach him a lesson is rediculus.

A good father works WITH their children, not AGAINST them! Hopefully, Paul will learn his lesson from this.

Posted by: FatDaddy | September 4, 2007 10:12 AM

If nothing, your son has now learned some Valuable Contractor Lessons:

#1 Get a signed contract before you start work (and a deposit, if necessary).
#2 Where deadlines are concerned, keep that communication flow wide open, to the point of almost annoying your client.
#3 The chummiest clients are usually the ones that are the most demanding.

Another good point! Business goes two ways, if you want to be a client then your son should treat you like that, it goes both ways if you are trying to teach a "business" lesson.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 10:26 AM

I had a REAL after school job at 15. There were no second chances if you didn't show up or didn't do your job. That is reality. It sounds like this is a lesson the kid needs to learn.

I think the guest blogger did a good thing (based on the limited info we have). Maybe he'll give the kid the chance to update the site or something.

OFF TOPIC to WorkingDad
From Friday's discussion, I have never read that book, but I'd like to check it out. A friend of mine explained that "bless his/her heart" is what you say when you're about to say something bad about someone. I love it.

Posted by: Meesh | September 4, 2007 10:27 AM

sheabills: if you were my kid, and using my mower/tools, I wouldn't let you borrow them for others until and unless MY yard was done properly.

Or are you saying you used YOUR stuff to mow other's lawns?

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 4, 2007 10:43 AM

Something interesting I didn't see addressed in this article: why a professional would ask a fifteen-year-old to design a website for him in the first place.

For one thing, the son isn't really described here except as "having a strong talent" for web design, or being "precocious". It doesn't actually say that he enjoys coding sites or if it was his idea to do the site for his dad. It also doesn't say if he's ever actually created a paid site before, or if he's just fooled around with sites for himself for fun.

The father makes it sound as though this was something he invented for his son as a time-killer, and to take advantage of his son's perceived skills to get a website out of it. If the father proposed that his son use his talents to create a website--and then fired him for not fulfilling his "responsibility"--that seems to be an unfair situation.

And I'd be curious to know just exactly what skills he has. A truly professional website--like what I'm assuming his dad would prefer--takes time, skill, and a lot of effort. Does his HTML coding meet the standards for a professional presentation--including frames, tables, styles, forms, and the like? Maybe his father doesn't realize that working 8 hours a day, it would still be difficult to create a professional-appearing website that used some or all of these techniques inside the 2-week deadline.

Also, as his employer, it doesn't mention whether his father was really ready to make a commitment to supporting his son's employment. He would need tools for the site building process--for example, Dreamweaver, a graphics editor, maybe a PDF printer script to upload writing examples. If his father expected him to complete this task using Notepad and an online HTML tutorial, that might have been an inappropriate expectation.

I guess my issue isn't the dad "firing" his son--although it does seem like a kind of a unnecessarily humiliating thing to do to a fifteen-year-old, justified or not. My problem is more with the premise of the arrangement. If he wanted cheap labor to create something of potential value to himself, rather than paying a professional 30-40 bucks an hour to create it, then he needs to face the fact that no fifteen-year-old on earth is going to be as professional as a 30-year-old web designer. By setting his son (and himself) up for failure, he's tarnished the experience for everyone.

Posted by: popslashgirl | September 4, 2007 10:51 AM

To the author- your son is 15, is it really ok to mention crying without his consent?

I mean we live in the age of google - how many of his friends are going to see this? That's what will activate the dadisajerk.com site.

And no, there's nothing wrong with crying, it's healthy, but that's up to your son to share, not you.

Posted by: bravegal79 | September 4, 2007 10:51 AM

If he wanted cheap labor to create something of potential value to himself, rather than paying a professional 30-40 bucks an hour to create it, then he needs to face the fact that no fifteen-year-old on earth is going to be as professional as a 30-year-old web designer. By setting his son (and himself) up for failure, he's tarnished the experience for everyone.

The trifecta of good points! I am all for teaching APPROPRIATE lessons. Sometimes we as parents go overboard as this guy did IMO.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 10:54 AM

To popslashgirl and pATRICK:

Heh. I had a bunch of stuff like that in my post and deleted it. Because I'm a professional web developer (12+ years and with a few Web Marketing Awards), and my first thought on reading the post was "two weeks is a fair deadline?"

Sure, you can develop a kick-butt small business web site in 80 work hours (though it better really be kick-butt, because top-to-bottom you can do it in half the time), but those hours are usually spread out as the client changes their mind or sees where something they really wanted isn't actually working.

Web sites designed by 15 year olds - no matter how much talent they are exhibiting - usually make we want to weep with frustration. They still have a lot to learn about good design and cross-browser compliant code.

I think Mr. Kidwell was trying to save himself some money. Because I charge $60/hour for hand-coded, custom designed sites, and have a host of clients happy to pay it.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | September 4, 2007 11:02 AM

I think frankly he knew that he was going to have to fire him and that would be the lesson from the get go.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 11:05 AM

pATRICK, pATRICK, pATRICK....
I disagree with the going overboard. This was appropriate. He tried to engage his son in an activity his son was interested in doing (doing websites). However, when his son didn't follow through, his son was punished. That is all there is to it. There is no cheap labor angle, etc. etc. It is very akin to making your teenager redo the lawn if they don't do it correctly the first time. He didn't do the agreed job so Dad decided to go elsewhere (which means firing his son). Dad then decided to let his son retry. Me thinks the lesson was learned and appropriately so.

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 4, 2007 11:07 AM

Dotted, once again, were the expectations real? Were they appropriate given the work involved? The guy who was a real web designer said no. My gut feeling still is that the firing was going to be the lesson.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 11:13 AM

DOTTED, Having been through all sorts of sheninagans working for my dad, unreasonable expectations, different pay than what was promised, having to repeatedly ask to get paid etc, I may be overly sensitive to this subject.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 11:15 AM

Hey pATRICK, no worries. I understand where you're coming from here. With one of our teenagers, it was difficult to get him to be engaged. He was a slacker in the making. Sometimes a parents just tries to get the kid to do something, anything, he likes, just to get him to try and *to do*. Luckily, in our difficult teen's case, he is doing well and isn't a slacker now (unless one counts cleaning his room...in which case, he is a complete slacker...he he he).

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 4, 2007 11:24 AM

I, too, am bothered by the mention of the 15yo crying. This is not something a good dad mentions in public. Talk about humiliation. What a rotten turd of a father.

Posted by: atb2 | September 4, 2007 11:25 AM

The author's name may be a clue that this is a spoof...

Posted by: hillary1 | September 4, 2007 11:28 AM

I can just imagine LESLIE calling people for this blog. Hi I am LESLIE STEINER , I would like for you to write a piece for my blog, it's called ON BALANCE, maybe you have heard of it? Hello, hello? Damn, lost another one now who can I call?

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 11:30 AM

pATRICK,
Write one! Discuss whatever! come on I want to read it!!!!

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 4, 2007 11:31 AM

and, really, does this have anything to do with balance? I think it's a great topic and all, and always am interested in how to get a kid to know more about the world, and get a kid out of their protective bubble, but balancing one's life? This blog doesn't really have that.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | September 4, 2007 11:37 AM

pATRICK,
Write one! Discuss whatever! come on I want to read it!!!!

I can only imagine the amount of troll traffic anything I blogged would produce. Thanks but no thanks.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 11:40 AM

I actually think this is a very interesting, off the beaten path topic for this blog. Excellently chosen Leslie and thank you Mr. Kidwell for contributing.

First of all, based on the information he has given us here, I don't think he is to blame a or a "bad" father. Sounds like his son has done some web design before (likely on his own time, and the father has seen the results or he wouldn't have asked) and that is why the father approached him. He likely gave him clear rules as in "this is going to be a real job, you are going to meet the deadlines I give you or we aren't doing this at all." Can't say why son failed to meet the first deadline, but seems pretty pathetic to me. I think a 15 year old is capable of measuring how many hours it will take him to do something it sounds like he's done before.

Was Dad too hard? Not at all. Boy sounds a little sensitive (go cry, emo kid) and that's probably what motivated the father to try to encourage some business sense in his son. Unfortunately, it backfired. Son did not have the motivation to do even a half-ass job and now poor Dad who was trying to give his son a professional opportunity and a chance to excel instead gets to be the bad guy for a while (wife shouldn't have publicly interfered I don't think, maybe talked privately with both but her opinion is just that, and can't change the outcome). I think the problem here is, you should never do business with family. It very rarely works, especially not when one of the family is an adolescent who hasn't fully matured. I think the father had good intentions, and did the right thing, but better might have been to get his son a part-time job somewhere in a non-creative field just to give his son an idea of the working world. Afterall, opportunities of paid work do not usually land in people's laps, and web design projects especially usually require a portfolio and years of proven work (often w/o pay). So I think the father was right (even if wrong implementation) and find the new-ish blog topic refreshing.

Posted by: _Miles | September 4, 2007 11:42 AM

hillary- google provides evidence that dude is for real, not a spoof.

Posted by: atb2 | September 4, 2007 11:44 AM

pATRICK,
he he he...I can't imagine the amount of troll traffic either. Though I'm thinking I95 southbound at 5:15pm may be about right....

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 4, 2007 11:46 AM

WOuld people be nearly as upset if it was his 15 yr. old daughter who cried? I sense a double standard here. It is unfortunate in this day and age that people still think it is not o.k. for a boy to cry.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 4, 2007 11:47 AM

Posted by: _Miles | September 4, 2007 11:42 AM

Miles frankly you may be right or completely wrong. We will never know because, we don't really know all the facts, the boy's side etc. Son and dad may have a bad relationship etc. I really would have liked to hear the boy's point of view.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 11:47 AM

pATRICK,
he he he...I can't imagine the amount of troll traffic either. Though I'm thinking I95 southbound at 5:15pm may be about right....

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 4, 2007 11:46 AM

Yep, plus why would I want to bother writing anything of substance for trolls?

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 11:50 AM

Thanks moxiemom...You put into words what I was thinking in the background

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 4, 2007 11:56 AM

It is unfortunate in this day and age that people still think it is not o.k. for a boy to cry.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 4, 2007 11:47 AM

I would not be happy about him crying about it. This is a tough world for men and crying about failure is no way to handle it.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 11:58 AM

WOuld people be nearly as upset if it was his 15 yr. old daughter who cried? I sense a double standard here. It is unfortunate in this day and age that people still think it is not o.k. for a boy to cry.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 4, 2007 11:47 AM

You may be correct, moxiemom, but I doubt it. I don't think it is appropriate to use a blog to out your children crying or discuss in detail any emotion they are experiencing once they are older than, say, 4. If Mr. Kidwell wants to write about himself and his emotions, he is jolly well free to do so, but this struck me as highly embarrassing for his son.

The episode Kidwell describes should have been entitled: What Not to Do When Hiring A Technical Services Consultant. I support Mr. Kidwell firing his son under these circumstances IF there was a written agreement between them, and IF his son agreed in writing that a failure to hit the deadline for an estimate was the sort of failure that could give rise to his dad's right to terminate the agreement. This story is not a story of the importance of teaching your kids to keep their word and give good client service. It struck me as a garden-variety story of failed business communication -- all of which could have been avoided, as Chasmosaur and others have said, with a detailed written project document, including a list of events that would allow either party to terminate the agreement. What would have happened if the son had put 40 or more hours into developing this web site and dad hadn't liked it, or had badgered him for an endless list of changes to the site? I am willing to bet that dad and son never discussed or anticipated this common outcome for web services arrangements. Now all that's left is Dad feeling self-righteous and son feeling wronged. That ought to be the first clue for Dad that this wasn't handled well.

Posted by: gcoward | September 4, 2007 12:02 PM

Gotta agree with the mentoring comments, but also, why would you bet your business on an external website that did not materialize?

Everyone answers to someone.
Even for entrepreneurs, the lack of a web site could mean a loss of business.

It would cut no ice with my manager I pointed a finger at my direct reports for not completing a task. Managing their work, and getting around hurdles is my responsibility as their supervisor.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | September 4, 2007 12:02 PM

...btw the last time I heard, signing a contract with a minor is only enforced on the adult, and not the minor.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | September 4, 2007 12:04 PM

It sounds like this was a valuable lesson for your son to learn. Good for you for having the courage to do it. Sometimes the hardest word to say is "No".

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 4, 2007 12:07 PM

Gotta agree with Patrick's adage about not doing business with family.

Hopefully the kid will take away the lesson about how the real world operates on deadline and not be too angry with his dad. I have withheld allowance from my daughter when she has failed to do her chores. I don't want my daughter to grow up thinking life will be handed to her. I want her to have a sense of accomplishment rather than a sense fo entitlement.

And yes, I cringed when I read the reference to the kid crying. Ouch. Very unfair, and Dad is a PR professional, so you think he would be more cognizant of such things...

Posted by: pepperjade | September 4, 2007 12:10 PM

"It sounds like this was a valuable lesson for your son to learn."

If Mr Kidwell hires his son back on Friday, what lesson would he have taught him. How to cry like a wittle baby to get his way? Some people have a really screwed up notion of effective parenting!

Teaching your kid that's OK to cry may work for daughters, but for a 15 year old boy. NO WAY!!!

Posted by: ISquirtLikeOldFaithful | September 4, 2007 12:21 PM

I am not trying to be a double standard person about the crying. I would think that a 15 year old girl who cried over this issue may be sensitive or may not be mature enough for the job either.

I can't believe that he even told about the crying in a blog anyway, but it only makes me feel bad for the kid and want to be on his side. Like pATRICK said, I think he set him up to fail.

Posted by: Irishgirl | September 4, 2007 12:23 PM

When I take my kids out to eat fish and they only want to play, am I setting them up for failure if they go hungry?

Life is cold, cruel and dark under the sea just as it is when a teenager goes out to that big cold world. Better he be fired with his support system in place (home and hearth) than when he is living by himself.

Dad taught a good lesson in life if he explained his actions as they related to the world outside family.

Posted by: nonamehere | September 4, 2007 12:38 PM

...btw the last time I heard, signing a contract with a minor is only enforced on the adult, and not the minor.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | September 4, 2007 12:04 PM

You are referring to the ability of the father to sue his son to enforce an agreement. That would be a ridiculous use of legal resources. I am discussing the benefits of having a written document in terms of avoiding disputes. Problems like this arise from not writing down what each party expects and knowing up-front what the results of failing to meet this expectations will be. Stop thinking about suing family members and focus on developing clear communications and expectations. What a concept!

Posted by: gcoward | September 4, 2007 12:51 PM

I'm fascinated by how you all fail to see the big picture. This was a good life lesson to teach, and I applaud the creativity with which the author chose to deliver the message. Getting caught up in the details or believing that this will have some detrimental impact on the son is foolish.

Posted by: dchristiva | September 4, 2007 1:14 PM

Ok, I'm lauging at all the comments about putting it in writing. Seriously? You guys would really make up a written contract with your child? I don't even have a written contract with the maid service or the lawn guy; why would I do one with my kid? Yes, clear communication is important. But I'm not seeing what's so complex here that it requires putting in writing -- do me a website by X date? Seriously?

And why does it matter whether the website is doable in 2 weeks? I suspect that if he'd been working diligently and then realized he couldn't do it in time, or needed better tools, etc, dad would have been happy to extend the deadline, get better software, etc. But the whole point is, the kid's first job was to tell the day what it would take -- and that's what he never even got around to.

I'm still a little floored at how quick everyone is to assume the worst. Yes, let's just assume that dad just foisted this off on his son to get cheap labor, and not because the boy enjoyed doing this kind of thing; let's just assume that dad had completely unreasonable expectations and didn't mention any deadlines (even though he says he did); let's assume that dad wasn't available for help or questions, didn't give the kid any reminders, expected him to fail, completely sandbagged him, and then rubbed his hands and cackled with glee when he got to fire him.

Or alternatively, maybe the kid was interested, thought it was a cool way to make money, but then got caught up in other summer fun and procrastinated, figuring that he'd do it when he got around to it, and dad would be a softie. Ya think?

I just don't get why do people seem to jump to the worst possible conclusion, instead of giving the guy the benefit of the doubt. Did everyone seriously have dads like that (other than pATRICK)? Does everyone seriously have perfect little teenagers, who always follow through on what they commit to? If so, please let me know, because I want to know how you do it!

Posted by: laura33 | September 4, 2007 1:21 PM

Laura, a couple of things. The dad wanted timeframes, updates etc. He wanted to show his son what "business" was like. This was not go cut the yard. If the purpose of showing him what business was like then he could have drawn up an informal contract between dad and son. Then if the son did not do what the contract specifies, fire him. I am all for teaching kids a lesson. Lastly, my dad a very successful business man could NEVER understand that the rules are different when dealing with family members and a lot more comes into play. A lesson I learned and will never forget.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 1:31 PM

This young fellow, he is lucky to be living in America. His father, all he did was fire him from designing Web sites. Abbad al-Mu'tadid, he ruled al_Andalus (what Western system calls «Spain») about 1,000 years ago. Abbad, he had a son who rebelled against him, he did not fire this son, he killed this son with his own hand. O American sons, listen to your fathers, be glad this is America, it is not al-Andalus.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | September 4, 2007 1:36 PM

pATRICK, I get what you're saying. I guess if you had the sense in advance that the kid wouldn't treat it as more serious than mowing the lawn, maybe a written contract would be a good idea just to impress upon the kid the "officialness" of this work (ie, the fact that the deal is written and signed is more important than what the piece of paper says). Or maybe a written schedule if your kid needs help organizing his time, or there are a lot of details you want to help him remember. But how do you do that when the kid's first job is to figure out the schedule, and he never even got around to that?

I guess I'm just too inclined to work informally and take people at their word (yeah, I know, a critical failing for a lawyer). :-)

Posted by: laura33 | September 4, 2007 1:41 PM

It's simply not OK for a 15yo boy to cry TO HIS PEERS. It's also a little old to be crying over being "fired" by your dad. Same for a girl. If he cried over the public humiliation of being outed as a sissy by his dad, that I'd understand.

Posted by: atb2 | September 4, 2007 1:45 PM

Patrick,
Just wondering, when dealing with family members in a business, why should the rules be different? If that's what you are saying.

My sense is that the failing in business relationships among families is family members who expect to be treated differently, more leniently, or preferentially because they are family. Or on the flip side, family members who expect their family employees to be there all the time, take less pay, etc because they are family. I think if the business expectations were spelled out and met, regardless of family ties, things would go more smoothly.

Posted by: Emily | September 4, 2007 1:45 PM

In abu's world, contracts are not needed, they just cut your hand off with a scimitar or something. Messy but effective and keeps down the legal costs.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 1:48 PM

My sense is that the failing in business relationships among families is family members who expect to be treated differently, more leniently, or preferentially because they are family. Or on the flip side, family members who expect their family employees to be there all the time, take less pay, etc because they are family. I think if the business expectations were spelled out and met, regardless of family ties, things would go more smoothly.

You have answered your own question. This is exactly it. Taking your marching orders from family members is not the same as doing it from strangers. Things never go smoothly, it is a different animal completely.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 1:50 PM

Why should children be paid (extra) for mowing the lawn anyway? A child should have some responsibility in maintaining a household that she lives in just as any adult does.

Posted by: anonthistime | September 4, 2007 2:00 PM

"I don't even have a written contract with the maid service or the lawn guy; why would I do one with my kid?"

I have a written contract with the lawn guy. You know how complex it is? It specifies rates and frequency. It's written on a piece of lined notebook paper that was lying around the day we shook hands. This just strikes me as a good way to make sure neither person is surprised or disappointed - as here. It's not about making everything buttoned-up tight and lawyerly. Perhaps we do more business with friends, fellow church members, and, yes, high school kids than other people, but the last thing we want is for one of these relationships to suffer because one of us misunderstood. I don't see grabbing a cocktail napkin and scribbling out the highlights of a deal to be burdensome if it protects a relationship. Just my two cents.

Posted by: MN | September 4, 2007 2:02 PM

Hey, at least super said something nice about me!

I think that pATRICK is in contention for the FQOTD! But we will see.

Posted by: Fred | September 4, 2007 2:07 PM

I bet MN's prenumtial specifies rates and frequencies too.

Posted by: ISquirtLikeOldFaithful | September 4, 2007 2:16 PM

«In abu's world, contracts are not needed, they just cut your hand off with a scimitar or something.»
«Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 01:48 PM»

A promise, it is an oath, no decent Muslim would break his promise, «you shall not violate the oaths after swearing to carry them out» Qur'an an-Nahl 16:91. Prophet Ibrahim (`alayhi salaam!), he kept his promise even to the infidel, he paid the 400 silver shekels for the cave. Contracts, if Muslims did not have contracts, the crusaders would take Muslim oil, they would not pay for it, with contracts, they pay in USA dollars.

Posted by: abu_ibrahim | September 4, 2007 2:21 PM

I bet MN's prenumtial specifies rates and frequencies too.

Posted by: ISquirtLikeOldFaithful | September 4, 2007 02:16 PM

F OF 4,is that you? It sure sounds like you and this is a new moniker. HMMM

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 2:29 PM

I can't prove it, but its doubtful Fo4 can spell a word like prenumtial.

Posted by: ISquirtLikeOldFaithful | September 4, 2007 2:55 PM

"I can't prove it, but its doubtful Fo4 can spell a word like prenumtial."

LOL - This is really funny. But I bet he can spell prenup!!

Posted by: Emily | September 4, 2007 3:36 PM

Everyone: I'm posting this for Paul Kidwell, who has been unable to post a comment on the site today:

Sorry I have been tardy in my responding to the many commentaries; supportive, detracting and incendiary. I've been busy cracking the whip over my son. Only three days before he's back to school and I'm not wasting time. After all, there's transmissions to be changed, house additions to be completed, and the North 40 to be plowed. When working for me in the past, he's shown a great proclivity to operate on very little sleep and food, and I'm sure I can get at least 65 out of those 72 hours as "billable." Not to worry; however, please understand that I have plenty of gruel and tepid water to provide him for sustenance.

To say that I have been flabbergasted by this reaction; well, you could've knocked me over with a feather. It's been so overwhelming that I cannot imagine answering all your comments and questions, but I'll do my best to address some recurring themes.

I re-hired my son, he completed the job on deadline, got paid a bucket of money, and is quite proud of his handiwork. So am I. In fact, when I think of what he accomplished and what we went through, well it brings me to tears. Speaking of which, "outing my son as a sissy," was never my intent. His sissified ways is something I wanted to keep as a family secret, but, of course, now his online legacy will be tainted. Seriously, I can appreciate the comments about his crying (and take them to heart), but must take issue with the act of crying as being an indictment on his budding manhood. As a family, we encourage cultivating a strong emotional sense of self, and when we get upset or happy, sometimes we cry. (You ought to see me when I watch "Love Actually") Not a big deal; really. Also, before I sent this essay to the Post, I let my son read it and change anything with which he was uncomfortable. He was fine with the crying.

When your writing landscape is limited to a few hundred words, you have to omit certain pieces of info in order to make the story fit. Which is what happened to some of the transitional stuff like how, when how much we communicated. It got left on the cutting-room floor. Suffice to say, I made it clear to my son what my expectations were and he understood what he had to do. I did remind him and he just chose to ignore my entreaties.

This was not my desire to get cheap labor. Trust me, I am a sucker for this kid and love to, on occasion, spoil him. What he received in compensation definitely falls into the "spoiling" category. As a communications professional I understand the price range that comes with this service and he was definitely overpaid for his work. Particularly, given his ability level. Yes, I could've gotten a better website built for the same or even less money by someone with more experience, but that was not my intent. The website is not for my business, but for a Blog site I have in mind. (although after this experience, I'm having serious second thoughts) This was not a strategic business decision, but rather one made mostly by a father who wanted to give his child something interesting to do with me. Please don't read any Machiavellian intent into this. Not sure how some of you drew those conclusions; not sure how anyone thinks that about another person without knowing them, but, alas such is this medium. Also, I'm taken aback at the name-calling. Criticism? Yes. Anyone who puts themselves out for all to see deserves the attention. But for people to take the time and offer the vitriol that some have in their comments, well, again, I guess that's a sad commentary on the medium and some of those who partiicpate. My mother used to say that "courtesy is the only thing I expect; everything else is negotiable."

Well, thanks, again for writing. Until next time.

PK

Posted by: onbalance | September 4, 2007 3:59 PM

Paul, I am laughing really, really hard. I especially like the "gruel and tepid water" thing -- after all, we wouldn't want to waste perfectly good ice, now, would we?

But you should now be prepared for the onslaught of criticism you will doubtless receive for spoiling your son. . . .

Posted by: laura33 | September 4, 2007 4:04 PM

"I can just imagine LESLIE calling people for this blog. Hi I am LESLIE STEINER , I would like for you to write a piece for my blog, it's called ON BALANCE, maybe you have heard of it? Hello, hello? Damn, lost another one now who can I call?"

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 11:30 AM


Leslie, call pATRICK and ask him to send you the guest blog that he has already writtten!

I would like to see it also!


Posted by: Fred | September 4, 2007 4:16 PM

"Leslie, call pATRICK and ask him to send you the guest blog that he has already writtten!

I would like to see it also!"

?, Did you miss my post to DOTTED? That is never going to happen.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 4:25 PM

btw FRED, you always tease me with winning FQOTD but then snatch it away............

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 4:28 PM

pATRICK,

yea, I saw but I still want you to post your guest blog!

F.

Posted by: Fred | September 4, 2007 4:31 PM

PK,
Thanks for replying. I, for one (along with Laura I'm sure), feel a bit vindicated by believing in your writing today...oh yeah....
Our North 40 is brown and dry. Can you send over your son to take care of ours too? I'll provide the gruel.

still chuckling over here...

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 4, 2007 4:32 PM

pATRICK,
but your quotes are so, well, quotable! You deserve a FQOTD

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 4, 2007 4:33 PM

I was glad the dad posted so we could get more info. BTW DOTTED, I hope that was meant as a compliment. ;)

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 4:37 PM

pATRICK,
Of course of course! My personal favorite today is "Hello, hello? Damn, lost another one now who can I call?" to which I almost reflexively replied "ghostbusters".

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 4, 2007 4:44 PM

"Hello, hello? Damn, lost another one now who can I call?"

Thanks, the image of LESLIE getting hung up on a dozen or so times, made me split a gut, when i wrote it.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 4:49 PM

Mr. Kidwell -

Thanks for the clarification. And I sympathize. I wrote something a few months back for the "guest blog" segment. While the original post made sense for a blog titled/themed "On Balance", the resulting edits made it kinda vague (and made my husband look like an insensitive doofus, to boot). I just ignored the comments and went on with my day.

Glad to hear you overpaid your son for web development work...sorry if I accused you of underpayment. You'd be surprised how many family members hit me up for a professional web site and are shocked when I expect payment.

People seem to think that because a 15 year old and I nominally share the same job description, then what I do must be haphazard and simple. It's kind of like comparing a 15 year-old with a new driver's license to a professional stunt driver...

Oh...and if you need a professional for your next job, I'm always glad to work with clients who have clear goals and like to over pay.... ;)

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | September 4, 2007 6:21 PM

Dotted,

Usually nominating or seconding a quote for FQOTD is sure death (for that quote). The exclusive panel of judges, jurists and experts are quite sensitive and protective of this esteemed award. Having said that...

Fred's Quote of the Day
(because we thought it funny division)

Goes to pATRICK

"Messy but effective and keeps down the legal costs."

Runner up is Paul Kidwell

"Not to worry...I have plenty of gruel and tepid water to provide him for sustenance."

Last week I put one of the seats back in the Creepy Van (tm) c/w Hula Girl. Gentlemen, your tricked out ride awaits!

Posted by: fred | September 4, 2007 6:42 PM

I just want to thank all the little people without whom this would not have been possible ;)

Posted by: pATRICK | September 4, 2007 7:48 PM

And the crowd goes crazy in approval...

Posted by: dotted_1 | September 4, 2007 8:35 PM

OK, I know no one is reading this now, but I just wanted to stop in and read some of the comments on a short dinner break from studying...I get here, and all I see is stuff from my Contracts class. Which has the dual purpose of making me roll my eyes and grumble "I just can't get away!" as well as making me feel guilty for not studying.

Thanks, guys. :-P

Posted by: Monagatuna | September 4, 2007 11:16 PM

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