Stage 5 of Parenting: The Co-Founder

We are in part five of a series called The Skill of Stage-Based Parenting. We talked about the comforter stage, the coach stage, the counselor stage, the consultant stage, and now we’re in one that you will see entirely missing from most modern western ideas of parenting, and that is the cofounder stage. This is really the longest stage of parenting for most people. This can happen when your children around the ages of 25 to 45 or 50, so you’ll be in this stage for a long time.

If you think about family multi-generationally, if you think about family as a family line, then, man, this is where the work is actually done. I think about all the other stages of building the house. This is like living in the house. If you read the Old Testament and think about the multi-generational families in the Old Testament, most of the stories about those families took place in this stage. They considered all the other stages of parenting, which is what we think of, basically all the family is, as really preparation for this moment, when you begin to build the family line and begin to work together across generations.

The goal of this stage is to partner in specific family building projects. We call this style of this stage. We have a four word style for each stage. This is low tension, high trust. This is when you are entrusting resources to your children. This could look like a family business or a ministry. This could even just look like building the family from a parenting perspective, childcare, helping with educating your children’s children, your grandchildren. There’s a lot of things that can happen during this stage.

There’s a verse that I think of when Jesus says, “No longer do I call you servants for the servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Virtually every single parable that Jesus tells in the gospels is about this phase when He talks about a father and a son. He’s always talking about this time when you begin to entrust resources to the next generation. This was such a common, and this was really the goal, when you think about almost how parenting was done in ancient times, it was constantly with this stage in mind. How do we build a relationship and how do we build a family with my sons and daughters in such a way that, when they are adults, we will be working and building the family together? This is a really, really fun stage.

If you are thinking about building a multi-generational family, you need to be designing your life in such a way that this phase is even possible. We talk a lot about the implications of that, that you need to have, things that your family team is trying to accomplish. You need to have a mission that matters that you’re actually working towards so that your children will have something that they could engage in.

The reason why we say the style of this is low tension, high trust is because the goal isn’t to force your kids to work together or with you, but this should still be like an invitational thing. You want them to do it because they see the value in it, and that could come and go and change in various seasons, but you really want to create an opportunity that is really attractive to the next generation. This could also look like your kids going out, taking new ground for the family and you supporting them.

The reason why I call this a cofounder stage is because you have to treat each other increasingly like equals during this stage, and that could mean that not only your kids may be supporting you and things that you want to do or things that you’ve started, but this could look like you going and supporting your kids and things that they want to do and things that they’ve started. The cofounder mentality is I’m not going to act like you’re a little child. If you do that, then you’re going to create a dynamic that your kids are going to want to run away from, especially if they’re excited to build things. You want to create an environment where they feel like, “Man, this is the best thing in the world. Not only do I get to do things that I’ve been dreaming about, but I get the support of my mom or dad, or I get to help my mom or dad and work with them during this season. Man, that’s amazing.” This is a stage that I’m very excited about.

Every time I see a family that has actually made it into this stage, which is like one percent of modern western families, I just get so excited. I want to talk to the dad or the mom. I want to talk to the kids. It’s one of the most joyous blessings. There’s lots of pitfalls, obviously, that can happen, but, man, if you make it into this stage and do it in a healthy way, you’re going to see a legacy come out of your family. But yeah. Jeff, what are your thoughts about this one?

Yeah. I feel like the only things that I’ve noticed, too, when you try to find similarities, the couple things I’ve noticed of, man, aspirationally, I want to be this family or that family because they seem to have gotten to that cofounder stage. First of all, I love the language, I think it’s so helpful. Too, I think the variable I find that’s consistent across the board to that one percent of families is most of those families that have those type of families, the kids have been given enormous ownership.


Almost more ownership than most kids get, of the family’s either assets, the family’s resources, just the family’s stuff, speaking into the family philosophy. Kind of like believing and trusting that your kids are deeply powerful and gifted and talented to take the baton.

I was reading… I just forgot. I forgot about this story. I was just reading this story of… I forget where it was. It was talking about family. I think it was the story of Enterprise Rental Car, and the dad just built this multi-billion dollar beast, and then gave it to his son at age 27 or something like that, just like, “I’m over it. Here you go.” He had plenty of years where he still could’ve ran it. He wasn’t that old. You know what I mean?


It was almost like he was waiting for the first moment where his son could even be semi able to do it, and he said, “Take it, it’s yours.” I’m like, “Oh, my goodness. What?” Some of us would look at that and maybe say, “Maybe he wasn’t ready. Maybe it was nepotism, whatever.” But how many of us would give over a multi-billion dollar asset to one of our… Probably so many of us would be like, “No, I don’t think so. Not yet. Longer.” Right? If you know the story, then it’s like he’s been even more successful since then and taken it farther. But I’m just like, “Man, that’s a crazy story.”

The Rockefellers are a really good example, too. I think this, too, of not forcing your kid into just your vision, but letting them have their own vision that can expand and connect to the family. Because the Rockefellers are not known for oil, the Rockefellers are known for philanthropy, but the very first generation where they got all their money was oil. Right?


But every generation since has stewarded philanthropy and those resources. If you know the story, it’s because Rockefeller only had one son to pass the business down to, and you would think, especially then, he would say, “You got to take it, you got to move it on, et cetera,” and he didn’t. The son said, “Actually, I care a lot about serving people and helping people and making the world a better place through a lot of different means.” And so, the father said, “Okay, I trust your vision with our resources. Go ahead.” The multi-hundred year Rockefeller family is a philanthropy family because the first generation trusted the second generation’s cofounder vision. Right?


I think all those are metaphor, none of us are going to have those levels of wealth, but those are all really good metaphors of how you pass down vision and how you trust your kids and allow them to be true cofounders.

So good.

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