Want to Give your Kids Everything? Don’t!

Have you seen the movie Breaking Away?  Well, if you haven’t, you need to.  The movie follows a young adult, Dave, who wants to be a professional cyclist.  He spends much of his time riding his bike and ignores, much to his father’s disappointment, his chores and task of getting a job.  This behavior prompts the following discussion between Dave’s parents:

Dad: (referring to son Dave):  ”He isn’t tired.  He isn’t miserable.”

Mom: “He’s young.”

Dad: “When I was young, I was tired and miserable.”

Seems as though the longer ago you were young, the more tired and miserable you were.  There’s a reason for this- times have gotten progressively easier for the young.  No one walks in the snow and rain to school up hill and bare foot any more.  Those were the “old days” and this generation- Generation Y or the  Millennials, has no interest in hearing about how tough those of us (forty or older) had it.

It’s true that every generation is a tad jealous of its successors who inadvertently get to go through life a little easier.  Take for example, my dad.  I remember the day I bought (with my own babysitting money) my first brand new 10 speed bike. I was fourteen. My dad took a long hard look at my new purchase and said, “I never had nothing new till I was in my late twenties.  All handy-me-downs before then.”

He was amazed that I had a new bike.

It would have been easy for my parents to give me the things that they never had (easy, if they had the financial means that is) but they didn’t and even if they were independently wealthy, they were far too frugal to waste money on “things you want” before “things you need”.  And what little money we had always seemed to go to the things we needed- food, clothing, heat, etc…

So when I asked for a new pair of Jordache jeans for my fifteenth birthday because all of the kids were wearing them and my Lee jeans were suddenly looking ragged (in my opinion, anyway), my dad said, “You want those jeans hon?”

I smiled.“Yes, Daddy, more than anything!”

“Good, work harder and save your money!  It’s important to have a goal behind your sweat,” he said.

After I retrieved my jaw from the floor and stormed out of the store- I ran home.  I was mad enough to get even.  I had one babysitting job at that point, did my best to get more, worked harder and bought two pairs of Jordache jeans with my earnings thank you very much!

What I didn’t realize back then was that my father taught me a huge lesson that day and it’s called a work ethic.  Today, not many young adults know how to work hard and have pride in a job well done. When I babysat, I also cleaned up after the children, took out the trash and did the dishes.

“Pretend it’s your home and your kids,” said my parents.  “Do the chores that come with having kids. The parents will appreciate you going the extra mile. And, it’s great birth control! Kids are tons of work- sooner you learn that, the better off you are.”

Most of the time, jobs today don’t get done, let alone “the extra mile” done.

Have you been to a department store lately?  Have you had to wait until Suzie finished her cell phone conversation with Romeo?  Did she look at you like you  just ruined her life?

Do you know several twenty somethings who still spend their weekends sleeping till noon?

How many young adults do you know whose parents still make their beds, pay their bills, and wash, then fold their laundry? Put it away even.

What really perplexes me is how many young adults suffer from a sense of entitlement, that not only is it our responsibly to provide for them, but to provide what and when at their beck and call.

My children (all young adults) are not totally independent of course, but are on their way.  They know what they can get away with when it comes to relying on me or my husband, and when they better get their butts in gear and get the job done pronto.  I have slowly given them more responsibilities each year and stick to the slogan, “Happy Birthday!  You now have an additional privilege, but also an additional responsibility.“

One example of this slogan: “So, now that you are old enough to legally drink, you can also start paying your car insurance!”

While giving your children everything you didn’t have may seem the right thing to do, consider this:  the ultimate goal of successful parenting is to create responsible, independent, conscientious human beings. Reflect on this goal.  How you are doing?

I sometimes joke with my husband regarding the “When I was a kid stories” that our children will tell their children.  Perhaps they will sound like this:

“I had to take my dinner out of the oven myself; we didn’t have robot butlers back then. It was exhausting!”

I’m sure Generation Y-ers will still find something to gripe about and do their best to convince their offspring how tough the good ol’ days were.  After all, those “When I Was a Kid” stories have been around a long time and life wouldn’t be the same without them.

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Author: joames

Writer, massage therapist, personal trainer, advocate

2 thoughts on “Want to Give your Kids Everything? Don’t!”

  1. I’ve been catching up on your blog recently and of course Iove it. I so agree with this posting.
    I ALWAYS say to new parents to say No more often then yes. Let them learn to handle some disappointment, figure out how to respond in a good way to obstacles placed in their path. Once they are on their own in the world the will have better tools to cope with all the things life can throw at you. More reading tomorrow!

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