If You Think Your Children Need More, Think Again
How much is too much to give your children? Consider this: for everything you give, you are taking something away. This applies to buying your teenager a new car, giving them a down payment on a home, or leaving them $100,000 when you die. The typical parent, at all income levels, imbibes the fiction that it is his or her responsibility to take away the struggle in their children’s lives. When parents assist their children frequently, it dulls the character, integrity, work ethic and socialization skills their children need to become responsible adults. The responsible and intentional parent makes an effort to contemplate, discuss and if possible, determine what life lessons will be missed if financial support or a gift is given.
What do you do if your teenager is convicted for a DUI (driving under the influence)? Do you rush to bail him or her out of jail, hire the best lawyer, and then start listening and believing the lawyer’s rationalizations of how body weight and lack of food intake should excuse the number of beers he or she drank before jumping behind the wheel of a car? Maybe you should leave him in jail for the night or allow her to be represented by a public defender.
“What?” you say, “My child? He is an honours student and superstar athlete!” So what? He or she was also irresponsible and a physical danger to other innocent people on the road. If your teenager had injured someone in an accident, he or she would be en route to prison for an extended term … at no charge.
Make no mistake: The development of a “child of entitlement” is exclusively the fault of the parent. In the name of protecting our children, parents create a disconnect between the “safe” or “ideal” world in the reality in which our children live. Children don’t have their own built-in warning system. They have no way of knowing they are taking their privileges for granted. We teach them they are entitled to have everything they want. Because no earning takes place between acquisitions, purchasing a new car, for instance, feels equivalent to purchasing a new bicycle. Value escapes. There is a “richness” missing from their lives. When Michelangelo was asked how he had envisioned his masterpiece David within a giant hunk of marble, he responded, “David was inside the rock all along. My only job was to remove the unnecessary rock from around him so he could escape.” Too many parents fear the pain that will come when they remove the rock around their children, so they never allow them to escape and become “works of art” as adults.
Oddly, most parents could be convicted of trying to make their children’s lives easier and less taxing than their own. Such parental ethics are either
well-intentioned errors or just plain laziness. There is nothing better for children than to crash and burn because of their own errors in judgment and mistakes – for them to experience the consequences of their choices. You can tell a child not to put his or her hand on a hot stove 10 times without success. If the child burns his or her hand, experience becomes the best teacher.
Before you “take away the pain” of your child’s struggle or misfortune, consider what benefit they might receive from your willingness to listen, love, discuss and console in lieu of handing over your wallet. It is ironic how we hope to help our children avoid the same toil that gives us so much satisfaction.
We endured, and so will they … if we let them.