I got several responses from yesterday’s post that spoke to how many of us who grew up poor and worked our way out of poverty, now feel we have overindulged our children. I know that is true for me. Bruce and I absolutely gave our kids more than we should have for no other reason than because we could. It has been a real shift for us to beginto say no, especially if saying yes is possible. We are doing it now, both to protect our own financial future and to insure that our children figure out how to meet their own needs. The challenge for me in particular is to do this without feeling as though I am depriving my kids.
I can best illustrate this with a couple of kid stories. My Phoebe has her first loose tooth. When I asked her what she thought the tooth fairy might bring her she replied, “A kazoo!” When I asked her why she thought that she said because a fairy would know what she wanted and she wanted a kazoo. Let me assure you that I immediately bought a $2.00 kazoo and put it away so she would have one under her pillow. It was a small request and easily met. Karen asked for an Ipod. Everybody has and Ipod and without one, her life would not be complete. She did get an Ipod. She had to earn the money herself but as it mattered to her, she was willing to put in the energy to make and sell enough granola for the purchase. I must say, she loves the Ipod and, while I would never get her one, I do think it was a good spend for her. She also wanted a lap top. Same deal. If she wanted one, she had to figure out how to pay for one. After doing the math, she decided that my old lap top would meet her needs quite nicely, thank you and has not brought it up again.
There are any number of ways to help our kids become more self sufficient and feel more capable, responsible, valuable and lovable and most have little to do with buying stuff. I believe that, as parents, raising kids with a positive self image is our ultimate goal. Somewhere along the way that got tied up with praising them for every small deed, making sure they never failed at anything and pretty much giving them the impression that they were the most important little creatures to ever draw breath. We were so concerned with giving them a happy childhood that we have lost all of our common sense. Here is one of my pet peeves. We are bombarded with information about the national disgrace of obesity in children. So why is it that we insist on providing a “snack” for every event. When was the last time you took your kid to anything where a snack was not provided? Even church school usually has a juice and cookie break and the kids are there for about 45 minutes. We provide 2 snacks, breakfast and lunch at our school. That’s crazy! Do we really believe our kids can’t go from 8:30 until 11:45 without something to eat? Maybe if they did not get the mid morning snack, usually something sweet and high in fat, they would not be so incline to toss out their lunches. Kids can tolerate being hungry. They can tolerate waiting. They can learn to eat what is put in front of them. They won’t however, if they are fed every time they turn around.
I have always said that preparedness was 90 % mental and I believe that is true for kids as well as adults. If kids feel capable, they will be far less likely to panic in a crisis. In this culture of instant gratification, it may be necessary for you to create ways to insure your kids develop that “can do” attitude.
Teach them real skills. It may be easier to do it yourself but teaching your kids to prepare meals, repair a broken tool, change a tire or knit a scarf will pay big dividends down the road.
Make charity a part of life. Working at a food pantry or shelter, donating to good cause, assisting an elderly neighbor or joining a community work bee give kids an opportunity to see the world beyond them.
Let them solve problems. You don’t need to intervene in every instance. I would not let my kid be bullied but I don’t interfere in every squabble. Sometimes the best discipline is letting them live with consequences of their actions. If they forget their homework, they will miss recess. If they don’t get their laundry done, they will be wearing dirty clothes.
Not all work is paid. I will pay my kids to do a major chore that I really want done but they do not get paid for being part of the family. Dishes, laundry, sweeping and weeding are part of family life.
Let kids be bored. It is not my job to keep my kids entertained. There is a lot to do around here. If you chose not to take advantage of what’s here, do not expect me to drive you to the mall.
Teach them early that fun is free. Everything does not have to be an “activity”. I set my grandson up yesterday with a bucket of water and some spoons and cups. He played happily for an hour.
Let them fail. If you never experience failure you can never fully appreciate success. This whole notion of “you are all winners” is a sweet but misguided notion. Being a winner defines everything as a competition. I make sure my kids see me try and fail and try again without getting down on myself.
Life may well be different for our kids. If gas goes up to $5.00 a gallon they will walk more. If small business are having trouble keeping their doors open they will less able to sponsor sports team. Fewer leagues may open the door to more neighborhood pick-up teams. More expensive food may mean kids will have to develop some after school time to the growing, preserving and preparation of food. Less money may mean less emphasis on status clothing. Maybe our kids will be happier and healthier as a result. Like I said yesterday, different is not always worse.