Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Teach Your Children: Realistic Expectations or Live Your Dream?

There is no single answer or even a correct answer to the dilemmas and choices that parents must face in raising their children.

While wanting our kids to be healthy and successful, we often build up unrealistic expectations of what life is all about. We provide them with virtually every toy and piece of athletic equipment, every new doll or fashion accessory, every electronic device to keep up with their peer group, and often foot the bill for an education that we really can't afford, putting ourselves in debt to benefit the next generation. Is this really the best course?

My own parents and their generation grew up during the Great Depression, spent the prime of their youth fighting a world war and a police action in Korea, matured during the fifties under the shadow of the atomic bomb, even building basement bomb shelters to protect us children.

Then came the age of television and rising expectations. Not only were we aware of all the new inventions and products, we watched our television heroes amidst all the prosperity and we wanted our fair share.

While our parents saved cash in a coffee can buried in the back yard, salvaged Christmas wrapping paper and saved every little piece of aluminum foil, we just wanted bigger and bigger televisions, new stylish clothes, transistor radios, record players, multi-speed bicycles, and the latest toy guns, even REAL horses to ride! It must have driven our parents crazy and caused the GRANDPARENTS to just shake their heads at the "younger generation."

I know the popular practice is to tell our children that they can be ANYTHING; can grow up to be President or be rich and famous and have everything their little hearts desire.

I'm not at all certain that we do not set up our kids for failure and disappointment by building these expectations, by providing instant gratification, and protecting them from the harsh realities that LIFE often dishes out. They DO need to be prepared for the bad times as well as the good. They don't learn to cope with "want" and scarcity by being sheltered and shielded from the real life struggles that we as parents experience.


I think they should be encouraged to aim high, that is okay, but still need to realize that material goods and monetary successes are not the measures of their self worth. We need to temper our generosity with a little reality check. Teach them to save for what they want. Teach them work skills and financial skills and life skills. Why shouldn't they know how to cook and clean and operate the household appliances, to change a tire or the oil in the car?

Delayed gratification can enhance the pleasure. We learned that; they should learn it too.


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10 comments:

  1. Totally agree with every word. My children's generation expect everything immediately. They think all food comes from the stupidmarket in packets. They don't know how to mend or repair anything. And then they can't afford anything! My parents would turn in their graves at the absolute waste.

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  2. I think kids should be taught a good work ethic and that without work you do not get anything. Being self employed I have found that my work ethic is better than most. I do not call in sick I get up every day with my son and get dressed, get him on the bus, and work. I hope he sees that in me and grows up having a good sense of earning and not going to the payday loan center to finance that flat screen because his friends have one.

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  3. Well said. Our children's generation is one of expectation with out effort. Some how we need to teach them that all truly meaningful things, be it material or otherwise, requires a significant amount of effort on their part. We all have to work for whatever we want, and sometimes it takes longer than expected to achieve. Life is constantly throwing bumps and obstacles in our path, and they need to learn to find acceptable ways around them.

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  4. This is such a great post. We're raising "modern children" but want them to have good, old-fashioned values. Our 5 year old has a small allowance he gets for doing certain chores and he's allowed to use that to save for certain toys he wants. It's a great way to teach him the value of money and that you work for what you want.

    What we did was sort of mentally make a list of qualities we admired or found to be valuable and we think of ways to concretely teach those values.

    I wish more people were making their kids "old fashioned"!

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  5. As a single mom on a very limited income and rarely child support from ex husband I have to teach my kids that they can't waste and they can't have everything they want. My son wants to go to MIT and he will likely be admitted but coming up with the tuition is going to be difficult at best. We will figure it out, we still have two years but he knows that if he really wants it he has to work for it. I agree that we are a nation if not world of instant gratification but when it comes down to it the things we want now are rarely that fulfilling. Great post!

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  6. Old fashion is a thing of the past our children will be helpless without all of the conveniences or will they when it comes right down to survival?

    We make everything so easy that our children unless we enroll them in programs to help them learn how to really survive makes me shudder at how helpless they may be.

    No one knows what the future may bring, but I think we should really consider all options and teach our children the best way we can to survive without all the modern conveniencies.

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  7. Well said. It's hard to do, and I feel I fail many times...but I know my kids are learning to think and do for themselves despite my lapses.

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  8. This recession will be a good a excuse to teach children and adults of all ages how to readjust their thinking about overspending, and learn the true joys that are present all around us in life, regardless of how much money we have or spend. It's the perfect excuse to save and reuse. We don't have to feel embarrassed anymore about being frugal, thrifty and cautious with our money. Just tell people, "We're in a recession, and I'm doing my part!"

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  9. This recession will be a good a excuse to teach children and adults of all ages how to readjust their thinking about overspending, and learn the true joys that are present all around us in life, regardless of how much money we have or spend. It's the perfect excuse to save and reuse. We don't have to feel embarrassed anymore about being frugal, thrifty and cautious with our money. Just tell people, "We're in a recession, and I'm doing my part!"

    ReplyDelete

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Doug (Gruggers) in Missoula

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