It’s our fault — there is nothing wrong with “today’s entitled youth” that today’s parents didn’t cause
Sometimes you hear parents say “my childhood was really difficult, and I don’t want my kids to have to go through what I did. I want their lives to be easier”. Well, the problem with that is that if you make your children’s lives easy, they will expect life to be easy. It’s not, so stop giving them that impression. You will not always be around to cushion their falls (and if you try, you will make a fool of yourself and your child), so don’t let your kids grow up expecting that you will.
Before we go on, I want to make it absolutely clear that I have no qualifications to talk about this — other than being a parent — but I’m not going to let me having no idea what I’m talking about stop me from stating my opinion. This is, after all, the internet.
We often say that today’s kids are entitled little brats. And they frequently are. But the question is why they are that way. Is it something in the water? Did something in the environment change that causes the genetics of children to be different today from 30 years ago? No, of course not. It’s parents today who are different from the parents of 30 years ago.
Look, I get it. Really, I do. We’ve all had rough experiences in our childhood that we don’t want our children to have to go through — and they shouldn’t. That’s not my point. My point is that there needs to be balance. Childhood needs to prepare the child for adult life. A childhood that is “too easy” doesn’t do that, by definition. That is not to say that we should leave our children to fend for themselves in the face of adversity. We’re their parents, it’s our job to help them learn and grow.
But in my experience, many parents take the helping part too far. I don’t blame them, it’s very tempting to do just that — I certainly have on more occasions than I can (or care to) count.
When children are born, the have zero skills (other than keep their parents awake 24/7 with alarming efficiency). When they are eighteen, they need to have the basic skills to be a happy, reasonably independent and hopefully productive member of society. That means that we as parents have an eighteen year window of opportunity to make that happen. Use it. Don’t wait until your kid is fifteen to start the process, because that doesn’t give you or your child enough time to complete it.
There are many things an eighteen year old should be able to do on their own, in order to be able to move out of their parent’s home. Some basic cooking, cleaning, laundry, staying on top of their economy, and so on. The key is to start early, and slowly increase the responsibility you give the child as it grows and matures.
- When the child is two, teach it to say “thank you” after each meal.
- At four years old, have it remove it’s plate from the table after eating.
- At five, teach it to put its plate in the dishwasher.
- By the age of six, have them start making their own bed in the morning (before doing anything else — that’s an excellent habit to build).
- Around the age of ten, teach them how to do basic laundry (before your son starts having wet dreams and your daughter gets her period and has an accident in bed — things that they might be embarrased about if they have to ask for help with the laundry).
- When they’re about twelve, they should be able to start learning some basic cooking.
And so on. These are just guidelines. You know your kid best. You decide when it’s time to teach something new, just don’t forget to do that regularly. Time is limited.
Don’t give your children a weekly allowance without requiring them to do something to earn it. That’s a mistake I made early on. Doing that will give the kid the impression that money will just “come”. Teach them to earn it. If you don’t teach them this, they’ll be tempted to get stupid and stupidly expensive loans once they’ve moved out to buy crap they don’t need.
Once they’ve earned their money, let them squander it. Yes, you read that right. Let them learn through experience that they can’t buy a bunch of junk and still be able to afford that new game they’ve got their eyes on. Don’t just tell them that’s how saving up works, let them experience it for themselves, and then make sure you congratulate them on a job well done once they do manage to save up for something they really want instead of cheap junk.
Speaking about the value of letting kids experience problems for themselves: don’t force the kid to wear an extra sweater because it’s cold outside. Suggest to them that they will be cold without it, then let them go without it if they so choose and realize that yes, my parent was right, I should probably listen to them next time. Trust me, they will surive the cold. If you force them to wear the extra sweater, they will never feel cold and then they will learn that this “cold” that their parents are always on about is just an exaggeration that never actually happens, because they never experience it.
Wearing that extra sweater because it’s cold is just one example. The same principle can be applied to many other things. Do a Google search for Natural and logical consequences for more information about that.
Parenting isn’t easy. It’s the hardest and most important job that most of us ever sign up for. We will all make mistakes, but we need to have a plan. We have plans for so many other things, so why not also have one for the most important task of our lives?