One of the benefits of having practiced for 30 years is that I’ve been able to see parenting trends emerge and change over several decades. Some of the changes have been good ones, like the trend against using corporal punishment. However some of the changes have not been so good. In general, parents of this current generation seem to be expecting less and less from their kids and are giving them more and more without their earning it. This, I believe, has led to a generation of youth who feel entitled to material things without having the benefit of knowing the satisfaction of working to gain them. The reasons parents are perpetuating this trend are complicated. Part of it may be that parents are so busy that giving to the child is easier than saying “No.” Or that parents feel guilty for not spending enough time with their kids and so they give material things in an effort to make up for it. Part of it may be that kids are so busy now with extracurricular activities that they don’t have time to work. But in any of these scenarios I believe the children miss out. They miss the opportunity to learn how good it feels to work hard and earn the money to buy that game, or phone, or gas money for the car. They miss the increase in their self- esteem that comes from being successful in that way. They miss the opportunity to learn how to deal with a boss and coworkers. They miss learning the value of a dollar. And they miss having the chance to try out different work settings and learn what their skills are. Or as importantly what they DON’T want to do for a living. Working for minimum wage is often a motivator to get a good education!
Often parents say that getting good grades is their child’s job. And I agree grades are very important, but I think it’s possible to make good grades and have a part-time job doing something. It could be as many as 20 hrs/week at a fast food restaurant saving money for college or as few as 3 hrs/week babysitting or mowing grass to earn gas money. I knew a youngster who had a business dragging the trash and recycling cans to the street every week for his neighbors. It doesn’t have to be huge job.
So think about whether or not you are providing enough opportunities for your kids to work. It may be one of the best gifts you can give them.