Growing up in Brooklyn, I was not a privileged kid. I had strict parents, and while I was a good kid, I was definitely not over-indulged by anyone. I remember when I went to college I didn’t have a car, but many of the kids I went to school with did. Some of them even had BMW’s. I recall looking at them and thinking to myself, “When my kids are in college they’re gonna have a BMW, too.” That was my goal then, but now that I actually have three children, that is so not my goal now.
It’s true that one of our main jobs as parents is to provide for our kids. Another more important job though is to teach them the right values. It’s natural for us as parents to want to give our kids the good life—everything we never had growing up. So we do what we can to make those things happen. We buy them nice clothes, expensive gadgets, and in some cases expensive cars. While doing these things for our kids may make us feel good, it can come at a real cost.
When kids get things easily and freely, it can send them the wrong message. It can cause them to go through life expecting nice things without understanding the connection between those “things” and hard work. It can also cause our kids to continue to expect things from us even when they are no longer kids.
So what do we do? How do we provide a good life for our kids without doing a disservice to them and to ourselves?
1. First things first, teach your kids to use the words “please” and “thank you.” This is an oldie but goodie. It’s important that kids understand how to ask for things properly and show gratitude when they receive kindness, favors or gifts from others.
2. Give kids age-appropriate chores. This is a great tool for teaching kids responsibility and to remind them that everyone needs to contribute. Young children can set the table and older children can do the laundry, walk the dog, or take out the trash.
3. Make your kids get a summer job. Honestly there is no better way to teach your kids responsibility and the value of dollar than through working. According to a recent study done by the Harvard School of Education, teens with early work experience have better prospects for jobs and higher earning power than those who do not. They also found that kids with good high school work experience were more likely to stay in school, graduate from school and have ambitious goals.
4. Give gifts as rewards for good grades or other accomplishments. The real world is full of rewards for those who are willing to work hard and implementing this at home will help your children get a jump start on life. Generally, if you work hard in school, you get better grades and better treatment from the teachers. You also have better employment opportunities when you graduate. On the job, if you show up for work on time and work hard, you are more likely to be promoted by your bosses. So don’t give your kids the latest phone simply because they asked for it. Give it to them because they were faithful with their chores or because they studied hard and got an “A” on their exam. Give it to them not because they want it or because we want it for them. Instead, give it to them because they deserve it and because they earned it.
Discipline creates confidence and gratitude nurtures happiness. Foster those qualities in your child, and those will be the best gifts you could ever give them.