It seems that each generation thinks that the one after them is spoiled, and without proper values and manners. Anyone familiar with musicals from the ‘50s and ‘60s might remember Bye Bye Birdie where Paul Lynde, the father of a teenage daughter, laments his dissatisfaction with kids. “Kids.What’s the matter with kids today? Noisy, crazy, dirty, lazy, loafers. Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way?”
Is today’s generation of young people any different from previous ones?
Do kids today have a sense of entitlement that other generations did not?
Certainly there is much in the media that leads one to answer YES to these questions. And, there are studies that seem to draw the same conclusions. In our world of 24/7 news where airwaves, social media and newspapers need to be filled with material, it’s not surprising that headlines of unheard names keep folding up making us believe that this generation is spoiled and has an inflated sense of entitlement.
What’s Going On? There’s no question that the material influences of today’s society have had a very powerful impact on our children. Some say it began with Saturday morning television cartoons, which were nothing more than slick commercials for toy manufacturers. Add to the mix continuous programming about celebrities and their extravagant lifestyles. Kids notice what they’re wearing, how they fashion their hair, where they go on vacation and want it too! Designer clothes are easily available, whether it’s through the traditional retail market or outlet stores. Kids want to be in the right clothes, the right colours and the right style for each season. And then we see parents lining up for hours to buy the newest hot toy, whether it’s Tickle Me Elmo or True or False? X-Box.Are they feeding into the ‘gotta have it’ syndrome?
Today’s parents mean well when they make purchases for their children. Many want to please them and use their buying power to do that. Some yield to pressures from other parents and work hard at keeping up with the Joneses. Others indulge their children because they felt deprived as youngsters themselves and believe that their children will be happier if they do.
Raising Good Kids However grim it may seem on the surface, many kids today are being raised with good values, a capacity for hard work and self restraint. As a parenting coach, I see parents with great kids who are not spoiled and have developed self-discipline. Here’s some of their wisdom in the form of strategies.
- Teach money management. Children need to be taught how to appreciate money, and that’s easily done by giving them their own experiences with it. Allowance, started at an early age, is a great way to teach kids fiscal responsibility. If your daughter has her eye on a pair of designer jeans feel free to kick the cost of a no-name pair into the pot, but the balance of the expense is her responsibility. As your child gets older let him get a job (and this applies even if your salary can easily afford those jeans), so that he understands that finite earnings mean finite spending.
- Teach gratitude. Children need to be appreciative and grateful. When gifts arrive during the holiday season or on a birthday (even if they’re small and inexpensive), thank you notes should be sent. Whether they write them on note paper, through an email or make a phone call, time needs be set aside for formal thank yous.
- Teach the three S’s of money management. Set up rules about how kids can spend their money. Whether it’s sourced through allowance, a gift, or a job, teach them that some goes towards Savings, some towards Sharing and some towards Spending.
- Teach about charity. Consider taking your kids to the Daily Food Bank to sort food, or sponsor a needy family during the holidays through a group like the Salvation Army. When children see others in need and are taught to help those who are less fortunate they become less egocentric, which is a gift you can give your child that will last a lifetime. In the book, Loving Without Spoiling, author Nancy Samalin suggests parents do a quick self-examination before spending on their child.
2. What will happen if I just say no?
3. Why am I so eager to buy it for him?
When we say NO to a child who does not need a new toy or article of clothing, we are teaching him self-control. We are teaching him to cope with disappointment. We are teaching him that needs are quite different from wants. When we examine our own motivation behind our desire to purchase more stuff for our kids, we can move into being a strong parent who develops values in our child that will take him into adulthood. We are setting the stage for managing the many ups and downs and injustices life will bring. The acquisition of more material goods does not build character. Instead it creates a dependence on purchases to feel good, and it rarely satisfies. So the next time you feel the need to purchase something for your child remind yourself that your child needs to survive in this world through strength of spirit, values and character.
Contributor: Terry Carson