Twenty five years ago, I had a lot of theories about parenting. You know—because I was a kid once. Boom. Qualified.
These days, I have a lot more grace for new parents. Having raised two of our seven to adulthood, I have to say, I died on a lot of hills that really didn’t need to see a battle at all. I dug my heels in over stupid things like whether or not my children could watch Pokemon. True story. Moral? There really are things that we can fixate on that won’t matter much in the end.
Flipside? There are also things that definitely WILL matter. Mark my words. We’re living in a culture of over-indulgence. As parents, we’ve been duped into believing that our kids “need” a whole bunch of stuff that they don’t need at all. So if you want to spoil your kids, start here:
- Make sure they have an iPad or a smart tablet. At the very least, give your kid a cell phone. After all, these things are important. Think of the apps they’ll miss out on and games they could be playing. Eight year olds need tablets and laptops. Kids are noisy. This is a great way to keep them out of our hair. Besides, it’s dangerous outside. And boring too. The kids told me so just last week.
Since when did “wants” become “needs?” Since we let it, that’s when. I’m not sure when we decided that childhood required all the trappings of adult life—but if our kids are watching our example, we might be in all kinds of trouble in this area. I get the importance of being able to contact a child at school, etc., but they don’t need a “smart” phone—a simple dumb phone will do. Data plans are expensive. If you kids can’t pay for a data plan, don’t give them one. And that brings me to my next point…
- Pay allowance to your kids for simply being alive. Kids need money in order to learn how to spend it wisely. Besides, they only get one shot at being a kid. Make it as carefree as possible.
Children need to learn to work. Giving a child responsibilities and chores says two things right off the bat: “You’re a valuable part of this family” and “The world doesn’t revolve around you.” Parents don’t need to give their kids money for the sake of doing it. When was the last time you got money just for being alive? We don’t help our kids by giving them allowance for doing nothing. We enable them and teach them to live dependent on others rather than teaching them that there is reward found in working for what they have. Look around you. Watch the news. This mentality is not working for our nation, and it won’t work for our kids.
- Buy their clothes new. Thrift store clothes are for “other kids.” Who cares if they’ll grow out of that new pair of pants in three months? It’s your job to make sure your kids have the best of everything, and clothes are an important part of a child’s developing identity…right?
I grew up in a houseful of seven kids. Hand-me-downs were a way of life for us—and it’s become a way of life for my children, too. Don’t misunderstand: I’m not against buying new things once-in-a-while. But most families simply can’t afford to fit every growth spurt with a new pair of Levi’s. Taking your kids thrift-store and consignment store shopping not only teaches them to be wise stewards later in life, it offers a healthy lesson in humility. (Besides, you’ll save a lot of money, too.)
- Forgo opportunities to help others on a consistent basis. Our kids don’t need to be “exposed” to homeless shelters and soup lines. The church pays for a janitor, so I don’t need to volunteer our time to tidy up the place… and if that single mom can’t afford to pay her babysitter, well, it’s her problem, right?
Wrong. It’s our job as parents to lift our kid’s eyes up so they can see beyond their own circumstances. Helping others develops empathy in our children—something that video games can never do. When we take our children on mission trips, encourage them to volunteer in the nursery and help them pick out toys for less fortunate kids during the holidays, we’re telling them that they’re part of a bigger picture.
- Don’t require respect from your children. It’s okay if they don’t answer when you speak to them. Asking kids to make eye contact and speak respectfully to adults sends a message that adults know more than kids. Don’t worry if they’re rude to their teacher or other adults. Using “Mr.” and “Mrs.” is old-fashioned, and so is asking the adult what they would like to be called. Forgetaboutit. (said in my best NY accent.)
This might be the one of the biggest issues we face as parents in this culture. Children who are not taught to respect authority or treat adults with respect miss two important milestones on their journey toward adulthood: They miss the benefit of recognizing that they are in a season of learning to be worthy of respect themselves, and they miss the opportunity to practice humility. Sure there are many adults who are not worthy of respect, but that’s not the point. If we allow our children to be disrespectful to us as parents, they will not have respect for anyone. That’s a fact.
Hey. I’m not trying to sound like a mean mom—I love my kids to the moon and back. But I worry for our future as a nation when I see children who are overindulged and self-important. It’s becoming more and more rare to see a child disciplined for speaking disrespectfully to an adult or show up to an event sans smartphone. If we want a culture of self-absorbed, selfish and myopic adults, we’re well on our way unless we start to see those “old fashioned” values as timeless instead.