Why you should be a mean parent
Our kids are among the most indulged young people in history. We may be setting them up for failure as adults if we fail to give them 4 essential life skills.
Are your kids prepared for life? Quite a few of our children aren't. Citing 8-year-olds who won't tie their own shoes and 20-somethings who stay up all night and sleep until noon, Elizabeth Kolbert suggests that we are raising "the most indulged young people in the history of the world."
(Well, except maybe for "the imperial offspring of the Ming dynasty and the dauphins of pre-Revolutionary France.")
"It's not just that they've been given unprecedented amounts of stuff -- clothes, toys, cameras, skis, computers, televisions, cell phones, PlayStations, iPods. They've also been granted unprecedented authority," Kolbert writes in The New Yorker.
Specifically: These days parents want their kids' approval, whereas children used to seek their parents' approbation. That means Mom and Dad don't want to lay down the law. Kolbert cited a video study of Los Angeles families that recorded:
"No child routinely performed household chores without being instructed to. Often, the kids had to be begged to attempt the simplest tasks; often, they still refused. In one fairly typical encounter, a father asked his eight-year-old son five times to please go take a bath or a shower. After the fifth plea went unheeded, the father picked the boy up and carried him into the bathroom. A few minutes later, the kid, still unwashed, wandered into another room to play a video game.Here's a question: Will Daddy Dearest be around 20 years from now, still rushing to make things right for his pampered princess?
"In another representative encounter, an eight-year-old girl sat down at the dining table. Finding that no silverware had been laid out for her, she demanded, 'How am I supposed to eat?' Although the girl clearly knew where the silverware was kept, her father got up to get it for her."
And another question: What are we doing to our children?
Giving them everything, and giving in to them on everything, is a horrible idea -- and not just because it's producing a bumper crop of spoiled brats. We need to look at the bigger picture: A kid who can't do the simplest things for himself is a kid who's being set up to fail.
How will our children fare once they're out of the house? That is, if they ever bother to leave. Why should they? There’s food in the fridge, high-speed Internet and probably someone to pick up after them.
A few essential life skills
A successful parent is one who will ultimately become superfluous. Note: I am not saying that we shouldn't matter to our kids. I'm saying is that from the time they're toddlers they should be helping out around the home, i.e., to learn take care of themselves.
Offhand I can think of four essential life skills for kids, all of which will save them money:
1. Laundry. During my first year of college I found a young woman crying in the laundry room -- actually sobbing out loud -- because she didn't know how to do a load of wash. If your kids leave the nest without knowing how to launder their own clothes, you have failed as a parent. Don't let them become those people who pay other people to wash their clothes, especially if their budgets are already precarious.
2. Basic cooking. Not everyone likes to do this. But eating most or all of your meals out is a budget torpedo. More than one-fourth of the men and women surveyed by the Bosch appliances said they don't cook because they don't know how. Do your own children a favor and teach them a few basic techniques.
3. Cleaning. Having a tidy place to come home to is good for your mental health as well as your social life. After a tough day at work, few would choose to walk into a pigsty that smells of pizza boxes and dirty socks. It isn't much fun for friends you invite over, either. Wellness is also an issue: Clutter can become what my old boss called "a tripping hazard," and mold and mildew may trigger allergies. As little as 20 minutes of cleaning three times a week can make a huge difference. Or your kid could pay $30 to $50 an hour for a cleaning service.
The cost of not knowing
4. Money management. Not knowing the other three skills cost money. Not knowing how to handle money can cost your young person years and years of his life. Young adults who graduate with student loans and/or consumer debt need to get a handle on their finances, but they don't know what they don't know. Parents: Talk to your kids about basics such as living below your means, or planning for short-term emergencies while setting long-range goals.
Do more than talk, though. Model responsible financial behavior. Don't joke about maxing out your credit cards. Pay your bills on time, while your kid is watching. Explain all the things your salary covers (mortgage, insurance, car repairs) versus the ones your child can see.
It's unlikely that an 8-year-old would choose a college fund over a theme-park vacation, and it's darned unlikely he'll understand why you're saving for retirement. Tell him anyway.
Oh, and don't worry so much about being seen as mean, or unfair. Your job is to prepare your child for independence, not to jump every time he makes a demand.
We're not doing our kids any favors by carrying them around on chips. Let their feet touch the ground. Often. Preferably in shoes they've tied themselves.
More on MSN Money:
1. From the age of 14 on, have your child balance your bank statement. This will teach them where money comes from.
2. If you have a teenager and you do ANY laundry or dishes, then you have failed as a parent.
3. Your house should ALWAYS (and I mean EVERY freaking time) be cleaner just because your children, who are old enough to be there, are there. This should be a house rule for everyone. You are required to clean up after yourself, and you are required to do a little bit more.
4. You should have a check list that you follow in a small child's formative years. This will include toilet training by 30 months, tying shoes before the 6th birthday, and telling time before the eighth birthday, knowing times-tables before the semester break of the 3rd grade, etc.
5. You should always vote, and always take your children with you when you vote. You should always go to the religeous institution of your choice and always take your children with you. You should always take your children grocery shopping and teach them about what you are buying, how to look at lables, and why.
6. Every 5 year-old should know how to set a table. Every 10 year old should be able to do some simple cooking, and every 14 year old should be able to cook dinner.
Has anyone ever heard of social services? Our education system spends a lot of time teaching our children about abuses. Makeing your child do something do something they do not want to do, can and will be termed abusive. My wife and I were called in by the school counselor for being mentally abusive to our daughter. Our abuse was going to look for a pony but, never buying one for her, of course that made her very sad. My wife and I were required to submit to a year of parenting classes which our daughter was to attend [which she did not]. She was also allowed to become a legal runaway at 14 years old until we completed said classes. My wife and I were given a written apology after the year was up, but by that time we had completely lost our daughter. My take away, be careful what you think is good to teach a child, because what I was informed she was not our child. She belongs to the government .
and that's why the US is so messed up. No discipline, no respect, no interaction. Kids now are pansies, teach your kid to stand up for himself, bullying wouldn't be a problem. I fought in school, I got hit as a kid, I learned and turned out fine. People are getting married to early having kids to early. Parents don't know how to raise them, Dr's are too quick to diagnose a prescription, media and health people say everything is bad for kids. Everything is so damn political. People need to mind their own business.
I drank out of a garden hose, I had toys with lead based paint, I walked to school in 3rd grade, I ran all over the neighborhood unsupervised, I got hit, I ate dinner at the table every night with my family, I wasn't diagnosed with ADD or ADHD cause I was never taught how to respect or listen. I got my first job at 14, bought my OWN car. I am doing just fine. I'm 35 own my own home 2 cars and toys, have a good job.
I love this article!! I often wonder what happened to parents. They have become so concerned about being their childrens' friends and not their parents. I have 2 men and I say men- 28 & 23. The 28 year old is married (college graduate) with children and my 23 year graduate from college and working. My husband and I decided to relocate to another state and my youngest did not want to come. He stayed in our home and is learning what life is really about and the responsiblities involved. I think this is great.
We had a conversation one day and he asked me if this is weird because his co-workers thought it was weird that he lives on his own (at the time, he was 22) and was cooking his own meals. I told him absolutely not that is part of being adult. We cannot have our children saying they are adults and cannot handle the task of boiling water. He cooks, clean and pay us rent. Our job as parents is to love our children, nuture them and help them to become responsible, independent adults. Start when they are young and parents can enjoy their lives when their children are adults.
My husband and I are fortunate to have a good income coming in. We are able to give our kids the things that they want. We do, however limit their consumption. They are three and five, and they have chores. They are given rules and know what will happen when the rules are broken. There can be a happy medium for people who can AFFORD it.
To the author of this article: You are incorrect that children are this way. Just read the comments below and you will see that everyone is a strict parent. Now I'm going to break the mold. I have spoiled my child rotten BUT he still knows how to do laundry, dishes, clean, etc. Now if I can just get him to manage money (sigh).... Hey, at least I'm honest (lol).
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
ABOUT DONNA FREEDMAN
Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
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