As a mentor, I listen to students talk about their lives and how they want this or that and I think to how easy/good many of them have it. Many have never worked a day in their lives and have had everything given to them without the benefit of always having earned it and the few that have worked, still had their wants and needs supplemented by their parents instead of having to save up to get what they wanted. It’s a sad state of affairs when a generation has expectations of being entitled to luxuries in life simply ‘because’. I’ve heard students talk about their $300 weaves, expensive purses and shoes, and designer clothes meanwhile they’re unemployed or can’t and don’t purchase their text books in favour of these luxuries. This attitude confirms their lack of priority and appreciation for what should truly be valuable.
I raised an only child who’s been afforded many luxuries in life; however, she earned them with good grades, a good attitude, helping around the house, and volunteering at the hospital her father worked at. She was raised to understand and appreciate that her parents worked hard for a living and that getting isn’t simply acquired with an “I want…”. Her father and I differed on what things were age appropriate on occasion, but for the most part, while she was indulged; she wasn’t over indulged. He bought the high-end things like iPods, Coach bags, and things of that nature and I took her on vacations in and out of the country, museums/galleries, and other social and cultural activities. We found balance in our co-parenting.
Sadly, I see the converse of what Lil Lady’s upbringing was. I’ve seen many of her peers and those coming up behind her getting the things she earned being “gimme’s” for no other reason than, “why not?” and “just because”. These children aren’t being taught values and that things are to be earned, which is manifested in their neglect of appreciation and the more they get is the more they won’t; further exacerbating their selfish and narcissistic attitudes.
Parents hire landscapers instead of having their children cut the grass, pull weeds, or other minor landscaping tasks. They hire house cleaners instead of having their children clean up, do dishes (read: unload dishwashers), or do laundry. These are all life skills that should and need to be taught to these spoiled and over-indulged children in order for them to grow up knowing how to take care of themselves and the spaces in which they live or will live. These skills should be not gender-specific as each gender needs to know how to perform basic tasks.
In my Jamaican culture, both men and women are equally taught and are responsible for keeping a home. Boys and girls learn how to cook, clean, do laundry, iron, and perform other chores in and out of the home. These life skills carry them far in life as they do not have to rely on someone else to perform their basic needs or requirements. Sadly, I do not see this taught often in American households. Everything seems to be gender assigned and performed accordingly, which continues to breed lazy and incapable children and that lack gets carried into adulthood where money is wasted on take our or pre-packaged foods, service companies, and other entities to perform things that which they could do themselves had they been taught.
It saddens me to see idle children. I think of entrepreneurial opportunities wasted with them being inside playing video games, engrossed in social media, or texting. In every neighbourhood is a family that could use a reliable babysitter, groundskeeper, dog walker when they’re going to be home late or away, or someone to simply share the workload if they’re overwhelmed with many other things. Teens taking the initiative to take on any of the aforementioned could give them tax-free money of which can be saved or used to purchase things they’re earned instead of being given. Knowing and understanding sweat equity could broaden their knowledge of how hard their parents work to pay household expenses and still provide for things outside of the scope of basic requirements a parent has to provide.
Lil Lady has been out of the house for a year and now has a greater understanding and appreciation of what it takes to live on her own. I’ve helped out where necessary, but overall, she’s take care of herself and her needs. She’s always seen me work hard, struggle, sometimes go without in order for needs to be met, which I think is a valuable learning tool in and of itself. Too many parents over shield their children from the harsh realities of life and end up teaching them bad life lessons in the process.
Children have to be taught that a parent’s responsibility is to provide a roof over their heads, food on the table, clothes on their backs and support them in their growth process and that’s it. Everything else they get should be earned and a privilege and NOT an entitlement.
The following should be posted in homes and schools to teach children how to be valuable and productive in their homes, communities and in life.
Live the life you love; love the life you live!