I met a young man recently that told me about his feelings about his childhood. He felt as though his parents had given him everything materially that he had ever wanted. If there was a toy that came out, he was one of the first in the neighborhood to possess it. If there were new Jordan’s to be worn, he would surely be strolling the school hallways with them on his feet as soon as they hit the stores.
It sounded like an ideal childhood from the outside looking in but he confided that there was one problem. As he got older, he had a hard time coping once the toys and material items were gone and no one was there to supplement this lifestyle.
I also spoke with the mother of a two grown children and she recounted that the worst thing she ever did for her children was giving them so much stuff. Not because they were undeserving but because they had a hard time adjusting to life on their own. They didn’t understand why they could not afford a house of their own or a luxury style car upon entering the world on their own.
I hear a lot of chatter about Gen-Y and why they are such bad employees. Many employers consider them lazy, hard to motivate and ungrateful. However, many people fail to consider the culture that many of the Gen-Y workers were raised. They are a part of a generation that was rewarded for each good deed, they received some type of compensation for making good grades and many of them have much shorter chore lists than previous generations.
Now that they are entering the workforce, the toys are gone, many of their parents are unwilling or unable to continue supporting them and they are lost. They are caught trying to navigate between the life of their past and figuring out how they will create their future. The economy is not producing jobs as abundantly as it was during past generations so there is no longer a guarantee of a job regardless of major and/or college choice. Many graduates are competing for positions against experienced professionals willing to work for entry-level salaries just so that they can support their families.
I remember my first year at Vanderbilt. I am not from a wealthy family so it was odd seeing so many children of privilege. Many of them were well adjusted and seemed to function normally in society without their parents but there were some that you could tell did not have a clue. It was disturbing to watch them stumble through simple phases of life that many people take for granted but it was obvious that their upbringing was filled with more stuff than engagement and life lessons.
There are four lessons that I am teaching my son that I hope will prepare him for the future:
- The value of saving. Although he is only four years old, he has two piggy banks. One for long-term savings that he isn’t allowed to touch and one for his trips to Wal-Mart. We count his money before going to the store and that determines his budget, if he decides to buy a toy. I am there to help him pick out toys that qualify (since he can’t read yet) and sometimes he decides that it worth waiting so that he can afford the bigger toy but that is a decision that I want him to make.
- Delayed gratification. Not every action deserves a reward. So many children are being raised to believe that for every action there should be a reward. For every action, there is a consequence but not always a reward. We do our children a disservice by makng them think that they will get something everytime they do so something. I don’t know very many jobs where that theory will hold up but I have seen lots of young people who believe that if they complete a task on their job, they should be rewarded, yes rewarded with something other than their regular paycheck.
- Riches are not financial. I am trying to help him to understand what is important in life (faith, family, friends, etc) without placing too much emphasis on material things. One day the toys and the stuff will be gone and I want him to have some level of internal satisfaction with his life’s choices.
- Manners go a long way. My son is no angel. He is a very energetic little boy and thinks all things gross are entertaining. He has yet to grasp being quiet and not finding so much joy in jumping off things and making loud, explosion type noises. However, he is polite and it amazes how many people equate politeness with being good. When people use good manners and say things like, Please and Thank You, people are more willing to work with them.
As parents, we have to consider, not only who our children are today but also the adults that are creating for the future.