I was tuned into one of my favourite shows on TV yesterday-Squareoff on CHCH-TV with Mark and Liz. It’s a good show–on at 5:30 if you haven’t seen it. They do some great interviews with experts around social issues and the like. Anyway. They had a woman on the show who was discussing how to get children to do what they don’t want to do and she suggested it was alright to bribe them to get some compliance. Right away I found myself mumbling and actually talking to this woman who was on the screen. I’ve not heard anything so ridiculous in all my life. This is exactly what is wrong with us today and why some kids are so disrespectful and so over bearing with a runaway sense of entitlement. This is one thing that we should NEVER do with our kids.
Right from when they are old enough they need to understand (and this is where parents come into the mix and actually begin to mentor-to teach their children about life and how it works) that they are expected to work around the house. They should be given chores to do like putting their dirty clothes in a hamper and making their bed. Nothing wrong with that. They also need to be held accountable for when they don’t do them. In other words there are things that happen whenever we make decisions for ourselves.There is a natural response. This is as it is in the big world too. For instance they need to help keep the house inside and out in good stead. I’m not talking about slave labour here but I am talking about understanding from an early age that there are no free rides. If you want something you have to work for it.
I never gave my kids an allowance. Why? Because I wanted them to understand that living in a house is a family affair–that we all look after our home together because we all live in it together. If you want a nice home to live in then you need to work to make sure that that happens. You should not be ‘paid’ to do this but rather you get to enjoy all the pleasures, benefits and amenities as a result of participating in the upkeep and maintenance of that home. I always told my kids that they will always have what they need but they may not always get what they want. If they want something bad enough then they will have to work for it just like everyone else does. In some instances I would agree that once they earned half the cost of something that was a bigger ticket item–a new bike–an electronic device of some kind–that I would match what they had raised and that money would go toward the total cost. They had to earn their portion first and then let me know that they were ready to do the deal we had agreed to. These agreements, on my part, resulted in them knowing that I recognized their hard work around the house and that I appreciated their help without their complaining. They understood at an early age it was the fairest way but more importantly they could trust me to be consistent with what we agreed to. I also agreed to not interfere with what they wanted to purchase. If it were a pair of 200.00$ Nike running shoes I would not veto the purchase even though I might not have agreed with their choice. It’s interesting to note that when they put their hard earned cash in the pot they became more prudent shoppers all of a sudden. They also learned how to manage their money more effectively. It’s always easier to spend someone else’s money.
As parents we need to stop trying to be our children’s best friends and start being their parents. So you won’t always be popular with them–so what? Remember they already have friends. If they wanted more friends they would go out a make new friends. What they need are parents to teach and to lead and to demonstrate how to live life in a way that says ‘hey we (parents and kids both) can have fun and enjoy this and that but when it comes to setting an example that’s my job and I will do what I believe is right for all of us.’ That’s what parents do. They lead-they educate-they model appropriate behavior. We need to get back to this way of running our family homes and holding our kids responsible for the choices they make instead of trying to buy peace and order by bribing them. It may be easier as a parent to give up or give in but it is not better. If we have to buy their compliance they learn nothing about the big world in the process and only come to value money as the end all. They don’t get the concept of working together for a common goal, mutual respect, to trust or to value themselves as human beings. If you choose to look around you will see that that is happening more and more and that is not a good thing-for any of us but especially not for our children.
That’s how I see it anyway–Jim