What is driving you to work hard and build wealth?
It’s almost cliché at this point to wish for a better life for your children, if it weren’t so real for so many.
Unless your family has reached a level of complete financial freedom, there are things you are going to go without.
This is the reason why so many families immigrate to countries like the U.S. Not just in hopes of living in a free, democratic society, but in hopes of providing more opportunity for their children – that they might be able to elevate to a higher standard of living.
In recent years, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to “want a better life for your children,” and if the idea is manifesting itself in the right way.
Usually, it is rooted in some desire to provide opportunities that you didn’t have growing up.
Maybe graduating from college, finding a higher-paying career, or even something as simple as not having to worry about food.
MOUNTAINS OF CHORES
I remember growing up and all of the things my siblings and I had to do to help out the family.
My mother raised four kids by herself, and she needed a lot of help – a lot of that burden was placed on the four of us kids.
I remember the things we were forced to go through that many around us didn’t – The endless mountains of chores, warming up our P.O.S. car each morning in the winter months so it would actually run, not being able to afford lacrosse cleats, not being able to go on a family vacation, and on and on. (Check out my article “What I learned Growing Up on Welfare”)
The typical thing for people to say in this situation is, “I never want my kids to have to go through what I went through growing up.”
This is a noble idea, and certainly a worthy reason to get out of bed each day and work hard. But what could be the unintended consequences of taking on this mindset?
LIVING ON EASY STREET
I can think back and remember a lot of people I knew growing up that didn’t have to live through any level of hardship, and I can’t say that I’m all that envious.
There are countless stories we hear about people who were given everything, but developed no appreciation for what they had. Not having to work for what you obtain creates an odd disconnect in a person’s mind.
If you think about it on the level of a kid, you can see what I mean.
Kids are always pestering their parents for something – “Buy me this!” And parents will sometimes become frustrated with the incessant demands.
The problem is that up until a certain age/time, kids haven’t made the connection between buying things and how you have to work to earn the money in order to buy those things. They think their parents have an unlimited supply of money in their wallets, and if they aren’t buying them something, it’s because they are just being mean.
Only when a kid realizes how that money was obtained do they start to realize the connection. (12 Ways To Raise Financially Fit Kids)
A great way to do this is to start some sort of system in the household that allows the children to earn the money they will need to pay for things.
All of the typical things like taking out the trash or doing the dishes can be used in this exercise.
I remember one year when I was home from college, my sister would regularly ask me and the other family members for rides to different places to meet her friends (she didn’t have a license at that point). At the time, let’s just say that my sister wasn’t winning the award for “most chores done around the house.” So, I had the idea that for every time she wanted a ride, she had to do a chore or two.
Needless to say, she wasn’t thrilled about my idea. But let me tell you, dishes were never cleaned so quickly, and floors were never swept so fast.
Incentive is a powerful thing!
THE VALUE OF HARDSHIP
I try to think about how I would be different if I hadn’t had to go through the hardships of my youth.
I am a very appreciative person, and I often stop to think about all that I have. Would I be this way if I had been given everything without having to work for it?
What level of hardship is good for an individual, and good for the soul?
The millennial generation gets a lot of flak these days for not being appreciative, and having a strong sense of entitlement.
Is it their fault, or was it their upbringing?
These are questions I don’t have the answers to. But I think about this and wonder if it’s the best course of action to eliminate hardships from your children’s lives.
I’m not talking about the fear of not having food on the table, or a home to go to at night; that is another level of hardship that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.
But, maybe a child doesn’t deserve a car without having to work for it. Maybe a child doesn’t deserve to go on every trip with their friends without working for at least a part of the money to fund the trip. And maybe a child shouldn’t be going to Starbucks and buying $6 coffees with their friends – don’t get me started!
Once again, I don’t have the perfect answers to all of these questions. But if you have kids, or are planning to have kids, I think you need to think about these questions.
You have to ask yourself, “What kind of life do I want to create for my children? And is this lifestyle helping to build a strong foundation for success, or will it end up crippling them in the future?”