I had an interesting conversation with a college student this spring. When I met her, she was dressed in Abercrombie and Fitch clothes, had an Apple watch, wore Gucci’s on her feet and drove us to a coffee shop in her Jaguar. When I asked her, “How can you afford all these, as a college student? She said, “Oh, I can’t. But my dad can.”
As both educators and parents watch today’s kids grow up, we want the best for them. We want them to thrive as adults—in their careers, their families and their personal fulfillment. What we often fail to see, however, is that in our quest to “want the best for them” we inadvertently stunt their growth.
While we want our young people to grow up, we don’t want to see them have to sacrifice things they want along the way. We don’t want them to go without:
- the latest technology
- nice clothes and accessories
- eating out at restaurants
- fine automobiles or SUV’s
- ___________________(You can fill in this last blank.)
Because it’s too hard for us to see them sacrifice things that make life nice and easy, we believe it’s up to us to ensure they have all they need—and want—in every life stage. In fact, we feel like bad parents if we don’t supply their “wants.” Upon reflecting on my maturation process, however, this is a change from the days my parents watched me grow up.
My Parents and Sacrifice
My parents always provided for me growing up. I never remember going without anything I needed, as a child. All along, however, if I told my dad I needed something, he would ask me:
“Do you really need that? Why do you need it?”
If I could make a case for why I needed it, he’d likely get it for me. Or, we’d work out a plan for me to save the money to buy it myself. That’s how I got my Matchbox® cars, my Hot Wheels®, my G.I. Joe® and my first baseball mitt.
It wasn’t that my parents didn’t want me to have everything my heart desired. It’s because they refused to disable me from becoming resourceful. You see, both my mom and dad grew up during the Great Depression. My dad believes it was the best time in history—as that low economic period forced Americans to help each other, to see what was most important and…to be resourceful.
The Connection Between Sacrifice and Resourcefulness
You see, when I go without something, I am forced to become resourceful. I realize that perhaps I really did not need that “thing” after all, or I am forced to figure out a way to get it. My dad was brilliant at cultivating resourcefulness in me. I think he must have seen the correlation between resourcefulness and sacrifice.
When I was young, I wanted to start a Matchbox car collection. Do you remember those? At Christmas or birthdays, I usually asked for another cool car I wanted at the time. My dad sat down with me, however, and explained how I could get all the cars I wanted if I took a paper route. Huh?
Do you remember those?
Each car cost $.50, plus tax—a total of 57 cents. We calculated how many cars I could buy on my own in just a week. It was amazing. I was incentivized.
I ended up signing up to ride my bike around our community, tossing newspapers on driveways early each morning, even when it rained. Ugh. I know my mom hated to see me go out when it was so wet, but she didn’t stop me. She warmed me up when I came home, but neither parent stopped the “sacrifice.”
And I got a whole lot of Matchbox cars as a result.
Someone direct-tweeted me recently saying, “One could argue that raising children today is the most abdicated responsibility in America.” Wow. That’s quite an indictment. If it’s true, however, it’s likely because we were either absent when we should have been there for our kids, or…we stunted their growth by giving them everything. They never felt what its like to sacrifice.
May I say it again? There is a connection between sacrifice and resourcefulness. If our children make few sacrifices, they’ll be happy today, but very likely they’ll be ill-prepared for tomorrow.