For several years, the actor John Houseman did a TV spot for the investment firm, Smith-Barney. The tag-line was, “We made our money the old-fashioned way. We earned it.” I was never a Smith-Barney client, but I always felt good about that commercial. It told me I was on the right track.
Like most parents, as my children grew up, I wanted to give them the world on a string. For most of us, our desires far exceed our capacity to fulfill them. I wonder if that sends the wrong message. The best gift we can give our children is to prepare them to solve life’s problems.
We’ve all heard the child melting down in the department store, demanding candy, a toy, or other treat. Parents often give in to spare themselves the embarrassment of a tantrum. Instead, why not ask the child what they will do to earn their treat? Teach them that rewards come through effort, not through demands.
My fifteen-year-old daughter wanted an expensive pair of gym shoes. Budget-busters, with a price tag equal to a day’s pay. The new shoes I had purchased didn’t measure up to her friends’ expectations. We argued; price over peer-pressure.
While I wanted her to be well-heeled, I still had to clothe the rest of her. I got her point. I knew kids could be miserable to each other, and if our family had been as well-heeled as she hoped to be, I would have filled her closet with those budget-busters. But we weren’t. I had to put my foot down.
“I don’t intend to spend eight hours on my feet to put shoes on yours for one hour a day. The shoes you want cost twice as much as the ones I bought. If you want them that much, you need to come up with half of the price. I’ll pay the other half.”
There! I thought that would end it. But my daughter fooled me. She went out and found her first job. I was filled with pride at her initiative. We bought the shoes, and she paid half. I think the experience taught us both a lesson. She, pride of achieving a goal. Me, not to underestimate her gumption.