As our children are increasingly deluded into thinking they can get anything they want within a few clicks on a technological device, we as parents are left wondering what happened to that environment many of us grew up in: where you EARNED things.
In other words, delayed – not immediate – gratification.
I fear that technology is having a devastating effect on children because it gives the illusion that anything can come to you. Let’s be clear: credible psychological studies have shown that those children who are able to delay their gratification are much more likely to succeed than children who would give into immediate gratification much more quickly.
So how do we get our kids to internalize the idea that you must work very hard to get the most important things?
As I have worked with parents, teachers, and fellow child experts for over a decade, I’ve begun to identify what parental strategies seem to help children bite down on that hard-core reality that they must earn things the old-fashioned way: with sweat.
Refrigerator post up for your kids to see everyday: “Life is 5% inspiration, and 95% perspiration”.
Unfortunately, a lot of damage has been done by what I will call the “self-esteem” movement whereby parents are lavishing their children with praise, material goods, and whenever possible making excuses for when their children fall short of expectations or break rules. Evaluate your parenting style and ask yourself “in what ways am I not cultivating the idea you must earn, you do not just get”.
Most often these “helicopter parents” (we are all guilty at times) swoop in and coddle their kids parents because they have their own unresolved issues. For example, maybe their parents were very harsh with them and they are overcompensating by being far too easy going with their own children. These children will fail miserably once they go head-to-head with children from strong work ethic cultures.
So what can you as a parent do to maximize the chances your child will grow up and successfully compete in a increasingly competitive workforce?
Here are some practical tips:
–Even if your child has a higher IQ/is gifted or is sharp in some ways, DO NOT let them think they will succeed because they are smart. Again, put the “perspiration” statement above on your frig. Also, read my blog about how intelligence is NOT the most important quality predicting success. A Time Magazine article just came out corroborating what I said in my blog, it is GRIT and SCRAPPINESS that matter most. To date, there is not one credible scientific study that I know of that shows that the smarter your kid is the more likely they are to succeed.
–Emphasize to your child that it is not how smart you are, but how resourceful you are. Talk about how the best leaders (research backs this up) DO NOT think they are the smartest person in the room, but they do know what is important is how to access the best information and the brightest minds.
–To cultivate the gritty side of your child, constantly be learning who their current hero or role model is, and then find background information about how that person got to where they are now. You want to constantly remind your child that success is the result of a long journey composed of a tedious set of good decisions driven by a constant and reliable work ethic.
–Raise your child in an environment where one of the philosophies is “less is more”. What I mean is teach children to cope with going without many or most of the things their friends have. You do not need to go overboard, but you certainly should not be trying to “keep up with the Joneses”. Life should never be too cushy.
–Make sure your child is regularly rubbing up against the harsh socioeconomic reality much of the population lives with. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, hand out food at a food bank with your child, to ensure that they appreciate what they have. Have them volunteer at positions at very young ageas where they see just how tough life can be. One of my most formative experiences was volunteering to push the wheelchairs for for disabled veterans at Great Lakes Naval Station in Great Lakes, Illinois. As a teenager seeing guys with limbs missing shook me up in a good way.
REALITY CHECK: YOU NEED TO CONSTANTLY LOOK FOR WAYS TO SHAKE UP YOUR CHILD’S REALITY so they understand how fragile human existence can be. Discuss that a key protective factor is strong work ethic and grit.
–Make sure that even at a young age or your child learns to be part of activities where they do not get any material reward for participating such things as community service. Far too often I have parents tell me that their child is never worked in a job even though they are now in college! Children will not learn appropriate values like hard work and dedication unless they work and understand how much effort must go into earn a living or even earning their allowance.