Monday, June 7, 2010

you be the judge: a new parenting book

My parents are writing a new book.

And I'm excited about it because it's right down my alley of what I'm worried about most with my kids right now: giving them ownership of choices and decisions and work and all that jazz. It's about how to ward off the tendency to keep waiting on our kids hand and foot and instead, find ways for them to be in control of their lives themselves.

We must teach our children honest, good principles and let them govern themselves. Someone wise once said (I think Sarah from Clover Lane) that our job as parents is to wean ourselves out of a job. We want our kids to be strong, noble, contributing members of society, not ones that need to be petted and pampered through life.

SO, my Dad sent me a few excerpts from the book and requested that I post them for review. YOUR review. He wants to make sure that they are going in the right direction with what they've got so far and you get to be the judge. I've got my opinion ready to go but I'm curious about yours. Is it going to be a masterpiece? Are you going to run out and buy up as many copies as you can? Is it too contrived? My parents' children are all grown up...are these ideas they are offering up ones that will work in our day and age? They want honest feedback.

So, here you go. Enjoy.


Far more than any previous generation of kids, today’s children feel entitled. They are indulged, they are pampered, they don’t have to work (or to wait) for anything. Not only do they live in a society of bail outs and instant gratification, they live in homes that exacerbate the trap by giving them everything they want.

And it really is a trap, because once those entitlement jaws have grabbed a kid, they hold fast! And the reason this trap is a particularly bad one is that it stifles children’s initiative, encourages self-centeredness, and mutes their natural and healthy fear of consequences. It makes them feel like the world owes them a living and like they should have everything they want, right now, and without any effort.

So our kids don’t learn to work.

They don’t feel much incentive or motivation to do their best.

And they don’t know much about consequences because someone always bails them out.

It’s easy to blame the trap on the culture that surrounds us. We do, after all, live in an economic age of entitlement. It is government “entitlements” that are breaking the bank at the federal, state and community level. We have come to believe that we deserve certain things whether or not we can afford them and whether or not we need them, and if we fail, or get in too deep, we can always declare bankruptcy or wait for some new law or provision to save us.

Just as we feel entitlement from our society, our kids feel entitlement from us. Even more so! They grow up believing that we should (and will) give them everything they need….everything they want. And nothing could be more destructive of their motivation, their creativity, and their responsibility. In giving them what they want, we deprive them of what they need.

So as much as we might like to say “It’s societies’ problem;” the fact is that it is our problem and our kids’ problem, perhaps the biggest one they face, the one that will affect their future the most.

Here is how the trap works, right in our homes, right under our noses with our kids:

In the name of love, we….

Give them entitlement rather than responsibility…..

Give them indulgence rather than consequences…..

Give them instant gratification rather than discipline…..

And give them dependence rather than ownership!

We are trying to control our kids rather than giving them control...

And instead of teaching them values, we are teaching them to value the wrong things.

What is happening both in our family cultures and in our broader social culture turns into a powerful trap that snaps our kids’ initiative and holds them back from the responsibility, consequences and choice-making that could prepare them to live happily and successfully as they grow into adulthood.

No parent would lay this trap intentionally. We are doing it in spite of ourselves. It is so easy to get swept away in our materialistic, competitive life styles, and we have failed to understand the dangers our indulgent society imposes on our kids or the negative effect of the economic craziness of the world they are growing up in. So instead of countering it in our homes, we mirror it. And as a result, we are not only letting our children fall into the entitlement trap, we are pushing them into it.

Today, as we speak and present to parents all over the developed world, the list of questions they throw at us is always the same:

"Why won't my kids pick up their clothes or put away their toys?"
"Why don’t they put in the effort at school to reach their full potential?
"How can they make such obviously bad choices?"
"Why do they think they need to have everything their friends have?
"Why can't I get them to set some goals and to start feeling responsible for their choices?
"How do I get them away from games and gadgets, from cell phones and headphones?

“Why can’t I get them to work, why won’t they follow through on their tasks?”

One evening, as we heard these questions for the umpteenth time from an audience of parents in an auditorium, we had a eureka moment—a parenting epiphany: We realized that ALL the questions on the list have the SAME answer. They are all solved if we can get rid of the sense of entitlement and replace it with a sense of earned ownership. Today’s parents must find ways to give their children responsibility-breeding ownership in their homes rather than entitlement-breeding indulgence. And they must do it while the kids are young, before the ever-increasing consequences of entitlement grab them as teenagers and adults.

Ownership is the lever that can spring kids out of the entitlement trap and cause them to feel responsibility, motivating them to work, to take care of things, to fight through difficulty, to face up to their own problems, and to decide for themselves what they want from life.

As we focused on ways to help parents give their kids ownership, we realized that this whole breakthrough in our thinking was just a broader application of the ah-ha moment we had with Noah years before, and that the perception of ownership could not only keep shoes on kids feet, it had the potential to greatly simplify parenting and to literally rescue our kids from the entitlement trap.

Whether it’s your child’s grade in English, or the fight your daughter just had with her sister, if they don’t own it, they won’t work at it or take care of it.

In our ongoing work with families we have discovered that there are workable (and enjoyable) ways to give young kids (elementary and middle school age) genuine ownership not only of their clothes and their toys, but of their choices, their relationships, their goals, their conflicts, and their values. Helping parents to give all these types of ownership to their children is the central goal of this book .

But if a parent is really going to get it, and really going to make it work, he or she has to remove the three barriers of old beliefs, old excuses, and the old fallback position of not having time. So let’s begin by acknowledging these three potential barricades so we can watch for them, and you can watch for them and not let them slow you down in the pages ahead:

  1. We’ve got some beliefs as parents that need to be re-set.
  • The belief that parents should try to give their kids all the things they didn’t have when they were kids.
  • That we should always bail our kids out when they make mistakes.
  • That the way to get them ahead is to push them ahead, whether they like it or not.

  1. We make some excuses that need to be rooted out.
  • We say, “Oh, they’re just kids”, or
  • “That’s just how the world is now”, or
  • “Their friends don’t have to.”

  1. We have some time issues and priorities that need to be re-structured.

· We’ve got to get over playing the ultimate trump card of “I can’t do it now because there’s not enough time.”

· We need to understand that, like any infrastructure, some extra time is required to set up systems of responsibility, but then these very systems will begin to save us time.

This book will give you a roadmap for creating a new “family economy” of earning, ownership, responsibility and motivation for your kids; and in the process it will help you to re-set some beliefs, root out some excuses, and re-structure some time so that you can rescue your children from the entitlement trap that will otherwise undermine the quality of their lives (and of yours !)

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