For generations of people coming to this country, the United States has been referred to as “The Land of Opportunity.” Ours is a country in which following through on that opportunity, through vision, hard work, and dedication has enabled a person to improve their circumstances. Work helps us define our own value and self-worth.
On a personal level, think about the young people in your life. Do they receive a regular allowance or are they given money based on work effort? Do they understand that everything in life demands an exchange?
Often, with a regular allowance, that payment is the young person’s only source of income. A regulated, predetermined amount shapes their views and options about how and when the money is spent. Money given to them that covers their “wants,” for example, when you cover their needs, means they have no view of the real, long-term implications of how much they need to achieve independence.
If they receive the same amount on a regular basis, regardless of work done to earn the income, it can become more of an entitlement than an enabler.
Young people who are provided the opportunity for accomplishing work, however, are motivated to take action! The more they work, the more they are enabled. Our role as parents is to create an environment where our children are enabled to define their own worth and value. In so doing they do not have to become entitled and reliant on someone else the rest of their lives.
“But it’s my child!” you say to yourself. “I want to give them everything…help them any way I can!”
Raising Families co-founders, Elane V. Scott and Rick Stephens attended a conference in Vancouver, Canada, in September of 2006 featuring the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is often cited for his thoughts on human compassion and the natural desire existing in all of us to help others. At the conference, when asked about what happens when compassion isn’t enough to make change, the Dalai Lama replied:
“Compassion that does not yield change in those to whom it is directed can lead to a worsening of their lives as they come to expect less of themselves and more of others.”
Supplying our kids with everything they need to survive is our responsibility (i.e., food, clothing, shelter). Supplying our children with opportunities to plan, try, achieve and fail … to work … is enabling them for a future in the new American workforce.
Rick Stephens is a co-founder of Raising Families. With 33 years of experience as a top-level executive at The Boeing Company and having raised four children of his own, he is able to support parents and grandparents by incorporating his knowledge of business, leadership, and complex systems into the family setting. In his “free time” Rick enjoys road biking, scuba diving, visiting his grandkids, and generally trying to figure out which time zone he’s in this week. Read full bio >>