As a father of boys ages 5 and 1, I am the first to admit, I’m no parenting expert. In fact, there are days when I feel like a total parenting failure. But, I do my best, and seek wise counsel when possible.
Since parenting is being discussed in my financial column this week, it’s obvious that I have run into a parenting issue about money. More specifically trying to find a balance between what we financially can do for our children and what we should do for them. My oldest son, who is in kindergarten, was recently tasked with selling fundraising items for his school. Of course to motivate the children, they were promised amazing prizes if they reached certain sales goals. My son Ethan quickly set his heart on earning a limo ride with his friends to a pizza party.
I warned him early on that selling the number of items required to earn such a valuable prize would not be easy. I also told him that both his mother and I would help if he really wanted to do it. Not long after entering into this business venture he was able to obtain thirteen of the fifteen required orders to earn his “ticket to ride”, but as the deadline approached he remained two orders short.
My wife, who thank God is more compassionate than I am, suggested we personally purchase the two remaining items to help him out. As parents we have worked hard to be able to financially provide for our children everything they need. We have sacrificed many pleasures in life to become debt free, and live a very modest lifestyle in order to build wealth. I will admit I struggled to know what the right thing to do was. On one hand, Ethan is a well‐behaved, unspoiled little boy who doesn’t ask for much, and we are in a place where we can certainly afford to purchase the remaining items. On the other hand, I wondered, what lessons are we teaching him if he is never allowed to experience failure, because we always have his back?
I don’t think I’m alone in my struggle to know what the right thing to do for our children is. I shared my dilemma with a co‐worker who has two teenagers and she admitted to the same difficulties with her teens. Of course we always want the best for our children, and for them to be happy, the trouble is these two desires are often contradictory. Often what is best for them long‐term, does not make them happy short‐term.
In the end, we decided it would not be proper for us to help artificially allow our son to reach his sales goal. Instead we told him we could go out into the neighborhood with him to sell the remaining items if that’s what he wanted to do. To make a long story short, he has a limo ride and pizza party on his calendar next month.
The reason we came to the decision we did was simple. Children must be introduced to both positive and negative consequences to their actions early in life. They must learn success is not something granted, but something earned. As a millennial myself, I believe Gen X’ers did a true disservice to us by reducing the emphasis on personal responsibility and self‐sufficiency. Too often the child’s happiness became such a priority that we were not allowed to learn the lessons life is built to teach us. As a result we have far too many kids in their 20’s right now with no concept of what the real world looks like.
Again, I’m still figuring out this whole “parenting thing”, and who knows, I may have a totally different view after I have a few more notches on my parenting belt. But, I will never stop doing what I think is right, and will never stop doing all that I can to help my children become the adults I hope for them to be.
Luke Davis is an Investment Advisor Representative with Stewardship Capital
(Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advice is intended to be general in nature.)