Grapes & Stuff – Raising Responsible Children

sgrapeA while back a friend of mine forwarded me an email about an opportunity to pick grapes for a local winery for a couple hours on Saturday morning. It looked like a great opportunity for me to hang with Jordyn, my 11-year-old daughter and make a few extra bucks for her.

Over the past year Jordyn has gotten a little taste of what it is like to take on responsibilities to make money outside our home.  She has been dog-sitting and house-sitting several times with her Mom and now has big plans for her money.  She knows how much money she needs and exactly how she wants to save and spend it, or at least for the next 9 months until her 12th Birthday of which she has big plans and is very motivated. She wants to save around $350 to rent two hotel rooms at a resort and take five of her friends and give them all $30 of tokens to use on games. It’s going to be Epic!

She is pretty responsible with her spending.  We allow her to spend her money as she pleases but try to help show her what it looks like to save and give. She does pretty well at both. We want her to understand it is her money and she alone is responsible for it.  When it is gone, it is gone.  She can be a very hard worker and self-motivated when she puts her mind to it and clearly sees a picture of what her hard work will get her, and for that I am proud.

I was very pleased to be working alongside Jordyn picking grapes, getting all messy chatting about the best ways to pick and trying to find the vines with the biggest bunches. She is very strategic like me.  She had her goals and would keep reminding me how many more containers we needed to fill to reach what she needed for that week to stay on target.  One of the weeks it was pretty rainy and a little cold.  I thought maybe by the look on her face she wanted to go home, so I asked her.  No! we can’t leave until we get 6 more tickets!  That made my day, she had a finish line and was sticking to it.

As a parent, my wishes are that by the time she is out of the house living on her own, she has a great foundation for making responsible decisions not only with her resources but with her time and goals and especially her problem solving skills.  We all want our children to appreciate the value of hard work.  Good stewardship practices don’t happen by mistake, but bad ones happen naturally.

There is a universal financial principle that I call the Appreciation Principle.  I am sure there is an actual name for it in the financial or academic world.  This principle says that when we work hard and are rewarded a fair and modest wage we tend to have an appreciation for the compensation we have received.  We will be very careful about how we spend it because we know how much effort it took to earn it.  We don’t want our efforts to go for little gain.  Anyone who had grandparents who grew up during the Great Depression probably heard stories of the power of a penny.

The flip side to this principle is the Fast Money Principle. It is  when we come across free money or with little effort (fast money), we tend to value it proportionately to the work we put toward getting it.  The term “Easy come, easy go” comes to mind.  I believe many gamblers have gotten caught up in the Fast Money conundrum that cause them to lose focus on the real value of a dollar.

Proverbs 12:11 “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense”

I have felt this way before too.  I remember when I was a kid around 11 or so, my parents went out of town for a weekend and gave my brother and I each $5 to spend.  My older cousin was staying with us and took us to the 7-11 up the street. I remember making sure I spend every cent of that money and left none to go to waste. I got gum, candy bars, pop and whatever else I could stuff in my face.  $5 went along way back in the late 70’s.  A few weeks later I got $5 for my allowance for doing my chores.  I remember going up to the 7-11 with my friend Tom to play Donkey Kong but I couldn’t get myself to spend any of it because it was the only money I had and I had worked hard for it so I decided to hold onto it.  Tom was ticked and called me a cheap skate. What a difference in perspective. It’s easy to spend other people’s money.

Proverbs 13:11 “Wealth gained hastily, will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.”

Proverbs 20:21 says “An inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end.”

I had an employee several years ago that was in her mid-twenties, a single parent living with her mother with a few small kids.  When tax season came around she received a $9,000 tax refund.  She was so excited to have this money fall into her hands, and was not expecting nearly this much, and now didn’t know what to do with it. To her it was like free money.  There was a single guy that she had a crush on in the store and she decided that she was going to get him to go on vacation with her.  She made her plans known to others that she was going to get her man by bribing him to go on a trip, just the two of them.  I am not sure how interested in her he was but of course he was not going to turn down a free trip to Hawaii.  She blew all the money on a guy that pretended to like her for a couple weeks then dumped her when they got back.  I remember her response was something like, “Oh well, at least I got to go to Hawaii”.

This same person continued to have a couple more children while living with her Mother, the primary caregiver.  I remember her telling me after she had one of them that now she could afford to get a new car.

I am not trying to be judgmental toward her.  She was a decent worker and did her part and she has the freedom to spend her money how she wants.  However, I wonder if she would have learned the value of hard work and stewardship early in life, if things may have turned out different for her and her family.  She really didn’t have any problems or need to grow up because she has always had her Mom to support her and solve her problems. In some ways, not growing up solved her problems.  She’s not alone, there are more out there.

If you are like me and wish to be done with your primary parental responsibilities when the kid leaves the house, I have a suggestion.

You need a finish line.  I use this term quite often in my work place and in training managers.  The idea is that if you have a task to do you need to know what the end game looks like.  You need a finish line.  Knowing the finish line enables you to determine what steps are needed to reach it.   If you enter a bike race and take off down the road but failed to find out where the finish line is, you likely will never cross it.  You may be on an endless ride wandering around aimlessly never really getting closer to the end. But if you know your starting point, and you know your ending point, you can establish a path that will get you to your destination.

When your child becomes a young adult and leaves the house, you need to be done.  Hang with me, here.  I am not saying that you should not be there for them when they need help.  I am saying that as young adults when they come to you for help,  you need to advise them of how they can solve their own problems. Your days of solving their problems need to be done before they walk out the door.  You need to plan for that when they are young so that it happens before they move out. It’s like being on time to something, there’s a journey in between so if you don’t leave on time you won’t get there on time.

It’s not your place to solve your adult children’s problems.  In fact, by doing so you are likely enabling them and encouraging their dependence on other people to get by. If you delay the lessons of adolescence they won’t just simply be a little behind.  They get stuck!

“It’s not your place to solve your adult children’s problems.”

In the same way that it is hard for a young person to appreciate money that has been given to them that they did not earn, it is just as difficult to appreciate the solution to a problem that someone else provides for you.

There are so many people in our culture these days that are in their 20’s, 30’s or 40’s and yet they are stuck in adolescent stage of behavior because they never had to go through it when they were supposed to. We all know that guy, the 30 something man-child that lives in his parents basement. plays video games and hangs with teens down at the skateboard park.  Many people get stuck because their parents failed to set a finish line so they just go through life expecting others to solve their problems for them. Unfortunately, usually stuck parents produce stuck children.

In our company we have had a number of young adult employees whose mother (and some times fathers… no, usually just mothers) would call us on behalf of her child to let us know that her child was going to be late or not able to work that night. I got a call once from a mom that said her daughter would not be coming in to work for the next week because they are going on vacation, then hung up.  I have heard of parents coming to sit in on the interview with their kid and even answer questions for them. The first time this happened I was confused and thought that the kid was a special needs child, then I found out he got an academic scholarship to college a few months later. He understood advanced physics but couldn’t interview for a pizza maker position on his own.  I had a kid’s parents call me to let me know how her daughter isn’t being treated fairly at work and I should fire my manager. My manager sent her home for dropping the F-omb in front of customers.

In each case we do our best to help the parent and employee understand that we did not hire their mother and that they need to confront their issues themselves to work toward solutions.  This is an opportunity for their child to step up and take responsibility, yet sometimes parents seem to fear that more than anything.  We should not deprive our children of these moments. I say we push them into it.  I hope you are not one of these parents. If you are, I am really sorry… see the top 10 list below.

Infants need their parents to be 100% responsible for their wellbeing as they are not yet capable of taking on responsibility.  As they get older they need to be given more leash that comes in the form of freedom, responsibility and opportunities for failure. This needs to be proportional to their maturity and increase over time.  When a child is given too much freedom and too little responsibility, it  can lead to boundary issues and a lack of self-discipline when they are older.  When a child is protected and not allowed to explore, take on new responsibilities, make decisions or mistakes or experience personal loss they can grow up with control issues, lack initiative, or allow fear to take control of their life.  Freedom and responsibility need to go hand in hand if we want our children to be self-dependent when they get to adulthood, no, correction, before they get to adulthood.

Teach your children hard work, let them cry sometimes, make them go without, to appreciate what they have.  Help them learn to fail well, and help them struggle their way out of problems on their way to maturity. That’s being a loving parent.

Top 10 ways to raise a “Man-child”

  1. Continue to breast feed until he’s at least 5 years old. You don’t want them getting a detachment disorder.
  2. Give him candy when he cry’s so he won’t feel bad.
  3. Every time he falls down make a huge deal about the boo boo and smother him with affection. Always assume they are hurt and over react for effect, this helps you demonstrate your love on a deeper level.
  4. Make sure you give them whatever they want for Christmas, Birthdays, other kids’ birthdays, Memorial day, Ground hog’s day, any day in August. You don’t want them to suffer from an inferiority complex.
  5. Believe everything he says, because he is your baby and he would never lie to you.
  6. Put in place a hard and fast rule that he absolutely cannot sleep in your bed after he turns 15, unless he is sick and needs to cuddle.
  7. Tell him constantly how handsome, smart and perfect he is so he has to grow up feeling like he has to live up to your perfect image of him. Maybe that will motivate him toward greatness!
  8. Remember, if you discipline him, he will think you don’t love him.
  9.  Put fingernail polish on him when he is 3 and dress him like a saylor or a duck, then act surprised when he is confused later in life.
  10. Keep him away from all heavy machinery, deep wells, rivers, gravel, roller blades, bicycles, playgrounds, hard pillows, the sun, dairy, gluten, and anything that sheds or bites. Use plenty of sunblock, even indoors and assume all injuries are permanent and degenerative.
  11. Come up with a term of endearment like “Cupcake” or “Peanut” and call him that the rest of his life, especially in front of his Prom date.  Wait, never mind, he won’t have one.

I know, that was 11, consider it a bonus.  I am an over-communicator.

Reason To Be

One of the hardest challenges we face as human beings on this earth is to find a reason to be. Purpose seems to be the one thing that you absolutely need to have in order to garnish any sense of worth. Most people have spent much time searching for it but struggle to find it. Sure, people do lots of things on purpose for lots of different reasons, but to tie them together for a bigger more important reason outside of there own need seems to be less popular than our Presidential candidates.

The Search

The search for purpose in life differs depending on your worldview and sometimes it doesn’t even seem to be necessary.  If you believe that ‘what is real’ is limited only to what is “natural”, any purpose for your own life is limited to a finite perspective that seems to lead to the same ending no matter how you slice it. Life is short and then you die.

You may find a temporary purpose but in the end it all seems like a vacation without a destination.  Being part of a story without an author, leads people to become authors without a story.

There are too many people in our world without a story.  We position ourselves as authors of our own life but fail to find a story worth telling.  It’s seems so easy to come to the conclusion that there is no real lasting hope in our world, that we can only seek temporary satisfaction while we are here.

“Being part of a story without an author, leads people to become authors without a story.”
The book of Ecclesiastes sums this up pretty well.  The following was written by a man that came to the same conclusion.  Solomon takes a long hard look at what the world looks like “under the sun” (apart from a Creator).  He wrote the book of Ecclesiastes as a journal of his journey to find purpose.

Ecc 1:1-4 “The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?  Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.  1:14 “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”

It’s not just Solomon the author of the book of Ecclesiastes that came to the conclusion that apart from a Creator “life is meaningless”.   In fact, what other conclusion can you possibly come up with?!  It’s no wonder we have so many people walking around with nothing to say, noting to believe in and no reason to be.

Broken Dreams

So, what if I bought my daughter a Birthday present, hid it in the shed outside, then told her she had to find it if she wanted it, but also told her it is somewhere in the house and she would not need to look outside?  She would begin her search with much excitement and her anticipation would grow as her expectation of receiving something nice that her father has personally handpicked just for her.  I can imagine her looking all around the house, behind furniture, under beds, closets, and eventually in the cupboards and in the bathroom.  Ultimately her excitement would turn to frustration, and then later on she would begin to get upset and give up.  She would surely conclude that there is no present and it was all a hoax and she was the butt of a horrible joke.  This undoubtedly would do some damage to her perspective.  It is not that there is an absence of a gift, it is that there is a limit to the range she is searching.

I think sometimes people can feel this same way about life.  Like someone told them that there is hope for love, joy and happiness but failed to tell them where to find it. If we just follow the crowd, they will surely lead us to the jackpot.  After years of looking in the wrong places, following the wrong advice they eventually came to the same conclusion as Solomon, “life is meaningless”.

The Bigger Picture

Maybe we need to stop limiting our perspective to just what is “under the sun”.  Maybe someone should tell my daughter that her gift may be outside of the house.  Could it be that our reason to be is there after all but we have allowed others to convince us that our world is much smaller and darker than it really is?  What if the picture that has been painted for us isn’t wide enough or tall enough or bright enough to tell the whole story as it really is?

Lots of people spend their whole lives stuck in a box never to find out that the box isn’t really locked.  They just didn’t believe there was anything outside the box or believed it was locked.

“What if the picture that has been painted for us isn’t wide enough or tall enough or bright enough to tell the whole story as it really is?”
I will tell you there is a reason to be, but it’s not “under the sun”, however when you find it, it will change how you see and experience everything “under the sun”.

It’s Right under Your Nose

If you have yet to find your reason to be, I encourage you to look one more place.  Open your Bible, read it and find out if it is true. Don’t trust me or anyone else, find out for yourself.  Don’t worry; you don’t need to believe it to read it.  That will take care of itself, if it’s true.

You will begin to find your reason to be.  Don’t believe me?  try it, I dare you!  If you don’t currently have a reason to be, you have nothing to lose.  What’s the worst that can happen? You may chase a little wind, but then, chances are you may be already doing that. Been there, done that!

I would love to talk with anyone who wants to discuss or know more about this, shoot me an email at joelsmith123@yahoo.com