Summertime: Why easier & easier…makes it harder & harder!
Graduations abound all around us. That’s a sure sign summer is here! Your kids need a break. You need a break. Likely, most of us do. We all yearn for some time to relax, abandon the pressured life, and have some old-fashioned fun. Yet, how much ease is optimal? Should we keep makings summers easier and easier for our youth, who are moving toward adulthood?
Let’s Make it Easier… Give Them What They Want.
Many children face the summer with multiple vacations, hanging at the pool and an endless array of sleepovers and day trips to have fun. They won’t crack a book, pick up a rake or make a bed. Mom or Dad are not only providing what seems like an endless array of entertainment, but they are also responding to repeated, urgent requests for sleepovers, pool parties and sudden get-togethers.
All things considered; the focus is on making sure children get to do (mostly) what they want. The ‘making it easy’ approach is filled with ease and fun, and little demand to contribute or to take on responsibility. When kids ask for something, many of us just give in…and go.
Too often, we have become wish-fulfilling machines for our children, giving them what they want over and over. Why?
Give Them What They Want… They Will Be Happier…Perhaps?
Check your own history, and experiences with your children. When they keep getting what they want, do they really seem happier? Are they fulfilled, and riding waves of joy for days and weeks on end?
No, they are not. There may be the appearance of happiness for a moment or two, but then notice: Most quickly want something else, or they are complaining about what they do have. Why is this?
The Problems with Kids Getting Everything They Want.
Usually, there is little to no effort in the getting.
This is a tremendous set-up for misery in life. Rarely, do we get anything of value without the giving of real effort. And when we raise children with the formula that they ask, and then they get…well, you can see the set-up!
Deep appreciation for all we ‘get’ flows from having ‘skin in the game.’
You can also see where many children and teens are accustomed to getting stuff, entertainment, and doing what they want WITHOUT having any real ‘skin in the game.’ They do not then experience much appreciation for all they have. If we want more appreciative kids this summer, make sure they have contributed in some way to what they want. (At least make this true a good portion of the time!)
Appreciation is the mother of happiness.
Without it, it’s hard to find real happiness. And with sincere, deep appreciation, happiness seems to spring up everywhere. So, you can then see how this comes together. Without putting forth effort toward their desires, there is often little appreciations. Without appreciation, there is little happiness.
There is no growth or contribution in just getting.
One way to create a deep sense of satisfaction and inner happiness is through our own personal growth, and through contributing to something bigger than ourselves. If children/teens are just focused on the narcissistically consumed world of getting what they want (and usually getting it RIGHT NOW), then kids never have a chance to dig deeply into something beyond their own ego-driven desires. This is more important than it appears, even if it just means that you mow the lawn or help your grandmother around the house or devote a day to community service in some way.
Conclusion: Your children getting all they want is not a formula for happiness. The easy life is not a formula for happiness or success. The research has proven this is true.
Getting what we want just leads to more wanting, and this is pure misery. Whether it’s the physical stuff, the time with friends, or the time online… more getting is not the answer. And easier is also not the answer. It breeds laziness, and the desire for seeking immediate ease and fun over the more meaningful efforts leading to growth and contribution.
Final Note: Making it too easy now will only make it hard later.
Please consider this critical conclusion. Life is simply not that easy, especially if you want to be happy and successful. It takes effort. It takes skin in the game. It takes finding a way to contribute to something more than your immediate desires for ease and entertainment.
Consider using this summer as a platform to begin to teach this critical lesson. Make sure there are chores, contributions to community and family, as well as time to invest their own efforts into something that they want or desire. You can do it, and it will matter immensely. The consequences of ignoring this are painful.
Dr. Randy Cale, a Clifton Park-based parenting expert, author, speaker and licensed psychologist, offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. His website, www.TerrificParenting.com, offers free parenting guidance and an email newsletter. Readers can learn more by reviewing past articles found on the websites of The Saratogian, The Record and The Community News. Submit questions to DrRandyCal[email protected]