3 Crucial Steps to Giving a “Better Life Than We Had” to Our Children
The idea of wanting a better life for my children was the basis for most of my parenting conversations with my wife as we began planning for a family. However, as we thought about the type of parents we wanted to be, we realized that much of who we are stems from our upbringing, including the circumstances and challenges we faced and overcame—not necessarily because we had better (or easier) lives than our parents.
Eliminating many of the problems in our society, such as entitlement and instant gratification, begins in the home—but it takes some effort. Here are a few things to consider as you help your kids make their way in the world.
1. Teaching your children accountability
We want to give our children the best. However, our best intentions can sometimes come at a cost. Always bailing a child out of unfavorable situations could set them up for a rude awakening down the line when we aren’t around to help them out.
Teaching kids that their actions have consequences, on the other hand, helps them act responsibly and be better decision-makers.
I’ve observed that parents can foster greater independence in their children by teaching them to be accountable for even small day-to-day actions. For instance, if your child leaves a math assignment on the kitchen counter, think about not immediately running to their aid by dropping it off at school for them. If you hold your child accountable, they likely won’t forget to pick up their homework before leaving the house again.
2. Encouraging financial intelligence
There’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach to how much financial assistance parents should provide for their children, but parents who want to raise financially smart children must teach and model financial principles. Talk with your partner about what your children should be financially responsible for, considering what works best for your parenting style and your family.
Regardless of how old your kids are, start thinking about how to approach big expenses like cars, for example. A teen may not realize how much a new car costs or that a pricier car will likely require a higher insurance premium than what you already pay, so it’s up to you to have those conversations with them. One way to help a child be accountable for expensive things they want is to have that child help pay for at least some of the cost by doing some odd tasks for neighbors or by getting a job.
Chore and allowance policies also deserve some discussion. While chores help children learn responsibility, paying your kids for doing those chores may communicate that work is an optional way to get something they want. Children need money to learn how to manage money, so giving some allowance is fine, but make sure they understand that certain tasks require internal motivation rather than a monetary reward. That distinction will serve them well later in life.
3. Balancing family relationships
Finally, don’t overlook the fact that putting in a ton of effort to clear a path for your kids can take a big toll on your relationship with your partner. It’s so easy to get so caught up in making life better for the kids that other relationships suffer. Your involvement with your children shows them your support and encouragement, but it shouldn’t be the sole focus of your life.
It may seem counterintuitive, but you can actually give your children better lives by prioritizing your relationship with your significant other. Children need to see strong, healthy relationships modeled in the home. I believe it better equips them to be successful in their relationships with others, and it’s a good opportunity to show them that other people’s needs matter too.
It’s normal to want to give our children a better life than we had. In fact, we should look for ways to improve our homes, communities, and world. However, we must also recognize that much of who we are is shaped by the challenges we face—not the absence of hard work, disappointment, and even failure.
Where do you fall on this parenting spectrum? How have you encouraged independence and delayed gratification with your kids?
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