Continually doing favours for your children will do them no favours.
For most well-adjusted adults, parenting is one of the most exciting times of one’s life. Nothing prepares us for the love we feel for that little person who arrives in our lives, takes a firm grip on our hearts and then, over the years, precariously goes “walk about” with our hearts in their hands.
We’d be embarrassed to admit that we find ourselves doing things and putting up with things regarding our children that we wouldn’t do for or put up with in our partners! And we would give our kids the world if we could.
But giving them the world is not in their best interests …
When everything is handed to a child on a plate and they don’t have to develop, grow and strive to achieve certain goals using their own effort, skills and determination, they don’t develop character.
That’s the tragedy many parents who achieve success in their own careers experience.
When you make everything easy for your child, they have no need to exercise their minds and build character to achieve goals. Why bother when your parents do everything for you?
It’s a fact of life that you build muscle by exposing your muscles to resistance – it’s called working out with weights! No muscle gets built while its owner sits on a couch, feeding their face and watching TV. You have to work your muscles if you want to grow and strengthen them!
The same principle applies to children. If you want to instil ethics, character, determination, resilience and focus in your children, do them a favour – let them encounter resistance and work things out for themselves in an age appropriate manner. That doesn’t mean you have to go to the opposite extreme and become unreasonably hard on them. Not at all. Let them grapple with things but, where appropriate, provide them with help.
Young children are the most self-centred creatures in the Universe. That’s not a criticism of them. It’s a statement of fact. We were all like that. We all arrived in the world thinking that the world revolved around us, and we had to be taught that our perception of being the centre of the Universe is in fact incorrect. Those of us who were fortunate to be taught by our parents that we had to learn to stand on our own two feet can be grateful to our parents for doing so.
One of the things I remember my mother saying to me when, as a small boy I would whinge about having to do something I didn’t want to do was, “Come on, you’re big and ugly enough to do it yourself.” She was right on both counts – I was big enough and I still am ugly!
Seriously, though, all these years later, I’m glad my mother taught me to stand on my own two feet. When I witness young boys whose mothers do everything for them – tidy their rooms, pick up after them, smooth the way for them in every regard, I go cold, as I can see the hell that’s awaiting their future partners. Young boys who have mothers who cater to their every whim grow up to think that that’s what all women are supposed to do – take care of them.
Mothers, don’t spoil your sons for their future partners. Teach your boys to take responsibility for themselves so that they can look after themselves and don’t need someone else to look after them.
Fathers, teach your sons ethics. You don’t learn ethics at business school. You learn ethics from the time you’re old enough to know right from wrong. We actually don’t have a crime problem (although we DO). We have a parenting problem. If every parent raised their children to respect the property and lives of others, there would be no crime problem.
So, if you’re successful in your career, that’s wonderful. But think about how you got to where you are. Chances are it wasn’t because someone handed you everything on a plate. You will be the first to acknowledge that you worked jolly hard to achieve what you have. Make sure that you give your children those same opportunities. Give them the opportunity to stretch those muscles of theirs so that they mature into capable, caring and compassionate human beings – the type of which you can be understandably proud!
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, and a Leadership Development Expert who specialises in developing leaders of all ages. He is the author of the best seller parenting book What Nobody Tells a New Father. In 2018, he was named by US web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the “Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter”. In 2020, he was named one of the “Top 200 Global Power Thought Leaders to watch in 2021” by peopleHum. In 2022, he was named one of the “Top 200 Biggest Voices in Leadership” by LeadersHum.