Giving Your Child an Unfair Advantage


By Ron Hindbaugh, M.A.


It is an interesting observation that some children seem to have solid values relating to achievement and personal responsibility while others do not. When children, who do seem to have this trait, are asked how they achieve or get good grades, the answer is usually something like, "I do my practicing or homework before anything else."

A parent of an achiever was asked what it was that helped their child gain this "achieving" attitude. He said that his daughter Judy was expected to be responsible. When she was not, natural consequences were applied. She had to struggle. He did not rescue her. He also related that Judy was expected to do her chores, be respectful of her parents, and apply herself to her schoolwork.

"Judy knows where we stand," said Dad. "She knows that she has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; not the right to life, liberty, and someone else to provide happiness for her. Judy is busy pursuing her own happiness through achievement and personal responsibility."

Judy's Dad is giving her an unfair advantage over others. Instead of concentrating on Judy's rights and the importance of equality, Judy's parents are teaching her responsibility. While the other parents are busy "taking care" of their children, Judy's Dad is teaching her how to take care of herself.

Judy's Dad said, "The way I look at it, there may never be a time when everyone will have equal opportunity. As long as some people work harder then others and place a high value on achievement through struggle, they will always have and advantage over others."

Every time an employer hires new employees they are faced with the realization that some applicants have an unfair advantage over the others. They are the ones who have learned to take responsibility for their own actions. They are the ones who pursue their own success and do not wait for someone to hand it to them. They are the ones who do not blame the system or others for their problems. They are the ones who have learned to struggle. They are the ones who have learned to work. They are the ones who get the jobs.

In the last fifty years, we have gradually tried to protect our children from struggle. Many parents have said, "I don't want my children to have to struggle like I did. I want them to have a better life and all the things I never did." If we want our children succeed we can not continue to think this way. We need to recognize the importance of learning to be successful through struggle. The opportunity to struggle is what helps an individual achieve greatness.

Your child can stand out and have real advantages over others by learning to struggle and be responsible early in life. When teachers challenge kids who have struggled, they think, "No big deal, I'm not afraid to struggle. In the end I will get what I want by struggling." Later, when they are challenged by their employer they will respond in the same way.

Help your child learn early in life that they need to pull their share of the load at home. Splitting up the household chores is one of the best ways to do this. The dishes need to be done. Toilets need to be cleaned. Beds need to be made. Carpets need to be vacuumed. Walks need to be shoveled. Food needs to be cooked. Tables need to be set, etc.

A good way to assign these tasks is to call a family meeting and divide up the jobs. Hold each child responsible for their tasks. Let them struggle with their job and appreciate their success. If they refuse or cannot do their part, have them hire you or another child do their job. I can't think of a better for a child who wants a life of leisure to spend their allowance money. (Even a life of leisure requires that something is given up, that struggling occurs, to obtain the leisure.)

Another way to help the child learn to struggle is to budget money for family expenses such as clothing. If your child wants clothing that costs more then you have budgeted let them work (struggle) to come up with the difference. Don't give in to the urge to "get it for them." Don't give in to the urge to "save them" from the embarrassment of wearing cloths that are "out of style" or "cheap."

With a little creativity you will be able to figure out how to give your child "learning experiences" that will help them learn the value of work and responsibility. Learn to stay out of your child's way, saying as little as possible when they are struggling to accomplish these tasks. If you can do, this they will eventually gain the strength they need to solve any problems life can throw them.

A final caution: Do not get caught in the trap of rescuing your child from the struggles of life. A child, who does not struggle, does not learn how to achieve. A child who does struggle learns to be responsible for his/her own growth and as a result has an advantage over others who were not give this opportunity for growth.