Is it the parents?

This weekend we had a group of families staying over, about 30 people in all, and a dozen kiddos. In the morning we had several activities, including our giant swing. One mother arrived back on the property with her 11 year old around lunchtime. I spotted the girl walking across the main area crying from inside the kitchen, so I knew the mom who was flanking her was bee-lining to ask us to help fix something so her daughter would stop crying.

The mom asked me if we could set up and let her daughter get a chance on the giant swing since she had been at lacrosse all morning and missed out. Of course I said yes and at some point later in the afternoon a couple of my staff sent her up.

The problem here is that parents aren’t teaching their kids that choices have consequences. If you are in a lacrosse league, and choose to go to the game Saturday morning, you may not get to do everything the other kiddos who didn’t go to sports got to do. That’s life. By teaching their kids that the world will shift to accommodate their needs, we are not raising them to be healthy, happy, strong adults.

It is hard for me to lay much blame on the shoulders of millennials when we all know that in our childhood, our parents borrowed more than anyone ever had before them to make sure they got to increase their living standards. American credit card debt rose throughout the 90s as millennials’ parents insisted they deserved better than they were getting and just went out and bought those things.

While it may be true that mortgages are the single biggest factor in debt (according to this 2014 study, there is a .96 out of 1.00 correlation between size of debt and presence of a mortgage), this doesn’t excuse our parents. Not everyone has the income to be a homeowner. Every parent, by biological necessity, wants the best for their children. “No”, “You can’t have/do that”, and “Life’s not fair” are three important lessons every parents should practice into the mirror every day until they can do a better job raising their children.

I think there are two really easy ways to think about this that will help (both, ironically, from the keynote addresses at the Tri-States Camping Conferences the last two years). First, change the way you talk about your life – instead of “I have to pay the bills / walk the dog / go to work …” say “I get to pay the bills / walk the dog / go to work” – Bert and John Jacobs, Founders of Life is Good. This sentiment teaches us to recognize the privileges we have in all things, which encourages gratitude. Second, when asked how she could cultivate the ego necessary to be president while at the same time maintaining the humility to keep the common touch, Hillary Clinton replied that she reflected daily on a need for a “discipline of gratitude.”

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