You hear it all the time: “I just want to give my kids a better life than I had.” It’s a noble sentiment and something that is very natural as loving and caring parents looking to bring our children into the future. Our natural instinct is to protect and provide for our offspring every step of the way, and it makes us feel good to give them all the things that we wish that we had when we were growing up.
The problem with this mindset is that it tends to produce weaker people. Part of what makes a generation strong is the struggle it has to endure to survive. It is overcoming obstacles that makes people competent and intelligent and able to solve the problems that life throws at them. When everything is done for us, we become incapable of figuring out how to do things ourselves.
When we look back at “the greatest generation“, we see a group of people whose lives were defined by terrible struggle. They grew up in the Great Depression and then had to cross an ocean to fight great evil in World War II. It wasn’t just the soldiers who had to make sacrifices, either. The public at large had to put life in general on hold to support those who were sent to fight for what was good. This extreme period of time in global history produced a group of people who had struggled enough to gain the strength and discipline necessary to get things done.
Contrast that with the people of today, and the story is very different. Several generations of parent who coddle their children have produced a people who are always asking the question “what’s in it for me?” Children are now raised by people who have never had to struggle a day in their lives and have no real life experience to pass on to them. You can’t give what you don’t have, and generations lacking discipline certainly can’t teach the next one how to be effective.
Of course, like anything else, this doesn’t apply universally. There are plenty of people in the world today who grew up in situations that forced them to mature and figure out how to make their own lives work. They didn’t have parents who could afford to pay for their school or buy them a car or help them get into an apartment. Hard work and disciplined spending was required to make it happen.
The problem is that there just aren’t enough of those people around anymore. While part of the problem may be these “helicopter parents” who hand hold their children through life, we have created third parent in the form of our welfare state. Even if we don’t have coddling parents to prop us up when we fall, we can turn to Big Brother to bail us out when things don’t go our way.
It is the coddling of America that has produced the weak generations we’re seeing today. The longer we continue to believe the idea that we should be giving our kids what we never had, the worse things are going to get. They must earn all of the things they want in life if they are going to truly appreciate it, and the more we give it to them the more we are taking from them in the end. At some point, we have to decide that the best thing we can do is let them earn it the same way it was earned before. Only then can we reverse this trend of weakness.
What do you think about providing for our children? Do we take away too much by trying to give them more? How much is too much? Many times it takes an era of crisis to produce a competent generation, but perhaps we can avoid this by simply choosing to make things hard on our kids from the start. It’s good that we love them, but life is about doing the hard things, and only hard people can do hard things.
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