While walking through one of my favorite discount stores the other day, I happened upon a scene that gave me hope for America's future. It was change I could believe in, for sure.
As her four children hopped around her, begging her in their most pitiful voices to buy them something, a mother stood chanting, “No, no, no, no, no….”
As I walked by, it struck me that the economy, bad as it is, could have beneficial effects on parenting. After all, I haven't witnessed a scene of that sort in quite some time, and I've seen two in the last two weeks, in two different cities, widely separated. Something is happening.
In the economy we've had in recent years, parents could afford to be Sugar Mommies and Daddies. They can afford to buy cell phones for 6-year-olds and expensive German automobiles for 16-year-olds. They can dress their kids in designer clothes, adorn their rooms with the latest in electronic gear, and generally treat them to a standard of living that most people in the world never attain. Those days are fast coming to an end.
Fifteen years ago, I began telling audiences around the United States that today's kids, when and if they truly grow up and leave home for good, will look to two sources to continue the entitlements their parents have provided: the government and employers. Need I comment on the former? As for employers, the executives and managers I talk to tell me today's young people, fresh out of colleges that pamper them like their parents did, are not looking for jobs. Rather, they are looking for benefits. A job is an inconvenient reality into which they will put minimum effort.
When I was a kid, nearly every child enjoyed a responsible role in his or her family, a role defined by chores. By and large, today's kids have no chores. Their parents are too busy running them to superfluous after-school activities that may build certain skills, but fail to build what endures: good citizenship.
I'm confident that children like it when they have no responsibilities toward their families; that they are consumers and not contributors. But then children like lots of things that aren't good for them.
Perhaps the economy will force parents to cut back on after-school trivia, let their home cleaning and yard maintenance services go, and put their kids to work. In any case, I can't think of anything that would be better for America's future than kids who have less and work more. If you'd like to help start this new American parenting revolution, all you have to do is remember these words: “No, no, no, no, no.”