Handicapping Kids

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One of my husband’s favorite authors is Robert Heinlein. Besides being a brilliant writer, he was a prescient observer of the human condition.

Just this morning I came across a Quote of the Day fromSurvivalBlog as follows:

“Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.” – Robert Heinlein

I couldn’t help but feel this was SO apt.

Spoiled child-2How much harm do we do to our children by not requiring them to work for their money, or to take responsibility for their actions, or to understand the gravity of the choices they make?

In some regards, children in the past had some advantages over children today. First of all, they were surrounded (mostly) by adults who modeled admirable qualities as a matter of daily life: hard work, self-control, clean speech, manners, etc. Material possessions were scarce by today’s standards.

I have no desire to embrace “the good old days,” but there’s no question today’s abundant resources, trashy popular culture, and the ability to skate through life without taking personal responsibility for bad choices has impacted adults and children in negative ways.

We’ve tried to cultivate the opposite: frugality, a pure culture, and personal responsibilities for our kids. By comparison to past hardships, our girls have undoubtedly had easy lives. Yet I hope we’ve imbued them with qualities that will serve them well as adults. We don’t want to handicap them in that regard.

I’ve always loved the poems by Roald Dahl that appeared in the original book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. After the spoiled brat Veruca Salt fell down the garbage chute, this is (in part) what the Oompah Loompahs had to say:

Be wondering — is it really right

That every single bit of blame

And all the scolding and the shame

Should fall upon Veruca Salt?

Is she the only one at fault?

For though she’s spoiled, and dreadfully so,

A girl can’t spoil herself, you know.

Who spoiled her, then? Ah, who indeed?

Who pandered to her every need?

Who turned her into such a brat?

Who are the culprits? Who did that?

Alas! You needen’t look so far

To find out who these sinners are.

They are (and this is very sad)

Her loving parents, MUM and DAD.
Methinks Robert Heinlein was right.

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