ICFE eNEWS #16-02 - Jan 25th 2015
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How To Avoid An Affluenza Epidemic
By Jim Garnett, a/k/a Ask Mr.G, a member of the ICFE's Board of Educational Advisors
"Affluenza" is a word brought to the forefront of today's vocabulary by
the court case against teenager Ethan Couch. The drunken Mr. Couch was
driving illegally on a restricted license and, while doing 70 mph in a
40 mph zone, lost control and plowed into a group of people killing four
and injuring nine.
His high-powered defense attorneys explained his total lack of remorse
by claiming he was the product of affluenza, meaning "the inability to
understand the consequences of one's actions because of financial
privilege." The Judge apparently acknowledged this defense and Couch was
"sentenced" to ten years' probation, which required in-patient therapy
at a posh rehab center "that includes horseback riding, mixed martial
arts, massage and cookery, a swimming pool, and basketball." Sounds like
a nice place to take the family for vacation.
Regardless of what we might think about the Judge's decision, this talk
of "affluenza" makes one ask, "Can parents do too much for their
children? Can they over-indulge them to the extent that the children are
harmed instead of helped?"
Many of us believe the answer to this question is "Yes."
Well-intentioned parents can do so much for their children that their
children adopt an entitlement philosophy and think that the world owes
them a living. This can adversely affect the child into adulthood.
So, let me share with you three ways to "inoculate" our kids against
catching this affluenza "virus."
1. Be Sure There Is Participation In Our Giving. Not every time, but
sometimes, we should require our kids to invest "sweat equity" in the
process of getting things. I mean by this that occasionally our kids
should contribute for part of the cost of the gift.
My parents followed this practice, which was portrayed in their
oft-quoted phrase, "Money doesn't grow on trees around here." They
wanted me to understand that getting things usually requires someone to
exert effort, energy, and sacrifice.
So, sometimes I would have to earn a portion of the cost of the item. I
think that was the common thinking of parents in the 50's and 60's when
I grew up. I never resented it and actually think my "contribution"
allowed me to better realize the value of what I received. I saw its
worth because I had "skin in the game."
Children that are simply given things all the time have difficulty
connecting the dots between the gift and someone working to get it.
Requiring participation occasionally will give our kids a much clearer
understanding of how the world really works.
2. Be Sure There Is Anticipation In Our Giving. We can cheat our
children out of one of the greatest joys in life by not occasionally
requiring a space of time between the wanting and the getting.
Think of how much different Christmas giving would be if our kids
followed us down the store aisle and received their gifts as they
pointed them out. It is much more of an adventure to have gifts under
the tree that you can see but not open yet. The anticipation created in
having to wait is a major part of the fun!
Maybe the old "lay-away plan" of yesterday was a better way to buy
things than the "using our credit card and getting it right now" method
we use today. The item was set aside (laid away) for us in the store
while we made payments on it and when all the payments had been made, we
took the item home with us. I dare say we appreciated the item more by
anticipating having it.
Anticipation adds a dimension to giving that is often lacking today. It
is a valuable tool and ought to be used occasionally in our giving to
3. Be Sure There Is Appreciation For Our Giving. Most of us are givers
by nature and enjoy giving, especially to our kids. But our giving ought
to be "dialed back" when we sense that our kids are not appreciating
what we give them.
One of the products of our giving ought to be the cultivation of a
grateful heart in our children. When that is absent, our giving becomes
just an end itself and can well be harmful for our kids instead of
Sadly, there are subtle reasons we can give to our children that center
all around "us" and not "them." 1) We can give out of jealousy so others
will think our kids have as much as the Jones'; 2). we can give out of
guilt using the gifts as a substitute for not giving as much of
ourselves as we should; or 3). We can give out of convenience because
our giving "shuts them up" and we don't have to listen to their whining!
It is good and natural for parents to want to give to their children,
but our giving always ought to be in their best interests. Not just so
the kids receive something outwardly; they ought to receive something
inwardly too. Our giving to them ought to make them better.
Participation, Anticipation, and Appreciation are three things that will
help insure that outcome.
© Jim Garnett, The Debt Doctor
AskMrG Consulting, LLC
2216 SW 35th Street
Ankeny, IA 50023
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