Is it any wonder that Generation Y could also be dubbed as the “Entitled Generation?” It’s not uncommon for a child as young as six years old to have an iPhone, a Wii, a personal trainer along with an on-line social presence. Young people seem to come with their own entourage of necessities in order to survive childhood now days, unlike generations before them.
American families face tremendous pressure to keep up with technology, social trends and the ever changing pop culture – all of which costs money, and a lot of it. Not surprisingly, most 21st Century parents are willing to deal out the Benjamin’s for their kids, ignoring potential consequences of their own debt crisis. Marina Pisano of the Victoria Advocate defined the Entitled Generation as “Spongers…gold-collar kids in blue-collar families…” Where did parents go wrong?
The reality is that most parents want their children to have the good life – to have it all. While there is nothing wrong with this ideal, most parents will do what it takes to meet the demands of their children. The result can often lead to an empowered child consumer that is unfamiliar with life’s most necessary components: hard work, common sense and happiness.
Bill Gates appeared on the Today show recently and revealed that his own children, at age 13, were finally ready to have a cell phone. Obviously cost was not a factor in his decision. While most parents cringe to think what their 10-year old would do without a cell phone, Gates holds true to this philosophy in a world where we have over-authorized our children to make decisions. Advertisements place children in consumer roles at the epicenter of car purchases, food choices, internet services and various other adult-type of purchases for the family. Parents have succumbed to the expectation to work hard to meet the on-going and ever-changing demands of their children as consumers. Parents have easily fallen victim to emotional purchases to fill in every need and want in their children’s lives. All the while, marketers and business owners are also counting on them to fulfill their child’s every desire.
Parents, it’s time to get wise. Take back the remote control and click the pause button on your finances. Do it quickly before it becomes too difficult to make ends meet. Instead of placing value on the latest gadgets and trends, embrace an opportunity to teach three simple lifelong lessons to your children.
The first lesson is the value of a dollar. You can do this easily by incorporating simple chores that earn money into your child’s weekly routine. Support this with teaching your child to save for something over a long period of time. This lesson is worth its weight in gold.
The second lesson is the art of patience. Saying no to your child is easier than you might think. Practice in the mirror first if you must. Be prepared for a fight, but it will get easier. Draw your line by starting with small things before saying no to bigger decisions. Make your child wait for things even though you may be able to provide them easily. Be prepared to discuss the reasons why, but remember, you are the parent and you can say “I'll think about it” or “no” without much explanation. This will not damage your child for life.
The last lesson is to be frugal. Show your child how to shop and compare prices to get the most for the money he has earned. Teach your child how to make the decision to purchase or not to purchase. Take time to discuss pros and cons of products with your child. These tidbits are a valuable part of learning to be a wise consumer that he will need as an adult.
By teaching young people these lifelong lessons, you will invest in their future livelihood and wean them off of your wallet naturally as they become self sufficient adults. You might also be surprised to see what will happen as they come up with ingenious ways of compromise and survival while you save your money. Remember this parents - it is okay to say “no” and it’s very easy to reply “wait.”