Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Spoiling My Children

Tibor R. Machan

This idea of tough love, I am sick of it. When I was a kid I had plenty
of tough—actually brutal—love cast my way, prompting me to run from home once I got to be of age (couldn’t do it before because the cops would have dragged me back). So I decided a few things then and there.

For one, I wouldn’t have children until I myself grew up. My first was
born when I was 40. And good thing too—by then I had pretty much gotten rid off much of the pent up anger engendered by my own parents who—in their defense—tried to raise kids in the midst of communism, which was no picnic. Also, there was economics. As a first generation American, an immigrant, in other words, I thought it a bad idea to bring kids into the world without funds to support them. So I wanted to be solvent when they were born. Not only that. Because of that miserable system of socialism, still adored by too many people in the Western academic world, my family was poor, as were most people back in Hungary. So I started to work at 11, in a bakery, and haven’t stopped since. Not that it was such a bad thing. But then some of us turn things around pretty good and I learned not to let stuff get to me too much, lest I’d be unhappy all the time.

But I had no desire to put my kids through the hardships I experienced. Certainly, once I had the ability to provide for them and more, I did so. Even now, when they are young adults, I figure what else should I spend my spare change on besides helping them out, provided it’s reasonable. So I do.

Some of my friends warn me that this is bad for my kids. They should struggle for everything. I say, bunk. If I can, I will help out so they
can start with a pleasant life and that is how it has gone and still
goes, partly because I help out. I have tried suggesting to them, firmly,
that my help is temporary and they need to become self-sufficient; but is it necessary to acclimate them to this fact by not giving them goodies
they would like and I can provide? I don’t think so. That idea suggests
that kids need to be trained, not taught. I think they can be taught.

Indeed, I find it odd that so many people have come to believe that doing nice things for one’s kids is something of a liability. Clearly it’s
pleasant for me—I enjoy it when they can live pleasantly with my help. And it seems, too, that there is a time when young people need to be young people, not yet adults. And that’s when they ought to have an abundance of fun. If it can be had, so much the better.

All in all, my idea is that raising kids is done best by providing a good example for them—if you work hard, are responsible, keep your word, are creative, and so forth, as the adult who is most prominent in your kids’ lives they will most likely learn from that, plus a bit of wise counsel. (That's while the basic necessities are taken good care of, of course.) You don’t need to deploy behavior modification techniques, as if they were circus animals that need to be trained all the time.

Come to think of it, the point is that kids have minds and aren’t
passively reacting to the world around them. Sure, it may have been one unavoidable way to raise someone to put him through endless hoops and hurdles, all that tough love stuff. But I bet that if my parents—at least my mother—had not had to deal with the damned commissars and bureaucrats all the time, she, too, would rather have “spoiled” me instead of subject me to all those strictures I now recall somewhat bitterly.

So, I say, spoil the kids, if you can couple it with some decent advice and set an example you aren’t ashamed of. The rest is up to them.

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