Thursday, September 18, 2014

Handicapping kids

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 from SurvivalBlog as follows:

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

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

How 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.


  1. Methinks you and Don are absolutely correct about Robert A. Heinlein, Patrice! He is and always has been my favorite author, as well. I first "discovered" his stories when my dad was reading Heinlein's "Puppet Masters." I was 11 years old and being curious about the picture on the paperback book's cover, I asked my dad about the story. He let me read it when he was through and I was totally enthralled! I still have that paperback, as well as most of the other early stories by Heinlein.

    When I was in the 7th grade in junior high school, I was browsing the school library when I came across the "young adult fiction" section. There I found "Red Planet" by Heinlein. I took it home and read it that weekend. I loved it! Monday, I took it back and checked out "Citizen of the Galaxy," then "Between Planets" and on and on. A "new" Heinlein book every weekend. I was in 7th Heaven!

    My parents never spent much time with me when I was growing up. I realized many years later that all the common sense and wisdom I'd learned as I grew through my teen years I received from Mr. Heinlein. He taught me right from wrong. How I should act in all situations and how OTHERS should act. He taught me how to be a decent human being and a man.

    By the way, my favorite story of his is "Have Space Suit Will Travel." It was a take-off on a very successful TV western of that time: "Have Gun Will Travel." --Fred in AZ

  2. We haul hay, feed livestock and currently have the corner of a 90 year old barn up on a couple of beams 3 floor jacks and a hydraulic jack. We concreted the top of the foundation to smooth it for a replacement sill... It is projects like this that have our 17 year old saying "Oh, oh - sounds like more "character building" for me.....!" Or "You mean I don't already have enough "character"....?

    The best part of course is that people have always thought we have some very nice children.....and now young adults (the other is 20)..

    There are too many kids out there that have missed out on hard work and discipline along with the love of two truly is sad. Natokadn

  3. I couldn't agree more. I work with young people who have gotten into trouble with things like drugs, alcohol, shoplifting etc. The kids are fairly easy to work with...the parents not so much. It's frustrating because I know it's likely they will reoffend because the parents don't instill the respect of the law, others and themselves the kids truly need.

    1. The funny part is that our eldest - in a recent interview- told the "interviewee" (after asked if her parents were concerned her about co-workers) "No, my parents were not concerned about me working with kids from "The Youth Center" " - (a halfway house for the local delinquent crowd) All of them had been in trouble in the law. I asked said daughter if she was ever offered drugs or if it was suggested that she should do something against the law. She said "No, they all knew better". And she got along with any of them that came to work and were willing to do the job. Raised correctly (most of the time) - the problem influences somehow know better......Natokadn

  4. In "The Good Old Days," children were seen and not heard. They also were considered and treated as adults at an earlier age then today.

    Through the perpetual prodding of the change agents through media and education, children, who should be acting as adults, instead have a protracted adolescence.