Children’s wants should never be more important than a family’s needs

This editorial column by Maria McCoy was previously published in the print edition of The GRIP.

A few weeks ago, my family decided to eat a little later than normal. We met at Applebee’s and unfortunately, there were only two waitresses there, so the wait for our food was pretty long.

Upon leaving, my 16-year-old asked me to take him by a business (that was open) so he could turn in his application. I had been up since 6 a.m. I worked an eight-hour shift, spent almost two hours in traffic getting to class, spent a few hours in class and then had another hour and a half drive home.

After all that, we had waited a good bit at Applebee’s. Looking at the clock, it was 10:30 p.m., so I told my son, “No,” and then immediately felt guilty.

He’s trying to work, trying to get a job.

It would have taken me an extra 15 minutes to go do this for him. You guys. That’s when it hit me. It HIT me. Lightning quick. We have taught our children that their wants will come before our needs. I had been up for a long time. I had a migraine. I just survived Applebee’s with five kids (three of whom are teenagers).

My body was crying for rest, but my son didn’t understand. Why would he though?

Because we have taught them that their wants matter a great deal more than our needs.

Every time we capitulate, we teach them this. Every time we allow them to get the newest shoes out there when we know we are taking from our bill money to do so. Every time we run out to the store to get new pajama’s for “PJ Day” at the school (And I know y’all are doing this, too, because I just do not believe that every kid suddenly has matching, fitting, sparkly PJs. Anyway, I digress). Every time we try to upgrade their phones, knowing it will cause our bill to go up another $20. Every time we leave work to take something to school that they forgot at home.

Every time we do these things, we justify this.

We justify these things by telling ourselves that we do not want them showing up to PJ day in their real jammies – old t-shirts and shorts that are a tad too short.

We justify this by rushing home to get the thing because the thing is all that stands between our kid and that “A”, or more importantly, that “F”.

Guys, this isn’t because we are bad parents. We do this out of love, but this love is misguided because they aren’t learning the lessons they really need to learn. Instead, we are teaching them the entitlement we so love to condemn.

It isn’t about money; it is about convenience. We inconvenience ourselves so that our children will not be inconvenienced, and that does not teach them to adapt to situations. No, sir. It teaches them to rely heavily on someone else to save the day.

They do not learn to think. If we continuously teach our children that their wants are more important than our needs, we are doing them a disservice. We are teaching them that they can have what they want, pretty much any time they want it. No, we aren’t saying that to them, but our actions are screaming it loud and clear.

It isn’t reasonable. More importantly, it isn’t reality because when they get thrust into the world as adults, they still expect someone else to fix their problems and when that doesn’t happen, who knows how these child-adults will act because we never taught them to think for themselves. We must teach these kids to think of different ways to adapt to situations and then to overcome them.

We will have to actually parent them by showing the difference between a need and a want. We are just going to have to buckle down and teach these kids that there are multiple ways to overcome a problem and all they really need to do is think of more than one.

The needs of my children will always, ALWAYS come before my own, but their wants no longer will.


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