Sunday, August 15, 2010

Establishing values in your children

Everyone has a dream when they're having a child.  You think about holding him or her, the sweet things you'll do, the hopes you have for being a good parent.  You hope you'll do the smart thing, the right thing, you won't spoil them to the point of them being selfish or self-absorbed, but you know you want to give them everything you can as well.

Where's the balance?  How do you achieve it and still feel like you gave them everything it was within your power to give?

Sometimes not giving everything that someone wants the moment they want it is the best gift of all.  Be selective about doling out presents and make sure some things are actually earned.  Not all parents are in the position to be able to just hand their children the sun, moon and stars, but making sure that they have the strength of character to know that it's something they can achieve for themselves with diligence and effort is an incredible blessing of abundance in itself.  

Truth - I was a child who was pretty much given whatever I asked for.  I was/am an only child so there was no one to have to share with or for parents to make certain equal portions were balanced at Christmas and birthdays.  I don't remember feeling entitled to whatever I wanted nor do I recall frequently asking for things in stores.  I do remember bartering this weeks allowance for said item, or offering to exchange extra chores for something which caught my eye, but in truth I have few memories of every leaving a store empty-handed when I asked.  My father worked hard every day of his life.  He did not come from money and is a self-made man.  We weren't America's version of super-wealthy, but we were definitely relatively well off.  We had a beautiful home, very nice cars, great clothes - all the things that contemporary society aims for.  

It never occurred to me that when I became a parent I wouldn't be able to provide the same.  It's a cold hard fact that bad things happen and after a devastating loss of our business we were leveled financially.  To say that I felt and still do feel like a failure as a parent for not being able to just say "yes" when asked if this or that can be done or had would be an understatement.  

My son has always been a hard worker, tenacious, resourceful and aggressive in his goals.  If he says he wants to do something - somehow he comes up with a plan and manages to execute it.  I would say he's blessed as well, because the kid has been to Hell and back on several occasions with medical matters and problems with some neighborhood people out for no good, but in the end he always lands on his feet and stronger for it. 

When he was five he began telling me how much he wanted to play guitar.  I bought him a child's acousitc guitar for Christmas which he fiddled with, but never really invested himself into it.  I trumped it up to a child's passing interest and dismissed it.  A year later he was on the quest of guitars again.  When I brought up the fact that he rarely played the guitar he was given he said, "I really like electric guitars best."  Not wanting to indulge and at the time was unable to afford an electric guitar I glossed over the subject.  When he was eight he was given a gift card to Toys R Us for $100 for Christmas.  He saved the card for six months and at his birthday was given another $50 in cash.  He headed to Toys R Us to buy a First Act Electric Guitar with mini-amp for $120.  His plan - at Christmas when he got the gift card he had hit me up again about the guitar. I said, "If you want to play guitar badly - you have to be dedicated to it and actually learn.  You have to take lessons for at least one year, you cannot complain, you cannot whine, you cannot quit.  And if you're really serious - you have to buy the guitar.  I will pay for the lessons, but you have to buy the guitar."

Low and behold in August of 2004 he bought himself the guitar.  One week later he was signed up for lessons.  This month makes his sixth year of taking lessons with Larry Pearre he turned out to be a gift to our family for my son.  Those lessons have become his escape when times were hard, because that was the one thing I would not let be lost from the downfall of our business.  Noah's skill is truly unbelievable.  He can now read music beautifully, can play just about instrument he puts his hands on and now owns having bought mostly for himself electric guitars, a bass guitar, a dobro, two banjos, a mandolin and two acoustic guitars.  All of which he takes lessons for from Mr. Pearre.   His First Act is in a hard case in his room and hasn't been played in years, but he still treasures it.  The original child's guitar I bought he has on display in his room on the wall.  

In all honesty I don't know if the guitar playing would have meant as much to him had I been the one to buy it, or had I let him quit which after four weeks he wanted to - badly.  He begged, he pleaded, "Please mom - I was wrong - I don't like it!  I can't play anything yet!  I hate it!"  Larry turned out to also be the Dean of Music at a college in Tampa and a professional player who toured with some of the largest names out of Nashville for years.  For him learning how to read music and music theory came before learning songs.  Noah would learn basic finger position on the neck and strumming and plucking, but for Larry - he needed to know the how and why of music instead of just, "Oh look I can mirror play the opening chords to "I love Rock-n-Roll."  For me I knew it would be a blessing that Noah wouldn't appreciate for years, but one day he would know how invaluable it was.  

It's hard to not give in when you hear your child beg to let them quit something when they lament about how unhappy they are.  You sometimes remember how badly you wanted to quit something when you were a child or just hated doing something.  Sometimes it gets the better of you and you let them throw in the towel when in all honesty that does no good for them in the long run.  They learn quitting is the easy solution to life when things get tough.  Lay down and give up.  Unfortunately things will always get tough at some point.  That's life.    To quote Tom Hanks in "A League of Their Own," "It's supposed to be hard.  If it wasn't hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great!"

The gratification we get from success and belief in ourselves cannot be measured by any means known to man.  It's a confidence builder and it's what makes men strive to dream and do great things in the world.   Every great success comes from failures, the difference was they didn't give up when it got tough.   

Establishing that skill and ability in your own children comes from letting them fall, letting them get up, dust 'em off and kick 'em back in the game.  Letting them do things on their own having earned it through their own merit is is what builds the values and character necessary to become strong, amazing adults.  Character, honor, integrity and nobility are earned, not things that can be given.  

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