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Lessons for Living. What are we Teaching our Children?


Last month, billionaire Rob Hale surprised graduates of the University of Massachusetts while keynoting at their commencement. Each graduate received two envelopes, one with $500 for themselves and another with $500 to give to someone else. The 2,000 graduates erupted in cheers as he told them, “These are turbulent times. You guys have survived. You have prospered. You are to be celebrated. You’ve overcome. It’s not easy. We’re here. And we are proud of you. We want to share in that celebration with you. We want to give you two gifts. The first is a gift to you. The second is the gift of giving.”   He went on to say he and his wife get their greatest joy from the gift of giving.


 A “middleman” transferring $500 that have not been earned to a third party is giving? Graduating from college is prospering? Surviving? Overcoming? What are we teaching our children?


In 2022, Sallie Mae, a company involved in financing college educations, reported that parents on average spend more than $25,000 a year paying for their children’s college education. The majority believe college is an investment in their child’s future and a degree will create more opportunities for them. In truth, many, if not most, of the University of Wisconsin - Madison’s 143 undergraduate majors are not a direct path to employment.


The majority of families in the Sallie Mae report said they would have their children attend college for the “social and intellectual experiences alone.”


Many of us have colleagues, friends and relatives who lament they “have to” work longer than they would like, are spending their own retirement savings, and taking on debt to finance their adult children’s dreams. What are we teaching our children?


In 2022 Pew Research found that 50% of adult children ages 18 – 29 are living with their parents. Another study reported 25% of adult children ages 25 – 34 are living with parents or older relatives. What are we teaching our children?


Joe Biden wants to give $10,000 in student loan forgiveness to single borrowers who made less than $125,000  and married borrowers who made less than $250,000 in 2021. This would cost the country $400 billion and be paid for by many taxpayers making less than those who are recipients of this windfall. What are we teaching our children?


 Let Grow is an organization that was founded in response to the many ways contemporary parenting is depriving children from growing into responsible, happy adults. Its work is assisting parents in reversing the damage being caused by “helicopter parenting.”


An excerpt from the Let Grow website explains:

“We replaced more and more of children’s free time and free play with organized, adult-led activities. We thought we were giving them more opportunities for growth and joy. But actually, we were limiting their opportunities for problem-solving and resilience. (And did you know that happiness COMES from problem-solving?)

Reversing this trend is crucial, because children who have more opportunities for independent activities are not only happier in the short run, because the activities engender happiness and a sense of competence, but also happier in the long run, because independent activities promote the growth of capacities for coping with life’s inevitable stressors.

Why is independence – and the trust and responsibility that grow from it — so key to kids’ mental health? Because that’s how you get a sense of what you can handle, and of who you are in the world: A competent, growing person — not a baby, or a bonsai tree.”

Ironically: Treating kids as fragile is making them so.”

The evidence is undeniable. Many young adults have been cheated out of the opportunity to independently achieve and experience the exhilaration that results from responsibility and competence. They are anxious, depressed, and ill-equipped to function as productive adults. What are we teaching our children?  Lessons for living or lousy life lessons?

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