Raising our Children to Adulthood

Jenn recently wrote a post (and a follow-up post) based on her reading of the New York Times Magazine article What Is It About 20-Somethings?

I am especially intrigued by the questions raised on page 2 of the article, and later on by the question of whether or not the delay is the result of young people not ready for adulthood or parents unwilling to let go.   (I’m particularly aware of the letting go process right now, as I’ve just sent my first-born off to college. Letting go is difficult stuff!)

I married at age 22 (my husband was 24) and we lived below the poverty line for the first several years of marriage. We also lived within our means: Vacation was a backpacking trip in a local forest or a drive to visit family, groceries were severely budgeted (after one month of powdered milk –blech!– I did insist on the liquid version), and our furniture was all hand-me-downs or yard sale bargains.  We each worked while going to school.
College graduation and a decent paying job did not drastically change our lifestyle. While we did move to a better neighborhood (no more drug deals happening down the street), we still had “experienced” furniture.  I joyfully became a SAHM and willingly accepted hand-me-down clothing and furnishings for our babies.  We had been married for 10 years before we bought our first new sofa — and yes, we still have it.

I do confess that it has been a very long time since I followed a budget for groceries, clothing, or even “extras.” Yes, I know I am spoiled. This will probably be a difficult change next year when my husband retires.  However, my teens would tell you that we still live rather inexpensively. We rarely go out to the movies; instead, we wait for the dvd to come out and then we hope that the library buys a copy! They know how many gallons of milk they drink in a week.   I’d like to think we have taught them well… but I could be very wrong.

For years I have noticed the “entitlement” attitude of adults my age and younger. Many people think they should continue living at the socio-economic level of their parents when they themselves are just starting out their adult lives. They put themselves into unnecessary debt because they purchase (on credit, not cash) matching living room and bedroom sets right out of college. I see this as the beginning of an entitlement lifestyle that gets handed down to the next generation.  Is this because so many young adults today cannot recall their parents in economically leaner times? I do know that my husband and I both remember our parents struggling financially while raising a young family. We look around us now and see many who do not live this way. They don’t seem to say, “No, I’m sorry, we can’t afford that.”

Perhaps this is because many people truly can afford luxuries. But is it a good thing to give our kids everything they desire? I’m not suggesting that it is a bad thing to be financially secure. I’m rather fond of it myself! I do, however, believe that young people today need to understand where the money is coming from and how to manage finances without going into credit card debt.

Are we leading our children into a future of debt by letting them think that credit cards buy anything and everything? Is that the only example we show them on a daily basis? Do we discuss budgets, saving for big purchases, or even the cost of groceries?


12 responses to “Raising our Children to Adulthood

  1. What a great topic to discuss Karen! This is what i have been “observing” as well, and I think the same way you do. The “entitlement” attitude is not just in your country, it´s here in our little town as well. I think it´s a generational thing. We (parents) need to learn to say no to our kids and “let” them experience the joy in earning what they have and can buy themselves!

  2. Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  3. You are singing my song.

    And I know many people can’t afford all they have–with the economic downturn we have seen people living in huge houses, driving expensive cars and taking fantastic vacations end up in apartments within months of a job loss–they had no cushion whatsoever.

  4. I see it regularly with the young adults in the apartments here. New furniture, the latest toys (in one case new breasts) and then they are surprised when we have to evict them for not paying the rent, or when the furniture gets repossessed.

  5. I totally agree. I grew up but Pie Poor, pretty much.

    Not even having all the school supplies I needed while other kids looked down their noses. I got most of everything I have by working the hard way, and a few hundred prayers and some God sends (my husband).

    So, I want my kids to get to be the ‘haves’ and not the have nots. Though, I constantly try to instill in them that we have what we have due to the hard work of Mama and Daddy.

    If they want something special from the grocery store they know I’ll wait for a coupon or a sale. Same with clothes. Last year Lil’Gal’s back to school clothes consisted primarily of gently used purchases from resell shops and goodwill.

    Not that we can’t afford fancy stuff; after all, y’all all know I have lots of trinkets and gadgets and am spoiled myself. But, I try to remind them that it didn’t all just grow on trees — and that they are kids. When they grow up then they will have (hopefully) earned the right to live like Mom and Dad and treat themselves here and there but not everywhere. 😉

  6. Oh, and I’m guessing four boys (now down to three)…a minimum of 4 gallons of milk a week… On the lush side, 6…

    [Based on our family of two children — two gallons a week.]

  7. Very well presented. What you say is so true especially the entitlement part of this. Well said.

  8. Terrific! Now I can rationalize that I am doing my kids a favor by not wasting anymore money on automatic dishwashers. Right?

    We waited 10 or so years for our first brand-new couch, also. It’s my beloved Ektorp from IKEA, and I will never give it up.

  9. It’s quite a balancing act, isn’t it? Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  10. Have I mentioned lately that I love you and how your mind works? One day I hope we get to meet!

  11. I noticed a clickthrough from my blog to this one, and I was wondering what connection was being made. I’m a twenty-something, but having grown up in a desperately poor family I don’t feel I have a sense of “entitlement” about things, and have in fact lived a pretty tough life despite a love of learning and advanced education. Regards.

    • Nathan, I suspect you are one of the (hopefully not too rare) individuals who don’t take what you have for granted.
      Thank you for stopping by to read and comment.