By Patsy L. Maddy
Twin Creeks Extension District
4-H Youth Development Agent
An immigrant who now lives in Southern California came to the United States with almost nothing in his pocket and worked hard enough to become one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. When speaking to author Malcolm Gladwell, he confessed how difficult it is to raise good children once they become aware of their family’s money. His explanation stated, “My own instinct is that it’s much harder than anybody believes to bring up kids in a wealthy environment. People are ruined by challenged economic lives. But they are ruined by wealth, as well, because they lose their ambition and they lose their pride and they lose their sense of self-worth. It’s difficult at both ends of the spectrum. There’s some place in the middle which probably works best for all.”
Dr. Tim Elmore addressed this topic investigating — ‘What is too much and what is too little?’ – in getting youth ready to graduate and become leaders in society.
The answer is in the middle! Families who are poor have difficulty providing enough resources for their kids. Families who are rich have difficulty providing enough boundaries for their children. A parent who has little can easily refuse to purchase the latest “everyone has one” item saying ‘We can’t afford it.’ An affluent parent must change their approach and say ‘I won’t buy that.’ This different response invites an emotional debate from teens. The more resources a young person has, the less resourceful they tend to become.
Psychologists Barry Schwartz and Adam Grant argue that nearly everything of consequence follows the “Inverted U”. Too much of a good thing can be as dangerous or counterproductive as too little. Just the right amount results in parents raising children who are “well-adjusted” as young adults.
Dr. Tim Elmore has identified 16 issues that he believes must be addressed to balance our parental approach. He has developed a tool called the Parental Engagement Scale where parents can rate themselves.
Activities: The parent is present but allows children to navigate their involvement.
Emotional Support: The parent is both supportive and demanding.
Technology: The home environment makes technology a servant, not a master.
Time: The parent shows love without making the child the focal point.
Belongings: The parent provides resources but cultivates resourcefulness in the child through budgeting.
Nutrition: The child eats a balanced diet in moderation.
Training: The parent equips the child to do things independently.
Work: The child learns to work a job or develop a work ethic and earn an income.
Relationship Example: The parent demonstrates healthy relationships with family.
Social Media: The child learns to use social media but is not enslaved to it.
Table Time: The child enjoys regular time with family around a table.
Problem Solving: The parent equips the child to problem-solve.
Social Interaction: The child has balanced time on screens and in person.
Ownership Responsibility: The parent encourages the child to prioritize and own their responsibilities.
Future Plans: The parent works with the child to create a future plan that fits him/her.
Preparation for Adulthood: The parent prepares the child for the path – not the path for the child.
As youth become adults, it will become clear where they were under-resourced and where they were over-resourced. Both of these outcomes can stir emotions that are positive and negative.
Dr. Elmore recalls meeting Liz Murray in 2009. She was the “Homeless to Harvard” student who literally went from the streets of New York as a homeless teenager to become a Harvard University graduate on a full scholarship. Liz tells Dr. Elmore that she recalls being stunned as she entered her dorm laundry room for the first time. She stood gazing at a washer and dryer that were hers to use to her heart’s content. She stated that she stood there next to another Harvard freshman, both of them crying as they looked at the appliances. Liz cried tears of joy because she had never had access to such luxuries. Her fellow student was crying tears of desperation because she was forced to use them for the first time as her mother had always done her laundry for her.
The answer is in the middle – we need to strike a balance for our kid’s sake! Consider taking the Parental Engagement Scale to determine whether you are doing too little or too much for your children. This scale can be found on the Twin Creeks website at http://www.twincreeks.ksu.edu. Click on the News and Media tab on the left, click on Patsy Maddy on the right side and it will be under the 2018 tab. Be as honest and accurate as possible in answering each topic in where you believe you’ve set the example for your children. Then reflect on your answers to see where you might need improvement.
Contact your local Twin Creeks Extension District office in Norton, Decatur or Sheridan counties to take advantage of the benefits of participating as a 4-H member that stresses positive youth development. #TrueLeaders; #4-HGrowsHere.
Information in this article has been adapted from Dr. Tim Elmore, founder of Growing Leaders.