Thursday, January 26, 2012

The $499 Dilemma

Question of the Week:

I tell my nine year old son that people who work hard will progress in life and have what they need.  Now I have a dilemma.  There is a new electronic game which costs $499 plus megabucks for each game.  His cousin has one, his friends have it but we have no intention of buying him one. We don't have the money, and anyway it is not one of our priorities - there are far better things he could do with his time than play violent video games. He does everything properly, listens to us, puts in the effort at school and is now devastated that he has done it all and cannot have what he wants. How will I explain it to him?


You have in front of you a wonderful parenting opportunity. It is a chance to teach your child two vital truths: that he can't have everything, and that he can't always understand why.
The idea that kids needs to understand the rationale behind every one of their parents' decisions is ludicrous. If children were capable of understanding their parents every motive, then children could be parents themselves. It is precisely their inability to appreciate why not every whim and fancy must be fed that makes them children. The parents' job is to set boundaries, and that means sometimes the answer is just no.
When a parent lays down the law and gives a clear no, they are doing a great favor for their child. Because their child will learn an important life lesson - you don't always get what you want. Sometimes it seems unfair, sometimes it seems to be without any justification, but it happens, and it happens to everyone, and it happens throughout your life - there are things you want and you can't have.
Sadly, many children are not taught this. Their parents give them everything they want. And then when they grow older they are shocked that the rest of the world doesn't do the same. These are the adults who think that their spouse, their friends, their country and G-d should all be giving them whatever they ask for. If only they were taught as kids that you can't have it all, they would be accepting of this as adults.
Your son deserves to be rewarded for his good behaviour and hard work, but perhaps that reward need not be the one he wants. It isn't easy, but it is far better to endure the tantrum of a disappointed child for a few days than to have a spoilt child who will remain a spoilt child for a lifetime. Like King Solomon said, "Train the child in his way, so that when he is older he will not stray from it". Today he will be upset, but one day he will thank you.
Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

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