Dear Carolyn: My husband and I both come from very underprivileged backgrounds. Thanks to hard work and some incredible mentors, we were the first in our families to graduate from high school. We attended the same Ivy League university, and now have graduate degrees and amazing jobs in our fields.
While we were students, we worked 30-plus hours a week at food-service jobs. It’s not pleasant to admit it, but we both felt resentful of so many of our classmates, whose checks for tuition and living expenses seemed to fall from the sky.
Our problem is this: While we’d both love to start a family, we’re terrified to do so. We’re now in a position to do all the things we didn’t get to do when we were kids. And while it sounds like a dream to be able to give our children the world on a platter, we’re terrified our kids would turn out to be the same kind of entitled brats we so resented.
Would it be fair to raise kids the same way we were raised, even if it means they might have few privileges compared to their peers? – R.
Your hardship was genuine. Any ingrate-preventive hardship system you construct for your kids will be artificial, and kids are born with lasers in their eyeballs that make quick work of facades.
There are ways besides material deprivation to raise kids who aren’t jerks. You can teach them to handle money when they’re young through a small allowance and freedom to waste it, so they know how it feels to have nothing left when they want to buy something else. You can treat them from a young age as contributors to the household, from putting their clothes in the hamper to eventually washing them themselves. Don’t make your kids suffer; just make sense. Talk to your husband about what kind of parents your circumstances allow you to be, good and bad, then shoot for the good. Any parent can talk values; authenticity is what makes them stick.
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