Are We Still Enabling the American Dream?

For generations of people coming to this country, the United States has been referred to as “The Land of Opportunity.” Ours is a country in which following through on that opportunity, through vision, hard work, and dedication has enabled a person to improve their circumstances. Work helps us define our own value and self-worth. 

On a personal level, think about the young people in your life. Do they receive a regular allowance or are they given money based on work effort? Do they understand that everything in life demands an exchange? 

Often, with a regular allowance, that payment is the young person’s only source of income. A regulated, predetermined amount shapes their views and options about how and when the money is spent. Money given to them that covers their “wants”, for example, when you cover their needs, means they have no view of the real, long-term implications of how much they need to achieve independence. 

If they receive the same amount on a regular basis, regardless of work done to earn the income, it can become more of an entitlement than an enabler. 

Young people who are provided the opportunity for accomplishing work, however, are motivated to take action! The more they work, the more they are enabled. Our role as parents is to create an environment where our children are enabled so they can define their own worth and value, and so that they do not become entitled and reliant on someone else the rest of their lives. 

“But it’s my child!” you say to yourself. “I want to give them everything…help them any way I can!”

The Dalai Lama is often cited for his thoughts on human compassion and the natural desire existing in all of us to help others. At a conference in Vancouver, Canada, in September of 2006, attended by B2W Co-founders, Elane V. Scott and Rick Stephens, when asked about what happens when compassion isn’t enough to make change, the Dalai Lama replied:

“Compassion that does not yield change in those to whom it is directed can lead to a worsening of their lives as they come to expect less of themselves and more of others.”

Supplying our kids with everything they need to survive is our responsibility, (i.e. food, clothing, shelter). Supplying our children with opportunities to plan, try, achieve and fail…to work…is enabling them for a future in the new American workforce.