Balancing Wants And Needs

January 16, 2012 § 2 Comments

Kids these days!

That phrase that every generation uses came to mind when my friend Rita remarked on Facebook that, “Nine-year-olds have a Blackberry, an iPad, a laptop, and a Facebook account. When I was nine, I felt cool with my new markers.”

In fact, I have heard people in their 20s utter the opening remark I did in reference to their teenager counterparts. We have a tendency to compare ourselves to previous cohorts.

My friend’s statement was amusing on one hand but also provided pause for thought.

It sounded a lot like the age-old adage from my parents’ generation. You know the one. “We had to walk 10 miles to school uphill both ways in bare feet at 40 below.”

On the other, it’s very true we have increasingly changed kids’ expectations as to what they have, what they want and what they need – and at what age. Many children now think it’s a must they will have all the above-mentioned gadgetry and more.

I certainly can see the merits of nine-year-olds having a simple cell phone for safety sake and a computer relevant to their capacity to use one. As for the rest of the “stuff” most kids have now, the more we heap on them, the more they expect.

There’s a general tendency to feel entitled and, therefore, largely ungrateful.

One of the other commenters on my friend’s post mentioned that when she was age nine she “went outside and did stuff.”

Another remarked that she amused herself doing wheelies with her roller blades.

Rita chimed back in with this ditty: I used to tape my favourite songs from the top 30 countdown each week by putting my tape recorder right up to my radio speaker and shushing everyone around me to shut up and not make any noise cuz they would ruin my recording of “Hurts so Good” by John Cougar!!! Good times, people! Let’s hold onto those memories no matter how digital our world gets!!

Times were simpler when I grew up, too, and we certainly learned how to entertain ourselves, often outside. In my own case, it was at a time when there was only one television channel and only a handful of radio stations from which to choose.

The first cassette and record players I used belonged to my parents. At age nine, I was collecting hockey cards as a hobby. I have a stamp collection somewhere in storage. In this age of electronic age, there are likely kids who have no idea what the postal system does.

The once-popular Etch-a-Sketch would be considered an antique. It’s the latest version of Xbox that’s a must.

As my son, Peter, was growing up, we tried to find a balance. Every year, he received the latest NHL game for our desktop computer, a far departure from the tabletop game we had as kids, though we also bought one of these “old fashioned” devices for he and I to use.

We learned early on that after Christmas, a lot of the things he’d received became clutter as he concentrated on the few favourite gifts. We also determined that there would be no point of buying the fanciest compact disc player because he had a penchant for dropping them on the swimming pool deck during swim meets.

We still have his dinosaur collection, his Harry Potter books and plastic tubs of Lego.

I don’t want to come across as a curmudgeon. In today’s workplace, mastering technology is a must so young people need to arrive confident and adept with the latest electronic bells and whistles.

However, it’s incumbent on parents to recognize there’s a balance to be reached at Christmas and other gift-giving occasions.

While the job site will expect you can handle the technological side of the work, your employer will also expect you will be able to work collaboratively with others, to communicate effectively verbally and in written form, to deal with people from a variety of backgrounds, and to be able to work independently and as part of a team.

This means the most adaptable people are still those who can think for themselves, the ones who know how to deal with people face-to-face and individuals who can appreciate the simpler things in life, even if that’s enjoying a book on the latest electronic reading device.

I would encourage parents to consider just how much their kids need and whether what they’re purchasing is age appropriate. Consider taking them to live theatre at an early age so they gain an appreciation of entertainment that doesn’t require multi-million dollar budgets and computer-generated imagery.

Look for opportunities for them to learn without them realize they are doing so.

As always, it’s about seeking balance between wants, needs and what is desirable.


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