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Warmest regards: The best thing to give kids

Published March 30. 2019 06:17AM

By Pattie Mihalik

By now just about everyone in the country is familiar with the story about parents bribing and buying a place for their children in prestigious colleges.

They did more than use their money to help their kids succeed. That in and of itself isn’t against the law. But the scheme to use a bribe as an income tax deduction takes it to a new level.

Like many others, I was stunned that any parent could actually set up phony pictures of their kids crewing, claiming they wanted to crew in college. It was all a ruse to get the kids into the best universities.

Some rich parents resorted to lies, bribes and downright fraud to so call “help” their kids.

All I could think of as I read details of those schemes is that no kid could feel good about getting into school that way.

Sure enough, the daughters in two of the families made it clear they didn’t care about getting into the best schools. Their parents were the ones pushing them, they said.

“All I want to do is have fun and party,” said one of the daughters.

What that should point out is no amount of money can give kids ambition. Actually, money hurts, not helps.

I’ve seen that happen many times and you probably have, too.

A child who is given everything can’t possibly know how to work to achieve what she wants.

I’ve said it many times in the past: Having little is a great gift. Learning how to get by with very little prepares you for whatever comes along in life.

Once when I was a guest speaker at an event, someone asked what I regarded as the best thing about me.

I answered that it was growing up with very little because that taught me to appreciate every little blessing that most take for granted.

I learned that having food in the refrigerator and a warm blanket for my bed were gifts for which I was thankful.

And I learned that having self-initiative was the way to achieve my dreams.

I’ve seen so many cases where kids who have everything get quite jaded. Then they need more and more to give them a natural high that comes from a keen sense of gratitude.

I think the kids in that college scandal are to be pitied. They never learned to swim in the Lake of Self-Efficiency.

I read the letter one of the mothers wrote as she hired “an expert” to get her daughter into a top school.

The mother wrote that the daughter “couldn’t get around to filling out a college application.” So the mother was hiring someone to do it all for her, along with doing the essays.

I have long believed that a kid who “can’t get around” to filling out a college application shouldn’t be sent to college.

Is it too much to expect a bit of initiative?

Yes, I know that all over the country parents “help” kids with their college application and essays.

Sometimes that help is advice or encouragement. Other times “helping” means the parents actually write the essays.

I admit I was always “mean” both to my daughters and the children of friends. I stated repeatedly that if a kid wants college, he or she needs to care about it enough to do the work to get in.

One friend told me if she didn’t do it for her son he would never get a college degree.

My question was: Is a college degree important to you, or to him?

Many of us make the mistake of giving our children everything in our power to give.

I believe the experts who say the best thing we can give our children is nothing.

Well, not quite.

I believe we should give them unconditional love, guidance, strong values, moral support and mega doses of encouragement.

When my father was dying, I asked him if there was anything he regretted in life. He said his biggest regret was that he couldn’t send me to college when I longed to go.

“I watched you struggle for years to get your degree, and it pierced my heart that I couldn’t help you with something you wanted so much,” my dad said.

I told him he gave me a gift by letting me find the initiative to go to college. I would never have wanted it any other way.

I believe we value what we work for. The harder we have to work for something, the more we will appreciate it.

Mostly, kids get through college in four or five years. It took me 10 years because I had to work for the money. When I got enough for a class, I took it.

When I did take a class, I loved every minute of being there. It goes without saying that I worked hard to take advantage of the opportunity.

I saw so many cases of kids who didn’t go to class because they didn’t value being there. Mostly, they were kids with parents who paid for it all.

Someone working his or her way through college will think twice about fluffing away a class.

Sure, as parents we want to do all we can to help our kids. But how much help is enough? And when is it too much?

You tell me.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at

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