Will Our Kids Suffer from 'The Middle Class Curse'?
As parents, we always strive to do the best for our kids - to give them the comfort, the opportunities and the means that we never had. It's the natural progression of things - to always want more for our kids than what we had when we were children.
But I've also often worried about the ramifications of these actions. That, by giving them all of the things that we never had, that we weren't able to afford, we're not actually helping them. That we're putting them at risk of "the middle class curse", or perhaps more accurately, the risk of complacency.
(To be clear, I don't think this is a middle class issue only. I think you can be well above middle class and still have the same issues. Perhaps even more so.)
You see, anyone who has ever achieved consistent, persistent, outsized success has almost always done so through consistent, persistent, outsized effort.
And the will to succeed on that level comes from an inner hunger that is rooted in a scarcity that seeds itself at some formative point in their lives.
The scarcity could be in different forms - economic, social, psychological, etc.
But it's there. It embeds itself in their psyche. It forms the root of their drive. Of what ultimately creates their forward momentum.
Certainly, this drive can be both positive and negative. It can manifest itself in ways that drive achievement, but it can also disenfranchise them from their communities, their colleagues, their counterparts and yes, sometimes from themselves.
And that's the point - that's the scarcity that enables change and achievement. That pushes them to do things that most of us just wouldn't bother to do.
To wake up at 5 am every morning as a high schooler to shoot hoops and practice until school starts at 8. To work 18-20 hours days, 7 days a week to create that product that will serve a specific market need. To isolate yourself from the public for months on end to create the artistic masterpiece that epitomizes the voice of a generation.
My concern is that our actions - as well intended, as loving and thoughtful as they are - are nurturing a sense of comfort that isn't ultimately helpful to our children.
Comfort = satisfaction = inertia = complacency.
The curse of the upwardly mobile, well meaning, generous middle class.
So - short of taking away all creature comforts and banishing our kids to a monastic life - how do we ensure they retain a sense of drive and achievement? How do we ensure they don't give in to a sense of complacency and that things will always be as good as they are (or continue to get better) without their persistent, active, committed effort?
This isn't an easy question to answer. And I'm not suggesting I have the answer.
But I think there are some appropriate answers and they are multi-faceted.
Setting goals (and goal fulfillment) early in life. Imbuing a sense of community (a world of need beyond ourselves). Establishing an expectation of excellence in all spheres of life. Ensuring that hard work is rewarded as much as achievement. That rewards aren't given without a level of effort and input. That those rewards aren't outsized to the level and appropriateness of the child (e.g. I don't believe teenagers should be driving BMWs, no matter the wherewithal of the parents).
I don't know if those answers are perfect or entirely sufficient. We have to answer that for ourselves and our own situations.
But they are a step in the right direction. A step away from this curse, that I fear for, every single day.
The curse of complacency.