By: Dr. Harris Stratyner, Ph.D.

Dr. Harris Stratyner, Ph.D., vice president of Caron Treatment Center and clinical director of the New York region, is internationally known for developing and implementing the groundbreaking clinical model of "Carefrontation," a treatment approach that doesn't shame or blame the patient. It recognizes addiction as a disease and stresses each individual's responsibility to work with healthcare providers to reach the goal of complete abstinence.  

What Do We Owe Our Children?

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May 20, 2013

Ever wonder what we owe to our children?

As a doctor of psychology, married to an oral surgeon, my wife and I have certainly been able to give our daughter a great deal. Furthermore, just having one child, we have been afforded the opportunity to give her even more. However, would giving her whatever she wanted really have been prudent?

When our daughter was growing up, my wife and I instilled in her the importance of working for what you truly want. If we had just handed things over to her, I don't believe she would have developed a work ethic.

I notice in my practice, that at times parents are so willing to give their children everything -- to the point where they negate the motivation in their youngsters to have a sense of working for what it is they desire.

I have never been the type of person, or for that matter psychologist, who points his finger at others and chastises them for what they did or didn't do. Life, after all, is a journey designed to learn as we move through it. Nor do I believe that it is ever too late to change the way one proceeds.

I believe we owe it to our children to help them to help themselves to navigate through life and learn from their struggles. Life is such an exciting adventure to embark on.

I remember when I was a boy, I wanted a gas propelled model airplane. My father could have given me the money, but where was the lesson in that? Instead, he said if I was able to earn half the cost, he would match me dollar for dollar. I had a goal! I quickly lined up some neighborhood jobs: mowing lawns, dog walking, etc. By the time I had
enough for half of the plane, I was so excited and most of the excitement, I can assure you, came from the fact that I had earned the plane.

My dad had made my goal obtainable with his offer to pay for half if I earned the other half. He was wise enough to take the opportunity to turn my "dream" into a realistic goal that quickly became one of life's lessons: If you want something badly enough, you can achieve your goal through hard work.

That lesson has stayed with me right up to my current age. I am always willing to work hard, because it offers me the opportunity to be able to play hard. This lesson generalized to many other lessons. I quickly learned that if I had to work for things, I could not afford to be a "slacker." I needed to be a sober, clear-minded kid who was able to get up on time and not be late for my work obligations. This carried through to my schoolwork as well. I did my assignments on time so that I had the time to work for what I
wanted. After awhile, I actually can remember that I consciously said to myself, "If I have to do my schoolwork, then I might as well learn what it is I'm studying." After awhile this really paid off, too. I knew the material, and studying for examinations became less time-consuming and almost seemed like a review process.

I am not here to tell you that my childhood was immersed in a "utopia." - I certainly had my moments of laziness and desire to "act out." But I was always able to remember that when I was in the "zone," I could accomplish things.

Parents often believe that if they were not afforded something as a child, they have an obligation to get it for their kids. This all-or-nothing notion is simply not healthy.

We owe our children the knowledge that they are only limited by their own motivation or lack thereof; that they can, indeed, accomplish anything and everything. Youngsters must have the knowledge that it is their life and that they can make the most of it. Parents must model this for their children; stop handing over everything your child's heart desires, and do the right thing. Help your kids to be motivated to live healthy, productive, purposeful lives.

It may sound like corny dribble, but I can assure you it works.


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