Struggle Makes You Stronger


Kids these days have it easy.  My son recently started kindergarten, and I’ve had the opportunity to observe both the parent and the youngling forms of the typical human family unit up-close and personal.

The kids that go to my son’s school have it really good — Their parents deliver them to school in luxury air-conditioned SUV’s, wearing designer clothes that most certainly DID NOT come from a second-hand store.  Hardly anybody walks to school anymore.

I get it — It’s cold and rains a lot here in the Pacific Northwest.  Joe and Jane Six-pack don’t want their little prince or princess getting cold, wet, and muddy on the way to school.

Maybe I’m just turning into a grumpy old octopus, but when I was a kid we walked to school… up-hills both ways, and in the snow! 🙂  Some days I was really wet by the time I got to school, but it didn’t matter — My clothes were just hand-me-downs from my cousins anyway.  Branded clothes were for rich kids.

It wasn’t all bad of course — Walking to school was good for me.  I was outside getting plenty of exercise, and exploring the physical world around me.

With this experience in mind, I’ve been walking my son (Tako Jr. #1) to school every morning.  Yes, we walk even when it rains (which is nearly every day around these parts).  Sometimes we do get a little cold and wet, but it’s still some great father-son time.

ready to walk
Tako Jr. #1 ready for his daily walk to school … with umbrella in hand.

I feel truly blessed to be able to do this everyday, and I have my financial independence to thank for it.

Tako Jr. #1 has other ideas however.  Lately he’s noticed that other kids drive to school and he’s been asking me, “Why can’t we drive to school too Dad?  It would be so much faster and easier than walking.

(Note: It only takes 15 minutes to walk to his school, so this is hardly a torturous walk.)

My response?

“Well, son it might be faster and easier to drive, but it isn’t better for us.  It’s harder, but we’re healthier because we walk everyday.  Struggle makes you stronger.

This mantra of “Struggle makes you stronger” is something we repeat all the time in the Tako household.  We want our boys to learn self-sufficiency and to not fear the difficulty that life can sometimes bring.

Struggling is just part of the process of trying, improving and becoming a better person.

 

Culture Of Comfort

If you live in a first-world country (like I do), the story of an incredibly abundant life filled with comfort and convenience should sound pretty familiar to you.  People live very comfortable lives in the first-world, and almost everyone takes the path of least resistance because they can afford to do so.

First-worlders are so incredibly wealthy that they have plenty of dollars to sprinkle around and make life an absolute piece of cake.

Like so much pixie dust, they can live a life almost entirely without struggle…

Don’t believe me?  Here’s some examples:

  • Don’t want to cook meals from scratch?  Simply reheat packaged food, get takeout, eat fast food, delivery, or just eat at a restaurant.  It’s so much easier, and the food tastes great!
  • Don’t feel like doing housework?  Just hire a gardener or house cleaner!  For $100-$200 a month you won’t need to clean your home or mow your own lawn.
  • Don’t enjoy shopping?  Order everything off Amazon with 2 day shipping (even though Amazon might not have the best price.)  It’s more convenient to shop online and avoid the ugly store crowds.
  • Not skilled at DIY repair work?  Hire a plumber, carpenter, or handyman to fix whatever your problem.  Easy peasy!
  • Rather than walking or riding a bike, just drive everywhere.  Arrive at your destination without even breaking a sweat!
  • Don’t like the weather?  Stay inside and turn-up/turn-down the temperature on the air conditioning.  Heck, you don’t even need to go outside for exercise — just get a gym membership!

I could go on and on listing these examples of modern comfort by which most first-worlders live, but I think you get the idea.  Life can be pretty damn easy if you have some extra cash.

But I’d like to ask a really important question — Is all of this comfort good for us?

I specifically brought up the examples above because I DO NOT engage in them.  That’s right — even though I have plenty of spare cash to pay for convenience, I often choose to do these things the harder, more inconvenient way.

Did this struggle save me money and make me financially independent?  I won’t lie, it was probably a contributing factor.  Certainly NOT doing all those things probably kept a ton of cash in my bank account.

But that’s only part of the story…

 

The Secret Sauce To A Better Life Isn’t Comfort

Try thinking back to a time when you really struggled with something…  Maybe it was a Differential Equations class back in college, the marathon you trained for, or a difficult presentation at work…

I bet it felt completely amazing when you finally overcame the difficulties and achieved your goal.  That sense of achievement you felt was possible because you struggled.  Because it was hard.

Take financial independence for example — It takes years of saving, discipline, hard work, and plenty of studying to achieve.  It’s not easy, but the resulting freedom is totally worth the effort it takes.

Beyond that personal satisfaction and sense of achievement, there’s plenty reasons to purposely choose to “struggle”:

1. Struggle gives you the power of indifference.  When you’ve walked or taken the bus to work everyday for 10 years like I did, you eventually become indifferent to the downsides of being outside.  Walking through a little rain or snow becomes “no big deal”.  You build up a tolerance to little discomforts in life.

2. Struggle can make you physically stronger.  I used to work on the 21st floor of a tall building.  Rather than taking the elevator, one day I just decided to always take the stairs.  It was hell the first few weeks, but it sure beat paying for a gym membership, and my legs got in pretty good shape from doing it!

3. Struggle can make you smarter too.  Think back to the last time you read a really difficult book.  Maybe it was a personal finance book with a ton of new terms and ideas.  It probably wasn’t easy to read, but you got through it, and are now a little smarter, wiser and more knowledgeable person as a result.  Studying instead of slacking-off and watching Netflix can be a form of struggle.

4. Struggle can even give you a whole new set of skills.  I remember the first time I tried to repair a clothes dryer by myself.  I popped-off the cover to the dryer and it was this incredible mess of wires that made absolutely no sense.  I soldiered-on, and slowly and meticulously went through each and every wire until I debugged the problem.  It wasn’t easy, but I gained a incredibly useful skill in dryer repair.

wires
Inside my dryer looked something like this — a complete rat’s nest of wires.

See what I mean?  Struggle leads to a smarter, stronger, more skilled version of yourself that’s a little more indifferent to discomfort.  What does that sound like?

A powerful superhuman, that’s what it sounds like to me!  Simply put, instead of taking the easy path of convenience, we gain an incredible power over our lives when we choose to struggle a little.

That’s a powerful idea I want to share with my kids.

 

Final Thoughts

Since this is the internet, I’m sure someone is going to write-in and tell me that I’m completely wrong about struggle, and that parents should be making a child’s life as easy as possible.

Yeah, OK.  We might to have to agree to disagree on that point.  I think too much comfort and convenience make us a weaker and lazier version of ourselves.

We need a little struggle in life to become that stronger-smarter-faster-more skilled version of ourselves (kids included).  This is what I mean when I tell my son “Struggle makes you stronger.”

Unlike other parents, I actually don’t want to use all my money to make my son’s life as easy as possible. A little struggle is a good thing!

He might not understand it right now, but someday when he’s old enough I hope he’s able to read this post and see the value in it.

So struggle on buddy.  I’ll be walking there right with you.

 

[Image Credit: Flickr1, Flickr2]

49 thoughts on “Struggle Makes You Stronger

  • October 31, 2018 at 5:33 AM
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    when I was a kid we walked to school… up-hills both ways, and in the snow!

    You forgot that was with bare feet 😉

    Too much comfort makes people lazy, out of shape, and apathetic. Plain and simple. People don’t like to hear it but it’s true. Everything about modern life and consumer culture is designed to make life easier, but it’s a very dangerous road to go down if you don’t at the same time introduce struggle in other places. That’s why you don’t see many people from poorer countries doing ultra-marathons, for instance. First world people do them because they know they need the struggle in their lives to balance out the excessive comfort.

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    • November 1, 2018 at 9:12 AM
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      Couldn’t agree more AccidentalFire! That’s an interesting take on ultra-marathons! I never thought of it that way before!

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    • November 14, 2018 at 6:43 PM
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      I agree. I have heard the saying spare the road spoil the child, but I have seen that spoiled children turn into spoiled rotten adults. Pressure makes diamonds. Comfort is the poison. I have grown by leaps and bounds from discomfort. It is what feeds my hunger to work harder. Just my $0.02 cents.

      Thanks, Miriam

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  • October 31, 2018 at 5:55 AM
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    I’m with you. We make our kids walk to school everyday. They’ve even stopped complying about it.

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    • November 1, 2018 at 9:13 AM
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      Awesome! I’ll let you know if mine ever stop complaining! 🙂

      Reply
  • October 31, 2018 at 6:12 AM
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    The gas station I go to allows entry from only one direction but exit from both directions. And with the gas filler for 90% of cars on the driver side this means that you have to back in if all the driver side pumps are occupied. But, no one will back in. I’m the only one I’ve ever seen do it! They will idle behind another car and wait – too lazy to back the car into an available pump. We are beyond spoiled in this country.

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  • October 31, 2018 at 6:22 AM
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    I love your ability to take a simple idea and make an entire, enjoyable to read, post about it.

    I agree with everything you said and would love if my kids had to work through the struggle a little more but I have to choose my money battles wisely with my wife and in her defense even though nearly all of my kid’s clothes are branded she does get most off a Facebook marketplace at a very good price…I just agree with you that it kind of gives off a “rich kid” vibe…But I guess things are different now and it doesn’t necessarily have the same connotation as it did when we were kids.

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    • November 1, 2018 at 9:15 AM
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      It’s true that certain brands have less ‘rich kid vibe’ then they did when we were kids. But there’s still the ‘cool brands’ which all the pampered kids wear.

      Reply
  • October 31, 2018 at 7:07 AM
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    Without meaningful struggle life loses richness. But the struggle cannot be pointless, it should be part of a greater meaning. Suffering without meaning is just masochism and that is just pointless and ought to be avoided. That may be the next step in the discussions you have with your son.

    Perhaps you can frame it as a training ground for future challenges in life or a way to have more quality time with Dad and also to notice the massive difference between walking through an environment and driving through it- in the former you tend to notice a whole lot more things around you!

    Excellent post!

    -Mike

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    • November 1, 2018 at 9:17 AM
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      They say that no fortune survives three generations. Perhaps the lack of struggle is part of why?

      During our walks we talk about a lot of things — Sometimes we play word games, other times it’s a science lesson about the world, but it’s always great father-son time.

      Reply
  • October 31, 2018 at 7:52 AM
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    My wife and I often commiserate about the struggles of our youth molding us into successful adults. We often worry that our success and comfortable existence will make our kids soft and less driven.

    Struggle definitely makes you stronger. The challenge is how to pass it on to the next generation. Great post!

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    • November 14, 2018 at 6:56 PM
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      The only way to truly enjoy anything in this life is to earn it first. – Ginger Rogers

      Let people work for what they want. All the things that people gave or bought me, I cannot tell you where they are today. But that car I worked hard for for 5 years, is still in my driveway 15 years later. Just something to chew on.

      Thanks, Miriam

      Reply
  • October 31, 2018 at 8:03 AM
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    Totally agree with what you said, some of these kids have it easy nowadays. I remember having to walk to school for like 25 minutes rain or shine. I get it, safety is a big concern for parents but if you’re hovering over them all the time, they’ll never grow up.

    “Maybe I’m just turning into a grumpy old octopus”
    Lol yes you are. Remember to yell at the youngins to turn down the music b/c it’s too loud! :p

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    • November 1, 2018 at 9:19 AM
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      Don’t forget the classic “Get off my lawn!” 😀

      Reply
  • October 31, 2018 at 8:16 AM
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    Hi Mr. Tako:

    I have been following you for a little over a year now and I have never posted a comment. I just wanted to let you know that you inspire me so much. Your family lifestyle and believes are very similar to ours such as loving to cook good quality food and enjoy life in very simple ways. This post about struggle particularly hit the spot as I have been trying to tell my husband the same about the first world problems. I came here from the third world country and know how to appreciate little things such as a hot shower in the morning, having the choice to drive or take the bus and most of all having the freedom to save as much money as you wish to reach your goals. Also, your last line “So struggle on buddy. I’ll be walking there right with you.” got me a little teared up since I do have a 4 year old girl and 5 month old baby boy. I just wanted to stop by and say hello and let you know how valuable your posts are to me.

    I am looking forward to reading many more of your articles.

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    • November 1, 2018 at 9:22 AM
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      Thank you for this wonderful comment Samantha.

      As a blog writer, I get a lot of nasty comments and emails from readers who want to share their vitriol. But it’s wonderful little heart-warming notes like this one that keep me writing!

      Thank you! 😀

      Reply
  • October 31, 2018 at 9:09 AM
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    Mr. Tako, how do you know how much struggle to inject into your kids lives?

    I struggle with this because I inherently want to give my kids some of the opportunities and experiences I didn’t have, but at the same time, I know it’s important to have struggles. I don’t want them growing up spoiled brats (I don’t think they will), but “spoiled” is all relative, right?

    Life tastes a lot sweeter if you’ve tasted bitter before. 🙂

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    • October 31, 2018 at 4:37 PM
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      Your kids can most likely handle more struggle than you can imagine. Children are very resilient. I find it pathetic how much parents coddle their children today.

      Most FIRE bloggers pride themselves on how they live a frugal lifestyle. Walking to school is not “a struggle.” Eating home cooking is not “a struggle.”

      Most parents today impose a “struggle” on their children that will help them get into college – heavy course load on Honors Courses, learning a musical instruments, playing varsity sports, etc. The struggle is less the effort (although the necessary effort can be considerable) but more the possibility of failure. To many parents see failure as a demoralizing outcome that their children cannot recover from so they step in to avert failure.

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    • November 1, 2018 at 9:25 AM
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      I think the proper amount of struggle is unique to each kid and what they can handle.

      As a parent, I’m sure you know that moment when your little ones stop trying and turn into pumpkins (aka tears, tantrums, etc.) They just lock-up at that point. I’ve definitely gotten a feel for it over the years.

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    • November 14, 2018 at 6:53 PM
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      I have learned that as humans we are built to endure and for survival. When it is important to you, whether or not you have the means or money, you will find a way. Being a parent does not come with a guide book. You do by instinct. Trust your instincts and guide by example. You can be friends with your kids when they’re 22. As the parent, you must have a firm hand. In life people make mistakes, the key is to learn from them.

      Usually when you do the right thing, you feel good about it. If you ever have to question or second-guess a decision, that probably means you have to stop and think what lesson you want to teach. The first instinct is usually the correct one. That’s not me, that is what Eddie Murphy said in Coming to America, but it is still very true. Listen to your heart, make decisions, and don’t look back. Just do the best you can.

      Thanks, Miriam

      Reply
  • October 31, 2018 at 10:14 AM
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    I think we’re guaranteed a certain amount of struggle in our lives. We can have it early and develop the skills to fight, strive, and succeed (and then struggle is no longer struggle – it’s just the richness of life), or we can have it late when we don’t have the tools or training to respond and are therefore miserable. Unfortunately, I think a lot of folks are choosing the latter for their kids – a well intentioned curse for the next generation.

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    • November 1, 2018 at 9:27 AM
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      Thanks for your thoughts Paul! I think it’s best to have to struggle earlier in life too, rather than this ‘big surprise’ once they leave the nest.

      Reply
  • October 31, 2018 at 11:19 AM
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    PTL (praise the Lord) I’m not the only one that thinks this way. It seems like a lot of people feel like their biggest job in life is to make sure their kid NEVER experiences discomfort. AHHHHH!!!!

    It drives me nuts tbh, because I’m a public school teacher. Trust me that I can tell the “walkers” from the pampered kids any day of the week. You are doing your child a great service by having him walk:)

    Reply
  • October 31, 2018 at 1:15 PM
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    I made my little darling practice the violin everyday for years—-can you believe it! People gave me a hard time because they had to play their pieces perfectly in tune. Now they have good discipline and some great life skills and are pleased they didn’t waste their youth on video games.

    Reply
    • November 1, 2018 at 9:34 AM
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      Oooh, now there’s a very interesting topic. It used to be that video games were considered a waste of time, but now it’s not so clear. Some high-school age kids make a ton of money playing in tournaments and of course receiving endorsements for playing video-games.

      It’s quite possible that video games have become more lucrative than say being a violinist. Culturally I think there’s more e-sports players today than professional violinists.

      But from a cultural standpoint, the lifetime value of playing a musical instrument well is far greater! 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Evans! It was very thought provoking!

      Reply
  • November 1, 2018 at 1:05 AM
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    Well said, Mr. Tako! As Chris Rock once said “Pressure makes diamonds. What do you get when you hug a piece of coal? A dirty shirt.” Struggle definitely makes us stronger.

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  • November 1, 2018 at 7:43 AM
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    What doesn’t kill you makes you more resilient. 🙂
    Struggle when you’re young so you can be stronger. Once you’re a bit older, you can let up and enjoy life a little. I’ve suffered enough. That’s my new mantra.

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    • November 1, 2018 at 9:36 AM
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      I don’t think Life is quite done with you yet Joe! 😉

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  • November 1, 2018 at 9:20 AM
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    This is timely. Yesterday, I kept seeing messages on NextDoor about places offering “safe” trick or treating options – it was trunk or treating at churches, schools, the mall, etc. We don’t have children yet, but it made me wonder if we’re coddling kids too much these days. I guess it might be the older millennial in me! 😉

    I would imagine that most parents would go door to door with their children unless they’re a lot older, so why are we so scared to go knock on someone’s door? (I realize that I’m making the assumption that most of us live in relatively safe neighborhoods where walking down the street isn’t a great safety hazard) Part of the excitement was seeing what candy a house would have, there was always the house that had something spooky and you had to be brave, learning how to talk to strangers, etc.

    None of this is a hardship, but I see it being along similar lines.

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    • November 1, 2018 at 9:39 AM
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      Great example Bec! I definitely walked my kids around the neighborhood last night (they’re still really young), but I always hang back and let them do the work. They have to ring the doorbell, say ‘trick or treat’, and collect the candy.

      Here’s the crazy thing: I actually saw parents *driving* their kids door to door so they could trick or treat. How lazy is that?

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  • November 1, 2018 at 10:40 AM
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    Mr. T, not only did I walk unescorted to kindergarten but I also rode my bicycle unescorted to elementary school from the first grade on. By the time I was halfway through elementary school I was already throwing newspapers alone at 6 AM before I rode my bike to school. From then on I had a job every year for the rest of my life! You millennial snowflakes have no idea how tough we boomers are. In fact I taught Chuck Norris all his martial arts while I was in high school. And another thing….

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  • November 1, 2018 at 9:58 PM
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    I find that while I want our kids to not feel entitled it’s also important they dont feel resentment. Having pulled the purse strings a bit i don’t want them thinking we are being lazy by not working any more, and that we are being selfish by not giving them things.

    It’s all a balance.

    Reply
  • November 1, 2018 at 10:07 PM
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    I’m going to be THAT person Mr. Tako and disagree with you on one thing. 😛 I understand what you are saying about struggling is good for a person in general, but what if a person struggles their whole life and still does not see good results in their life? Like a person stuck in poverty and can’t work or “struggle” their way out of poverty from the way things are going these days. Obviously, this is an extreme case I am bringing up and does not apply to your current son’s life seeing as he has a good daddy and mom who loves him a lot and would never let him struggle that much. 😀 So I do not think struggling is always a good thing depending on the circumstance. ^ _^;

    But I totally get what you are saying though! There is nothing wrong with doing things “the hard way” if it is actually easier in the long run and does save one from spending their money on something a person can do and make themsleves. : )

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  • November 2, 2018 at 11:50 AM
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    Yes, yes, and yes. I needed to read this post for me, not just my kids!! In fact, just as I was typing this comment, I had to go out and let the dog in, and suddenly the door wouldn’t close back for some reason, so I spent ten minutes tinkering with it, then finally tightened the screws, and fixed it. Good feeling to DIY. And hard, but very good for me and my pocketbook.

    Reply
  • November 2, 2018 at 2:10 PM
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    If everybody will only apply a little “tough love” on their little ones, perhaps the world will be a better place!

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  • November 2, 2018 at 8:30 PM
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    I am 100% on your side in this.

    We can’t coddle and spoil our kids even if we have the means to do so. Otherwise we will raise a generation that will fold at the first sign of difficulty.

    Part of preparing kids to become adults is to have them problem solve. How can they do that if we do not give them problems?

    And if everything is gifted to them they will never learn the true value of money

    Reply
  • November 7, 2018 at 5:09 AM
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    Part of the struggle is dealing with failure or loss. My wife loss a parent as a child, growing up she was academically weak among a sea of brilliant students. Certainly things weren’t easy for her and she struggled in various ways, despite what many would considered a “privileged” childhood. Now, as an adult, she’s one of the most resilient, strong-willed, mentally tough, but down-to-earth individuals I know. I think her loss early in life taught her how to be emotionally tough. Her “failures” in academics taught her perseverance, strong work ethic and to develop other traits. In her field, she may not be the most book-smart person, but she’s often acknowledged as one of the best at her job. Those brilliant students that surpassed her and seemingly had it all have had their fair share of struggles as adults. Mental lapses, emotional struggles, lack of backbone or perseverance, etc.

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  • November 7, 2018 at 12:07 PM
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    I couldn’t agree more. I walked and/or biked to school every day until we moved my Freshman year of HS. It was too far to walk. So, I took the bus and my Senior year I got a used car. I hear a lot of people tell me well things are worse and scarier now. I always reply, “No, it’s not. You just hear about it more due to 24 hour news. I had awful things happen on my walks to school, but I still kept walking.
    The worst was driving through a neighborhood during school time. I forgot that it was the end of school. So, I got stuck in bus traffic. I saw an elementary school to my left and a group of impatient parents waiting on the right. The bus pulled out of the school and dropped those kids off directly across the street to those parents waiting. I just shook my head in disbelief. I mean I know it gets hot here in Texas, but bajeebus, that’s ridiculous.

    And I work on the 21rst floor and used to always take the stairs down. People thought I was nuts, but I loved that little bit of exercise. I hardly took them up, because you can’t get there from the first floor. It’s locked from the outside; you must go to the second floor. I really hate making people stop on an elevator (that’s not my bank anyways) for one floor. So, I would walk down and walk back up on my lunch breaks…sometimes. But this has reminded me that I need to start walking down the stairs again. I stopped, because of some back/shoulder/neck pain, but I never went back. Now, I’m not looking forward to the pain.

    Reply
  • November 9, 2018 at 3:51 PM
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    Our middle school is 3 miles away, and our kids bike both ways, & up hill. Six miles of biking a day is great for them, and the last thing I need to be doing is driving them to school, sitting in traffic for 35+ minutes (did it today because one child had a project to big to carry on the bike). What a waste of time & gas/pollution.

    Our kids do chores every weekend (this is unusual) in our neighborhood. They clean the bathrooms, empty the garbage, help maintain the pool. They also play sports, and do homework. And, gasp, survive. As my dad used to say to me. . . “Suck it up, Buttercup.” I think of that a lot. My parents talked a lot about hard work, and it’s a motto in our house.

    Reply

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