Yesterday, my man @Echecrates reposted this tweet by what I assume is a business owner in Nigeria complaining about the attitude of middle and upper middle class Nigerian kids who grow up being spoon-fed by their parents without any real life experience until they show up to the workplace, demanding salaries that are incommensurate with their skills.
I agree that the comments in general seems exaggerated, which is understandable because exaggeration is how Nigerians make their point. But it still raised some questions to me about how we raise kids. To make it easier to discuss, I’ll break it out in sections
Work Experience and Skills
One of the points raised in the tweet is that most people don’t allow their kids gain any kind of work experience, formal or informal, throughout their lives until they get into the workplace. Nigerian parents tend to adopt the stance of “until you graduate, your only job is to get good grades.” This jives with my experience. Until I moved to the States and got a job in my freshman year, I had never been in an organized work environment. Never held a job. I accompanied my dad to his office, sat in on meetings, or joined offloaders at the warehouse, and at one point, even hauled mixed concrete with laborers at our building site, but all these things were because I wanted to. I had no assigned tasks, could come and go as I pleased, and could do whatever I wanted. When I worked for the first time and had to take instructions, and do things that were boring, for hours on end, day in day out, to be honest, I struggled a lot.
While I know it’s not that easy in Nigeria to find a reasonably easy place to get work experience, I still think if we wanted to, there are ways to do that, especially once a kid is up to 15. It helps them get out into the world somewhat, learn how to interact with adults and gain confidence. We tend to overemphasize book knowledge as if an academic education is the only type there is, or the only type necessary. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve asked carpenters, mechanics, even brewers, if I could hang around their workshops and help them out, for a chance to learn things from them. All those things are education I could have gained much earlier, if I had realized it. Nothing wrong with asking a kid for instance, to clean house or babysit for the neighbors, or go work with a local barber, or hair maker, or stock shelves, or handle bookkeeping for local supermarkets. All these things would give kids an insight on how hard it is to make money, and perhaps just as importantly, force them to stop seeing jobs like that as something to be looked down on. Because don’t lie, most middle class children look down on jobs like that as somehow beneath them. I know I did.
Some of us got allowances as kids, some of us did not. But almost all of us knew that allowance or not, whenever we needed money, there was always Bank of Mom and Dad and their wells never run dry. If they say no to our financial requests, it’s because they want to be mean. Then we get older, and start paying our own bills and suddenly we are shocked by how hard it is to take care of everything and have money left. And we’re single. So now you’re reevaluating your parents super hero status. If you’re lucky.
For many, we are raised with little to no financial skills. No budget, no understanding of how to rein in the urge to spend on frivolities, live within your means and save for important stuff, or invest your money for the long term. We’ve never known how much our parents made in a month, what that money goes into, in fact, we’ve mostly never discussed money in detail with our parents. Exceptions exist of course, even in my case (by 17 I knew specifics about my dad’s finances) but in general, we just never know. So by not starting early, we never get a chance to pick these things up or form these habits when we’re still young enough for it to become a bonafide part of us. We now end up starting to learn it while we’re already grown. And when we have kids, we tend to also not teach them early because we’ve assumed it’s only stuff to be learned as adults.
But compare this to the experiences detailed by Robert Kiyosaki in ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ and in the biographies of one of the wealthiest men that ever lived, John D. Rockefeller. They show parents who give their kids budgets, push them to learn how to save, account for their spending, manage budgets, and find creative ways to make more money even as kids, in the house. They also openly discuss, as much as feasible, the details of how much they (the parents) make, what it’s spent on, when they run out of money and why, or in the case of the wealthy, how they make all that money and why. This shapes the way the children think about money and finances, and they grow up seeing money as the by product of discipline, hard work, intelligence, and value to society.
This is something we don’t do enough in Nigeria. Nigerian parents tend to ascribe wealth to God’s favor, luck, knowing the right people or outsmarting others. I also imagine if you crooked your way into wealth it would be hard to tell your kids, but I don’t believe that represents the majority of Nigerian parents. So isn’t it high time we imbibed a better financial culture when it comes to how we raise kids?
Besides, learning all these things, having jobs of their own and making income, managing their money, understanding your family finances and how money comes and goes is just as valuable (in my opinion, even far more valuable) than simply going to school and reading books for almost 25 years. It will prepare them better for an independent life, and give them skills that will help them when they finally leave the home.
What do you think? Do you agree or not, and why? And what are some challenges, other advantages and disadvantages of raising kids like this?