Giving Kids a Hand Up Instead of a Hand Out

By Zach Swenson

Shopping at Safeway the other day I saw an outrageous yet typical  scene. Minding my own business in the soda aisle, along strolled a mother with her four year old son by her side. I watched them from the corner of my eye as I picked out what sort of caffeinated beverage I wanted to indulge in. While walking through the aisle the mother seemed calm and the boy bored and uninterested.

All of a sudden I watched the boy light up when he saw a case of root beer that he just had to have. “Mom can I have this?” he said in his nicest/ cutest voice. With a hasty response and an annoyed tone, his mother quickly replied, “No,” seeming to stun the boy with her seriousness.

Just as quick as his mother, he sat on the floor where he transitioned into the last line of a child’s defense and began to cry. The mother looked around, incredibly embarrassed, and in no time she chose to compromise, saying, “I’ll get you a soda when we go check out.” After that the boy calmed down and they went on their way with the rest of their business.

Thinking about it now, I realize that the little boy was no different than any modern day child, including myself. When I was younger I remember times that I just ‘had to have’ certain things and with just a little persuasion I could convince my mother to give me my way, not realizing that it was hurting me and that there is a difference between a hand out and a hand up. I do realize that now, and I’m grateful to know it.

Nowadays people seem to give more handouts than hand-ups. Why not make that child earn the soda instead of just giving it to him? It’s forgotten too often that in life you don’t always get what you want (an important lesson everyone learns at some point).

I read an article once about child-centered parenting where the writer stated, “There is a fine line between ‘loving’ and being ‘indulgent.’” He explained that although children need loving parents who are sensitive to their emotions, they more often need adults to teach ways to deal with hardships and failure. Almost being an adult, I wonder if others who are or will be my age won’t learn the valuable lessons needed in life and will fail in life because of it. That child in Safeway could certainly use a few lessons.


Photo credit: I feel just like a child by bogey on Flickr