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The Difference Between Won't and Can't; Raising Kids Today

“The scholars who research happiness suggest that more money stops making people happier at a family income of around seventy-five thousand dollars a year. After that, what economists call “diminishing marginal returns” sets in. If your family makes seventy-five thousand and your neighbor makes a hundred thousand, that extra twenty-five thousand a year means that your neighbor can drive a nicer car and go out to eat slightly more often. But it doesn’t make your neighbor happier than you, or better equipped to do the thousands of small and large things that make for being a good parent.”  ~    Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
I find that as a leader I am more often wanting growth and development for people more than they want it themself.  I want so badly for them to want more, be more, do more, and to have more. I think that's why when I run into an individual that is working on self development I get a little overboard with excitement.  Like the case with the 4 Hour Body.  When a friend was excited about reading it I bought it and read it in one day.  So, when a colleague mentioned he was reading David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell I downloaded it immediately on Audible.  Reading the reviews and doing a little research on the book I found that it was a perfect fit for discussing in a reading group on LinkedIn. If you would like to join in on the discussion click here Art Van Reading Group.  The group is open to everybody.  We only ask that you don't just visit; you participate!

The Laws of Attraction (you draw to you what you think about) were at work when I listened to Malcolm discuss how happiness can increase when income increases, but only to a certain point.  At that point any additional income is meaningless to your overall happiness and in fact can make matters more difficult for you.  In the case of parenting the difficulty comes in having to explain to your children why we won't do something versus why we can't do something.

Can't is easy for both parties.  The deliverer of the message simply cannot do what is requested and is not faced with having to make a decision at all.  They only have to explain that it can't be done.  The receiver just has to understand that can't is can't.  Disappointing, but there is no bad guy.

Won't travels a much slipperier slope.  Won't involves decision making and influence.  The requested party must decide and then be able to defend the decision.  It also requires the discipline necessary to stick to your guns.  The requester must be open minded and able to accept no for an answer.  Not so easy for young ears who want what they want when they want it.

I was confronted with this on Sunday night.  We were shopping for school pants for my son.  He has blown through the knees in all of his and while struggling to get him into anything but athletic wear my daughter asked for a pair of Converse.  If we couldn't purchase the shoes I could have explained to her that we simply can't buy the shoes.  It would have been honest and easily understood.  Disappointing, but end of story. Instead, I was faced with having to explain to her why we won't buy the Converse.  Not as easy to do and not as easily understood.  In fact, I must have blown it because the Converse matter came up the next day.

How do you balance working parent guilt with not spoiling your children?  Comment below.


  1. I am finding it very hard to be a full time teacher and a mummy. I feel like both suffer, I can't do both how I feel they should be . I'm a perfectionist!

    Just set up a blog

    What do you think?xx

    1. I totally understand the perfectionist part. Try to remember that no one else expects things to be perfect. I do a lot of public speaking and when I get done speaking I usually kick myself for the 4 things I meant to say, but forgot. Then I remind myself that no one else knew that I was going to say them so no harm is done. Enjoy the successes and the fun you do have. No one is expecting more.
      p.s. I checked out your blog - what a cutie. It looks like paint was a huge hit,

  2. Boy, this post really resonates with me! It is extremely difficult trying to defend myself against teenagers who WANT. When they were little, my children understood and accepted no for an answer more graciously. Now it seems like they can't understand the word at all. Everything has become such a struggle to get what they want! Although I work full time and wish I had more time with them at home, I really don't feel any guilt. I know my kids understand I work to give them a good life.They're good kids, and I think it's only natural to try to wear me down to get their way if they can (and wear me out in the process)!

    1. Teens are such good salesmen aren't they? Relentless.

  3. A really interesting post, thanks for the read. My husband is currently working his way through Gladwell's David and Goliath and I think I may have to steal it off him when he's done - or before if he doesn't improve his reading speed soon.

    I can only celebrate the fact that my sons are still young and not yet at the truly demanding stage. Having said that, it won't be more than a couple of years until they are...!

    1. It's a really good book. Enjoy the read. With school age boys I think you will enjoy his discussions on education.


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