08/19/2013 05:37 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

President Obama vs. Kris Jenner: What Are We Teaching Our Children About The True Measure of Success?

While flipping channels the other day, I caught the tail end of a recent news story that highlighted a "feud" between President Obama and Kris Jenner. The president made some remarks stating that what Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have achieved is not a true measure of success and not what our children should be influenced to strive for. Of course mama bear took this personally and so Kris Jenner responded with some comments of her own.

In catching up with this story online, I most enjoyed reading this brilliant response to Kris, written by HuffPost blogger Ernest Owens, which clearly articulates the underlying problem that President Obama was trying to shed light on when he made his comments. The overall issue is that the Kardashian family represents the faulty measure of success that millions of young minds have been, and are being, corrupted by. This excerpt from Ernest's article sums it up best:

In many ways, your "empire" represents the shift in values that now has dampened the light of what is considered the American dream. What was once an idea shaped around getting a good home, a good job, and the possibility of higher education has been exploited for this idea of ultimate fame and immense fortune. It is a shame that even in college, many don't recognize the opportunity that comes from an education but moreover the rewards and perks that come from the career they may get from it. This same reshaping of views can be seen in your critique of the President where you argued that there is nothing wrong with working hard for "nice things."

But that is the fundamental problem with the celebrity influence that your family and their brand have continued to push for: an incentive-driven reality. You continue to thrust this superficial idea of working hard and "you could have whatever you wanted," when that is an illusion.

I have this issue with my own children, and they don't watch much reality TV. However, the influence of incentives gained without much effort is present in their everyday lives and throughout our culture -- especially in the suburbs of Virginia which is where we live. My teenager asked me not too long ago what kind of car I was going to buy him when he gets his license. Huh? What kind of car am I going to buy you?!! What the what? I promptly told him the question he needs to ask is where he is going to apply for a job so that he can save up his checks and buy himself a damn car! I was offended. I felt like I must have failed somewhere along the way. Why would he even form his lips to say something so cray?

We had a subsequent conversation where we discussed what it means to work hard. How you achieve your goals. The fact that you have to set goals in the first place. He looks at my life and thinks that I am some sort of successful millionaire (I wish!) that will pass my wealth along to him. Oh boy, is it ever the opposite. I get up every day and work hard to not only make, but also keep up, the lifestyle that we live. He doesn't see that though. He sees the "big" house, the "nice" car, the frequent vacations, frequent dining out, my-hair-did-nails-did-everything-did -- and in his mind it just magically is.

But the magic happening behind the scenes is my hard work. The goal is a comfortable, healthy, happy life for my family. And the means is something I enjoy doing; that I wake up excited to devote my time to and that I feel rewarded for by just being able do.


There is nothing wrong with enjoying, and working towards, the rewards that result from your hard work. But your focus should always be on what you give to the world, not what you get from it.

When I explain to my children what it means to be successful, and what they should strive for, I sum it up in the following:
  • Happiness. Each day you should wake up brimming with joy. Even one day that you are on earth and not experiencing that joy is a waste. Life is too precious to waste even one second not being happy. Your life should be purposefully lived doing that which makes you happy. Every. Single. Day.
  • Fulfillment. Do what makes you feel whole. Pick a career where the incentive to do is the blessed feeling you get when you even think about work. No matter what it is, entrepreneurship or a 9 to 5, you should feel lucky that you are able to do this work. It should feel like a total guilty pleasure.
  • Lifestyle. One of the biggest impressions I hope to leave with my children is the fact that you should never strive to achieve anyone else's lifestyle but your own. I want what I want because it's what I want. Not because it's what other people have. Trying to keep up with the Kardashian's, Jones's, or anyone else, is a life destined for unbalance. And unhappiness.
  • Well-Being. You should never sacrifice your well-being for the benefit of any job, material gain, or person. You have to take care of you. Mind, body, and soul must be healthy and in harmony. Rid your life of anything that goes against this goal.
  • Service. I do not believe you can live your life wholly without being of service to others. This is something that I try to teach my children. If you are helping others and being of service, then this is the true measure of success.

It is also an interesting conversation when I talk to my children about education. My teen is not that interested in school, or going to college, and my daughter wants to go to college tomorrow -- she's 10; what an overachiever! My son even asked me why I bothered with college when I have to pay back money for degrees that did not impact my career or lifestyle. And he's right. I did not need my degrees to get my job. I did not need my degrees to start my business. I did not need my degrees to write. What I did need my degrees for was the personal satisfaction of obtaining an advanced education in a subject that I have a deep affinity for: Business Administration. Not because I wanted to get to a better job, or make more money, or have more things. But simply to be educated in what I love doing. It's like unheard of, I know. I might be a martian and just don't know it yet.

My overarching goal is to make sure my children measure success by what they do, how they feel, and what they give; and not by the material things they have or can get. I guess I am doing something right: my teen wants to be an automotive engineer, my daughter wants to be a pro dancer and teacher after she graduates from Yale (yea, here we go with the overachiever again!), and the little guy said he is going to "build stuff when he gets taller." I am glad that they at least seem to know what they like to do and even though it could possibly change before they reach adulthood, it is a start.

As parents, we have a serious responsibility on our hands. To raise a generation of people who place value only in the incentives they can gain out of life would be a serious tragedy. The fabric of the American Dream may be unraveling but it's not too late to start sewing it back together with the seeds we plant in the minds of our youth. It is very possible to fix this before it goes too far. Now, if they would only get rid of reality TV our jobs would be a lot easier. I know, it's like I am asking for a miracle. And while I do believe in miracles, I don't think reality TV will be leaving our screens anytime soon. As in never, ever. And before you ask, Yes. I watch it too (not the Kardashian's though!). Let that be our little secret, ok?!

This post original appeared on Memoirs of a Clueless Woman.