I recently read a fascinating article in the paper contrasting the stereotypical "Chinese mother" with the stereotypical "American mother". Wont rehash the piece here, but basically the Chinese mother forces her kids to do what she knows is best (Get straight As, practice 3 hours of violin per day, have no sleepovers, play no computer games, etc.), while the American mother gives her children more freedom and more fun.
I suggested to the kids that we try the "Chinese" approach for a month. N went ballistic. A just gave me a smile that meant "good luck trying". P thought it was a good idea. We had an interesting conversation about the trade-offs of extra effort and sacrifices today for benefits in the future. There is no question that practicing piano for 3 hours per day wouldn't be fun for them, or that studying a lot more to get straight As wouldn't either, but there is no denying that being a better piano player and having better grades would have benefits down the road.
But is the future more important than the present? Is going to a "better" college more important than having fun in high-school? The argument for focusing on the future is that it is, to a certain extent, "unlimited". At the very least longer than the present (for most people at least). But where do you draw the line? When do you transition from saving to spending? When does the son know better than the mother? To quote my favorite band:
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find that ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun