Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dear Parents.....

Dear Parents:

Some of you have raised the question of what's wrong with young people today. It's not your PARTICULAR young people you're questioning as a rule; it's always everyone else's. As we head toward the close of another year, I am offering my theory as to what's wrong with young people. It's their parents. More specifically, it's the fact that their parents have lied to them from birth. I am taking it upon myself to address those falsehoods in the misguided notion that perhaps next year will be a better one for you and your little darlings.

Parent Lie #5: "It doesn't matter what anyone thinks of you." I'm sorry, but that's crap. It matters a great deal what a lot of people think of all of us. If you continue to encourage your children to be "individuals" to the point that they are completely comfortable exhibiting their snotty attitudes to anyone with whom they come into contact, please expect to support them indefinitely. It matters what their teachers think of them. It matters what law enforcement officials think of them. It matters what their employers (if they are lucky enough to get a job and actually keep it) think of them. I have had two teenagers, one male one female, shrug at me recently and tell me, "Oh well, that's just who I am." Parents, that's your fault. Children are not born with lousy attitudes; they are taught them. If that's "just who they are," they need to change who they are. Quickly.

Parent Lie #4"You don't have to take any s**t from anyone." How are you going to feel, parents (if you haven't already experienced it), when your little darling decides he/she doesn't have to take any s**t from YOU? Are you gonna punch him or her in the mouth? Or are you going to look in the mirror and say, "Hmmmm, maybe that wasn't such a smart thing to teach him/her"? No one lives in a vacuum or in isolation. If your children intend to hold jobs, go to school, or otherwise interact in society in any meaningful way, they need to expect that occasionally they ARE GOING TO HAVE TO "take some s**t." Especially since some of the young people with whom I have come into contact think that "taking some s**t" means hearing anything negative, critical, or otherwise what they don't want to hear. It doesn't matter how high they rise or how low they sink, there will come many times when they are disappointed, screwed, let down, cheated, or otherwise handed some s**t. Teach them, please, how to deal with it.

Parent Lie #3: "If you wrong someone, as long as you say you're sorry, everything will be fine." Well, maybe in a perfect world. But this ain't a perfect world, and the people your little darlings will have to deal with are imperfect human beings. We try to forgive and forget, but sometimes it simply isn't possible. Sometimes relationships get damaged irreparably. Instead of teaching your children to say "I'm sorry," how about teaching them to THINK before they speak/act, possibly AVOIDING some of the situations for which they are forced to apologize? If I hit one of them with my car (by accident, of course), I will be sure to apologize. But I'll bet those broken bones will still hurt. And suing me will only make them have more money; it will not make them feel better about their broken bones.

Parent Lie #2: "We only want you to be happy." Wrong again. First of all, your little darlings for the most part are incapable of distinguishing happiness from satisfaction. In their world of instant gratification (ahem, created by YOU, I might add), they have come to equate happiness with getting their way. Stop telling them "we only want you to be happy." What we want is for them to be productive, charitable, educable, interested, interesting, busy, socially acceptable, inspired, inspiring, and ambitious. If doing all that brings them happiness, terrific. If not, well at least maybe they'll leave the world a better place.

And Parent Lie #1: "You can be anything you want to be." Uh.....no. There are some things out there that they just CAN'T BE. Your little ballerina will probably not be an NFL player. Or even a prima donna with a major ballet company. There's just too much competition out there. Wanting it is not enough, and some of the young people I've encountered seem to think that ALL they have to do is want it. We regularly interview students for our program who want to be lawyers or doctors. (Occasionally we get one who either wants to be a pediatrician or a hair stylist.) And they're reading on an eighth grade level with a "C" average and are 8 credits behind where they should be to be on track for graduation. I don't mean they shouldn't dream. But along with those dreams, they should be prepared to work like a dog, study harder than anyone else, put forth extreme effort even when rewards are not immediately forthcoming, and accept that there is only so much room at the top. Not only does the good guy not always win, but two identically good guys cannot share the same space at the same time. That's just the way life works. Teach them to deal with it and have a Plan B. Teach them that they MAY be able to be anything they're willing to scrap for, sacrifice for, and compete tooth and nail for. But they may have to alter their wants a little and be willing to settle for less than what they originally wanted. Above all else, please teach them that the positive effects they have on the lives of others are way more important than their bank balances. If they even know what those are.



P.S. I acknowledge this is a strange post to write in my second week of freedom from the little darlings you send to me during the school year. I've been stewing about it for a couple of months.


Anonymous said...

I bow to you and your bloggy wisdom!

Badger said...

HELL YES! (Pardon the language please) This should be published on the front page of every parenting self help book published. We have made a point about teaching our kids these very same principles.