An Entitled Generation
Our longing to be “friends” with our children has led to the evolution of an entitled generation. We have denied them nothing for so long that the moment they are denied anything in life they crumble. Not allowing our children to face adversity has left them without resilience or the ability to “roll with the punches”.
I’ve been thinking lately about my evolution as a parent. Parenting is hard, and none of us earn a perfect score. I think I learn something new every day from the families I encounter along the way and through my own life experiences. There certainly seem to be some clearly defined divisions in the population when it comes to parenting. Forgive me if it seems I am over-simplifying here, we all know there is nothing simple about parenting.
In one group, there is the under-achieving or absentee parent. This parent has pro-created without any desire to truly guide their child. In fact, their guidance is non-existent and the household may be dysfunctional. The children are left to raise themselves and to fight for their own survival. Many times, these children spend their lives fighting and never really understand how to love and respect themselves or others. On the other hand, sometimes children come out of these situations with an incredible determination and desire for a better life, which sometimes leads to their eventual success.
In another group, there are the parents who adhere to parenting guidelines without wavering. They have developed their own methods based on their own firmly held belief systems and rely on the parenting tips handed down to them through generations. They seem to run their households without missing a beat. When controversies arise they handle them appropriately, firmly and with a positive outlook. They are generally balanced and supportive in their parenting style and may even be called “old-fashioned” and “strict”.
Then there is a larger group of parents who have a more permissive parenting style. These are the “cool” parents. These parents focus on making their children happy in whatever way they can. They assist with providing immediate gratification. I have conversations way too often with parents who reside in a household controlled by their offspring. I am disturbed beyond measure when I listen to well-meaning parents attempt to justify their child’s truancy. “She just hasn’t felt well this week, maybe she will feel like doing her work next week.” “He doesn’t like doing school work. I will talk with him and maybe I can convince him to do a few lessons today.” “I don’t want to hurt her feelings, I mean she doesn’t like to be forced to do anything.” “He refuses to work and there is nothing I can do about it. I just don’t know, maybe I should let him quit school like he wants.” Usually, the will of the child wins out.
In our efforts to make our children feel valued and respected, have we crossed the line? It seems we have allowed the pendulum to swing far over the line to the other side when it comes to building a strong self-esteem in our children. We have sought to find balance in the years following the generations when children were “seen and not heard” and were not allowed to enter into adult conversations. We have raised our children to “speak up” but became too busy to guide them in how to express themselves while still showing respect for others. We have loved our children into complacency and defiance. We have given them more than we possessed; we have drained bank accounts and created incredible debt all to prove our love for our children. We have paid them to do what they should have volunteered to do and we feel lucky when they actually complete the task. In order to protect our children from feeling inadequate or less talented than anyone else, we have given them trophies for simply showing up, not for excelling. When we feel they have been wronged by teachers, administrators, friends, or the ever-important status- building popularity contest, we spare no scathing words or threats as we fight for what we think our children deserve. We sometimes fight bitterly and irrationally in order to win for our children the things they didn’t earn, demonstrating the idea that the rules do not really apply to everyone. We deny them nothing. If we think they might start participating in underage drinking, not only do we tell them it is okay and expected but we provide the product and place to do it. Whatever it is they really want to do, no matter how immoral, we let them do it. After all, they will do it anyway, right? As parents, we want our children to feel they can tell us anything, so we certainly don’t want to shut the door of communication by attempting to discipline them. We just want them to be happy, to feel loved.
Our longing to be “friends” with our children has led to the evolution of an entitled generation. We have denied them nothing for so long that the moment they are denied anything in life they crumble. Not allowing our children to face adversity has left them without resilience or the ability to “roll with the punches”. The lack of discipline or denial in their lives has left our children feeling helpless to control any stressful situation. As one teen told me recently, he “need(s) for someone to make me do the work, I just don’t have the discipline to get the work done. I can’t do this alone.” Even a sixteen year-old recognizes that adult guidance is vital in his ability to succeed.
I think no matter what our parenting style, we owe it to our kids to provide discipline and firm non-negotiable guidelines in their everyday lives. I never want my kids to look back and say “Wow, Mom, I can’t believe you let me do that.” I’m generalizing here, but I would rather be accused of being “strict” and “old-fashioned” than to be a “cool” parent contributing to a future filled with irresponsibility, immorality, defiance and mediocrity. I guess I think too much.