I was in the store a a few days ago and a watched a small child on a rampage that would make Godzilla blush. She was throwing Captain Crunch boxes off the shelves, talking back, yelling, and even hitting her mother. What was her mother’s reaction? It was nothing like what most of of would have received when we were children; she simply told her daughter that it “hurt her feelings when she acted this way” and proceeded to bribe her by offering to buy Oreos if she behaved.
This kind of garbage makes me wish Dr. Phil had never been born.
Parents today don’t seem to understand their job. It’s not to guilt or bribe your children into behaving properly. It’s not to be their “bestie,” or get all their friends to think you’re the cool parent. It’s not to give them everything they want in life. And it’s certainly not to convince them that all of their problems are the fault of someone else.
No, it’s much simpler than that. Your job as a parent is to properly raise, and when necessary, discipline your child so that they grow up to be decent, educated, and productive citizens.
Children generally want everything. That’s just a fact of life. When toddlers see another kid pick up a particular toy, even if it’s one they previously had no interest in, one they had just put down five minutes ago, or even one that they hate, they instantly want it. My son is at the stage where every television commercial is followed by the proclamation “I want that!” despite often having no idea what the item in question is. At first, it was cute when a Transformer commercial came on and he declared that he just had to have the new Optimus Prime toy; it reminded me of when I was his age. It lost the “cute” factor when the infamous pitchman, “Vince” and his Shamwow, prompted my son to express his need for a super-absorbent towel. When your mini-you clones become teenagers, it will get worse because while they still want everything and now have the means to get a job and buy things for themselves, but more often than not, they still expect you to buy most everything for them.
In addition to providing for your children, it’s also your job to tell them no from time to time. Probably a lot more frequently than the word currently passes your lips. As an alternative to simply saying “no,” you might say “Yes, I understand all your friends have the newest Xbox, but we can’t afford that right now.” If it is, in fact, simply a matter of money, you could always encourage them to earn money by doing yard work, shoveling snow, or cleaning pools for your neighbors so that they can buy it themselves; that way, they learn the value of hard work (and maybe begin to appreciate what you do for them a little more), financial management, prioritization. It could have nothing to do with money though; perhaps their grades are suffering and you want them to change that. You could stipulate that they must achieve a particular GPA before you will buy whatever it is they’re asking for, and maintain that GPA if they’re to retain possession of said object of desire. Children must understand that they have to earn the things they want. The answer “no” should always come with a reason, and if appropriate, an alternative that gives them the opportunity to learn something or build character.
Sadly, because most of today’s parents are more concerned with being liked, they simply cave to every “demand” from their children. This has created a society in which children, and a terrifying number of young adults, believe that the world owes them something. They feel that just by the virtue of their existence, everything they want should fall into their lap without putting forth any effort to earn or achieve it. We have created an entitlement society, the damage of which will take decades to reverse.
During my childhood, you received a trophy when you actually won; today, children get one just for showing up. We’ve become so worried about “shattering” their fragile self-esteem, that we’ve convinced our children no matter how poor their performance is, they are just as deserving as anyone else. They believe the mere fact that they arrived on the field on game day is just as valid and respectable as the fact that their opponent spent the last three months getting up two hours early to practice, and staying late after school to practice some more, all in addition to the regular practice sessions and his school work. Many children expect rewards to be bestowed upon them because their parents failed to teach them that they must put forth hard work and sacrifice to achieve them.
You can’t build self-esteem by manufacturing it. Self-esteem can only be built by accomplishing worthy endeavors, such as excelling in sports or academics, building a business, or engaging in charity, to name just a few examples.
We’ve also taken accountability completely out of the picture. When I was a child, you were expected to actually learn useful knowledge in school, not pointless courses like “Sex in Ancient Rome” (yes, it’s a real college-level course), and then be tested on what you were supposed to have learned. Today, many students are too lazy (often due to poor parenting) to put any real effort into their studies. The result is stupid children. When these children, astonishingly short of even basic knowledge, inevitably fail an assignment, test, or even an entire class, who’s to blame? If you ask the student or the parent, it’s the teacher’s fault, of course.
When I failed in school, my parents came in and spoke with the teacher; not to argue with them or tell them how great I was and how stupid they were, but to find our exactly what I did wrong and hold me accountable. Parents today will proudly march into the school and defiantly announce that their child is wonderful and can do no wrong. They’ll claim the teacher didn’t do her job, or she simply failed the child because of her own ignorance, laziness, racism, or any number of other excuses.
I know this may come as a shock to some people; it may even seem counter-intuitive, but it’s not the responsibility of the school system or any teacher to ensure your child is educated. That responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders as a parent. Yes, I know your taxes pay for the public school system, which is intended to teach your children, but my taxes pay for traffic lights, police, firefighters and even lifeguards, and I would never leave my safety solely in their hands. That would be irresponsible. You should be teaching your children long before they ever enter the school system, thus putting them well ahead of the learning curve and helping them to develop good study habits. You should also continue teaching them at every possible opportunity. The school system should be an aid to what you teach them, and a way for them to learn things that you can’t teach them.
Expect that your child is going to screw up along the way. Maybe he’ll fail an assignment, skip a class, or disrespect a teacher. When you have that inevitable parent-teacher meeting (and trust me, at some point, we all will), resist the urge to jump to your child’s defense or berate the teacher. Find out what actually happened, and then react accordingly and objectivity. I know you love your child, but that doesn’t change right and wrong. If a teacher ever mistreats my son, I can guarantee she will be held accountable, but on the same note, my son will certainly be held accountable if he ever mistreats his teacher.
If you could look at what most teachers have to put up with on a daily basis, you would be ashamed of the environment we force them to work in, and if you learned how little money most of them make, you would wonder why the hell they do it considering what they have to go through. Please think about that when you interact with them.
The consequences of today’s poor parenting are far more dire than just having to deal with a few spoiled, undisciplined children. We’ve raised several generations of people, some of whom are now adults, who have an entitlement mentality, no work ethic, and no accountability or respect for authority. On its own, that’s bad enough, but we also have plenty of politicians on both sides of the aisle who are more than willing to trade handouts and favors for votes, and eventually, we will reach a critical tipping point where are more people who expect these handouts and favors, leading to more politicians willing to follow suit. This will lead to an entire country dependent entirely on the government, and the destruction of the values that make America and Americans great.
So whether you’re a parent, an expectant parent, or even someone who hopes to one day become a parent, please do not follow in the footsteps of so many “parents” today; be a real parent. Your job is not to make your child happy or make them feel good about themselves. Your job is to raise your child to be a person of character who contributes to society so that they have a reason to be happy and feel good about themselves. Do this for the sake of your family, your child, and society.