What parents don’t want their children to follow their dreams, land a solid job, have strong relationships and family, and enjoy a great life? We want them to be happy. We want them to be well-regarded by others. We want them to be successful.
But, here’s the rub. In a genuine effort to help our kids be happy and successful, there are some things we parents can do that are extremely counterproductive and actually work against our objectives.
Those who commonly work with young adults (e.g., teachers and administrators from high schools and universities, employers, etc.) report growing issues with this younger generation, four of which are particularly troubling: disrespect for authority, lack of social skills, apathy, and an entitlement mentality. Guess where these particular issues generally originate–in the home! And, they are worsening, according to organizations receiving and trying to work with teens and young adults. The effects of media and culture aren’t helping either!
We can’t point the finger at anyone else on this one. It’s our job as parents to do our part and to help reverse this course, and the younger we can start with our kids, the better. From a parenting perspective, consider this scenario:
Say two-year old Joey is hungry. Mom says, “Joey, do you want a banana or some grapes?” Joey doesn’t want a banana or grapes. Joey wants a mango. Mom tells Joey he needs to eat what is offered to him. He pitches a fit. What does Mom do next? She sends Dad out to the store to buy a mango. Mom and Dad are happy because Joey’s happy. Everybody’s happy, right? Wrong.
If this style of parenting continues throughout Joey’s life, as it does for many, what do you think Joey will grow up thinking? How about:
– he will always have choices
– his happiness and satisfaction should be priorities to the people around him
– he doesn’t have to comply with what he is told to do
– Mom will always advocate for him to get his way and come out on top
– other people are there to serve him, not the other way around
Granted, this scenario is overly simplistic, but here’s the point I want to make: Out of our desire to provide the best for our children (and keep them happy), some of our parenting methods may be contributing to their perception that the world revolves around them. If this is the case, they’re in for a rude awakening when they leave home and find that the world owes them nothing. And this is exactly what is happening—in astronomical proportions.
Do you see how this can translate to their life after they leave our home? To their experience in college or the workplace? To interpersonal skills with professors, coaches, and other superiors? To a marriage? Not very well! Here’s what it can look like, now and later:
- Parents doing their children’s homework, chores, etc.
- Parents defending unacceptable behavior of their children in meetings with school officials
- Parents complaining to and threatening educators, coaches, and employers when their children aren’t receiving their desired rewards
- Parents whose lives and schedules are dominated by their children’s activities and wants
- Young adults who call in “sick” at the last minute because they’ve found something better to do
- Young adults who don’t take responsibility for their mistakes and shortfalls or show respect to others
- Young adults who expect teachers and employers to accommodate them instead of the other way around
Entitlement is what we call this attitude, this sense that other people owe us something—that we are deserving, regardless of whether we have done anything to earn it. It stems from the parenting style just described and some undesirable consequences of the “self esteem movement.” As a result, children feel entitled to get their way, viewing rules as arbitrary and voluntary, their needs as paramount, and other people as existing to serve them. And parents, unwittingly, are generally the ones who are cultivating this mindset.
In order for us to give our young adults wings on which they can really fly, we can’t coddle or cave in to them. If we’ve been doing it up to this point (as revealed in our children’s behavior), we need to turn it around fast, before they get out into the real world.
We can’t set our kids up as the center of our universe and let them think the planets revolve around them. It may seem a short-term solution when they’re pitching a fit as a two-year old, or even as an immature teenager. But in the long run, it will come back to bite us—and them.
Adapted from Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World, by Dennis Trittin and Arlyn Lawrence, available through LifeSmart Publishing and Atlas Books.