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Concern For Our Kids…

November 17, 2010

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I’m genuinely concerned about the artificial reality we are creating for kids today.  Everyone gets a medal or award and disappointment and/or adversity is avoided at all costs.  We are also teaching our kids that they are the center of the family universe, and everything revolves around them: their needs, wants, etc.  If we let them think everything, they do is exceptional, then ultimately nothing they do will be.   We allow them to continually isolate themselves socially and retreat into the comfort of impersonal technological communication without the wisdom of understanding the dynamics of human and social interaction.  We worship their youth but then push them to grow up quickly and act more mature than they are (or should be).   It’s as if a whole generation of parents are trying to make up for perceived deficiencies from their own childhood.  We are forgetting how to be parents, coaches and teachers and instead striving to become friends, cheerleaders, and positive psychologists.

I can readily see the impact of these misguided attitudes on younger employees entering the workforce today.  They are irreverent, have extremely poor work habits, expect rapid advancement and gratification and struggle mightily when things don’t go their way.  Sure, they care more deeply about certain things but only those things that interest them and their limited perception of reality rather than what actually constitutes the greater good.   They have strong, albeit inexperienced, opinions on issues yet very rarely exhibit the courage of their convictions – just look at their apathy in the last election.    They often lack initiative or drive and expect things to just line up their way as it suits them.   The more they get, the more they want and less joy they derive from the privilege of receiving.

The goal of any society should be to secure the future of the next generation by providing them with the skills, talents, and attitudes necessary for both survival and success.  It is a certainty that every generation will have to deal with some level of uncertainty and challenge as they assume responsibility for their own destiny (and that of others).   The world is becoming even more interconnected, complex, and dynamic every day.   More not less will be required of the leaders in the future.  It won’t be enough for them to expect things to turn out okay.  They will have to make tough choices, manage conflict, and exhibit the strength of personal character and judgment.

Our kids need to understand that things don’t always work out as planned and they must learn and grow from these experiences.   They need to appreciate that there is a direct correlation between effort and outcomes and that hard work is not only required but should be valued.   It is critical that they respect the fact that success requires the ability to be competitive and that winning by its very nature means that there will be losers and distinct levels of rewards.  Moreover, critical thinking is more than just “googling” the answer.  They need to think through and be able to defend their opinions and positions with sound judgments and analysis.  Lastly, true growth and happiness in life requires some level of personal awareness and sacrifice including sometimes putting the needs of others first and forgoing short term gain.

Please don’t consider this just a rant, but a wakeup call.  We are not doing our kids a favor by setting them up for disappointment and failure.  There aren’t enough therapists and proven medications to address the issue, nor should there be.  Life is a hero’s journey and the hero is born out of his/her ability to navigate the inevitable twists and turns along the journey.  It is also a function of an individual’s ability to honestly look in the mirror and take responsibility for their actions and decisions.  In most cases, assuming the role of victim is a choice.  We will all confront adversity and experience loss throughout our lives.  And, we will either grow or wither because of this reality.   Parents and other adults in a child’s life will build a strong or shaky foundation in which their lives are built on.

Of course, the duality principle of existence thankfully ensures that there will also be moments of happiness and personal fulfillment in an individual’s life.  However, my contention is that these experiences will only be amplified by an individual’s sense of context and perspective.  Life isn’t always easy, but it is rewarding if you and your children approach it in the right way.