Monday, July 22, 2013

America the Entitled: It's hard to raise kids here

You've heard the phrase, "First world problems", right?  As I look at the youth of today (mostly represented in my step-children, children of friends, and those in my sphere of social interaction), I find that most of the problems in this country can be traced back to a sense of entitlement.  I know, I know - hippie idealism speaking here - but seriously, what happened to teaching hard work, you get what you earn in life, and your happiness does not outweigh the rights of everyone around you?

Stay with me for a second:

Initially this country was built on the premise that every human being was entitled to be alive, free, and able to pursue happiness.  Not to much to ask, right?  There was a general understanding in the social structure that you would not abuse your rights so as to inflict yourself on another person's rights along the way.  Whenever a group or institution would veer away from the basic three, a roar would go up from the people defending the victim.  From race to gender to sexual preference, America is known to befriend the little guy.

However this sentiment can actually go too far.  In an effort to "pursue happiness", no one wants to work anymore.  No one wants to earn their place in the world, it should just be theirs because they were born.  Like the old construct of royal society, I am worthy because I am.

Parents fight for their kids to get the same grades, the same trophy, equal placement in every area - regardless of whether their child has earned it. (And, yes - there are situations where a child does need intervention because they have a disability or are truly being treated unfairly, but that's not the common situation I'm discussing here.) Losing has become the flag for "unfair treatment".   There is little respect for the process for attainment - it's all about the getting.  (One of my stepchildren, when we were shopping, asked for something that I denied (I couldn't afford it and we didn't need it.)  Her response, "I'll just ask my mom.  She never says no to anything I want."  What can you say to that?)

In turn, children respect authority less and less - after all, that doesn't have to be earned either, right?  Look at our leadership, if you can buy it - you can have it.  (Not that I'm saying all politicians buy their way into office, but the finances sadly play almost as a large a part as the issues and political standpoints they represent.)  And the authority in place is given less and less ability to actually guide and correct.  Even teachers are handcuffed from being able to truly teach, test and promote those who are making the effort to learn.  At the rate we're going, they will be overpaid babysitters.  Which is unfortunate, since most people don't make the choice to teach unless they truly love children and want to make their world better.

I cringe to hear kids talking back to adults with disdain or sarcasm as well.  When did that become acceptable?  The constant arguing over any expectation that they pull their weight makes me sad.  It smacks of a lack of discipline and structure in their lives.  (And let's be clear, I'm not talking about physical discipline - but ANY discipline.  If you child has no fear of consequences, they have no boundaries to learn right versus wrong or social tenets.  I feel that's one of the major jobs of a parent.  It's not fun, but you're raising a human being that will one day be a part of the society at large - you have a responsibility.)

Television is difficult to watch for me, because American programming smacks of entitlement.  We complain about things that are so superfluous at times it's nauseating.  One visit to a truly poor nation would cure many people of their complaint about our country. 

The last few months, I have struggled to find a new job.  I'm content to stay where I am for now because we can't afford the lifestyle we live without my income.  Not that we couldn't downsize, curb spending, and adjust to live on less - we could, we just don't want to...and in turn, I'm willing to put in the work and suffering on my end to have what I want.  I have no expectation that it will be given to me by anyone. 

As we go along, I endeavor to impress these ideals on the younger generations I come into contact with by reminding them that their rights should never intrude on the rights of others.  If only I could impress those ideals on the power segment of this country as well.  I fear that if we don't change the wave of entitlement we're riding, we're all going to drown in it.

It's challenging to be a parent in a society where everything seems like it's a credit card swipe away and your child is owed every possible advantage.  How do you teach basic values, morals, and social expectations?

There is a fine line between setting a child up for success and trying to pave their every footstep for them.  There is value in losing, being second or even last, and learning to earn your way forward.  There is value in fear - not of scary monsters in the closet - but in the concept of failure.  Teaching our next generation how to fail without anxiety but with initiative and an eye towards progress should be a goal.  Lastly, community service is a valuable tool to keep us grounded in the reality that we don't live alone.  We may have first world problems, but we are surrounded by those suffering in much worse conditions.   The ability to see our lives in that perspective is something I wish I could bottle.  I especially want our children to learn this ability, so our future can be a little less entitled for a few as we all pursue some happiness.

So, my questions to the parents out there (step parents as well!):  Am I nuts or is anyone else seeing this problem?  And I'll be honest and say, this isn't something new - it's several generations strong at this point.

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