“Victims Of Our Success”

easy-1030467__340If there is anything we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.  -Carl Jung

What follows are gross generalizations, but all too often this undercurrent plays itself out to the detriment of certain individuals.

I have heard it said that “our children are victims of our success”. What is meant by that is that, among others, my generation of “boomers” have tried to manage our childrens’ lives so that they achieve more than we have accomplished in life. In an attempt to accomplish this, we find ourselves enrolling our children in the best pre-schools, elementary, and high school, etc. We enroll them in classes in the arts and make sure that they participate in sports. We help them build resumes with every possible accomplishment known to humankind. We ferry them from one event to another in the hopes that they will demonstrate standout performances in some endeavor so that Harvard or Yale will salivate at the thought that they might enroll in one of those esteemed institutions. This in turn will open doors to high achievement in life. We do this because we can.

The problem, as I see it, is that many of those children have never encountered failure. The parent is their cheerleader for life and will frequently intercede (to the child’s detriment). For example, they might do this to protect them from the diligent teacher who disciplined their child “inappropriately” in the opinion of the parent. This can lead to unintended consequences. The teacher does not get support from administration because the principal wants to fill seats and compete against private schools. In an attempt to keep the student from changing schools (=loss of revenue), the student’s behavior is justified (or at least, there are no consequences for his/her bad behavior). So chaos reigns supreme in the classroom as students understand this and the teacher is rendered helpless under those circumstances. If you want to see if this is true, look about you and you will find billboards advertising to attract students. You see stickers on parent’s bumpers saying “my student is an honor roll student” and some would say that that leads to grade inflation.

The consequence of these interventions is very real and pervasive – students who graduate from institutions of higher learning with “lower learning” and higher grades. The first time they enter an institution that sets higher standards and challenges them, they experience failure for the first time and have a difficult time dealing with it.

Also, go to any fast food franchise and look to see how many teenagers are working there? Most of them are populated with employees who are the grandparents of those teens, not the teens. The teens are too busy playing soccer, football, cheerleading, and every other activity know to mankind to build their resumes. “Crew leader” at a franchise is not viewed as valuable as “captain of the football team”.

My wife and I have observed that some teens who have dealt with divorces, drug addicted parents, poverty and other stress in life may not have the resumes to identify the character built within, but if you look about you, you will find that many of those individuals are the ones who work the hardest and persist in spite of the difficulties dealt them in life. Unfortunately, society rarely rewards those who don’t have the underpinnings of success – the exemplary resumes, but they are often the ones who will come to the fore to help those with the resumes look good. And those individuals who have dealt with adversity are the ones I can point to, almost without fail, as the ones who will succeed in business. Going solo is the “acid test” of one’s internal grit and motivation. No one will step in an rescue a failing solo. No parent there, the resume doesn’t matter and only hard work and ingenuity will carry the day.

Think about it. Are you your child’s worst enemy? Were you the victim?

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