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The modern-day parenting trap, and how it fails kids

Often parents will take the simplest position — i.e. their child has done nothing wrong. This can lead parents to defend a child’s actions even when the child is in the wrong.

At the expense of sounding older, I’m very worried about where our society is headed. But as opposed to those in my parents’ generation — who watched the sexual and cultural awakening of the 1960s and ’70s changing the world around them — my concern comes from the parenting revolution of the last few decades, and a specific incident that highlights the dysfunctional relationships some parents have with their kids today.

I was at a kids’ sporting event a few weeks back. After telling some 10- to 12-year-old kids to be careful swinging a bat around, one of them personally swore at me. It was a pretty offensive comment, witnessed by another person. I turned around and proceeded to dress down those kids for being so disrespectful. I never threatened physical violence, but I sure did raise my voice, and I made sure they would think twice about randomly insulting an adult ever again. 

I then spent the next two hours explaining myself over and over to the event organizers and one of the kids’ parents. No one seemed to question the facts of what happened, but clearly the people were far more bothered by my chewing these kids out than the idea of a child swearing like a sailor at their event. Not only did the kids’ parents and the events organizers not make any of the kids apologize for swearing (something none of them doubted took place), the expectation seemed to imply that I should be the one to apologize for getting so upset for being sworn at.

Distorted perspectives

This incident is the latest example of the distorted social perspectives constituting much of modern-day parenting. The movement to change parenting by treating children more like adults has gone too far. We now treat kids far better than we treat adults, and one of the main culprits is detached and disinterested parents whose lack of effort leads to pathetically blind justice.

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When I was a kid, I remember my teachers in elementary school telling me I would fail if I didn’t get the work done and, on top of it, my parents letting me know they would have a hard time not taking the side of the teacher if a conflict arose. There was a direct consequence for my actions, something that doesn’t seem to exist for many kids today. We’re more concerned over the potential of a parent suing the school if their little Billy has to deal with the emotional stress of failing, not making little Billy accept the responsibility for not doing the required work. 

The end result is a generation less and less equipped to deal with failure and mistakes. This way of dealing with a child’s educational, physical or anger problems is not new, but it seems to have gone to extremes. 

Many parents inactive in kids’ lives

Let’s face a sad reality: There’s a shocking number of kids whose parents are not very active in their lives. The lack of parental interaction comes from a variety of categories, such as work, divorce, busy schedule, or more interested in surfing Facebook and Twitter. When the parent needs to stop  and deal with his/her child, some will take the simplest position — the child has done nothing wrong — often leading parents to defend a child’s actions even when the child is in the wrong.

They don’t want to admit they’re the ones not sitting down and helping their kid with homework, not helping their kid practice his favorite sport, and not chewing their kid out when she’s disrespectful to the neighbors. Instead it becomes the teacher has a vendetta, the coach doesn’t know what he or she’s doing, or the neighbor deserved it. Parents don’t want to ask, “Am I the one who’s failing my child?” — instead wrapping themselves in the argument, “It’s their problem, not mine.”  It’s the easy way out.

I’m not a parenting expert, nor do I want to paint with a wide brush. There are many good ways to raise a kid, so this isn’t about one method being better than another. My frustration is how some parents ignore reality in order to diminish their child’s problems. It may come from the guilt of not being a better parent or resentment from some event when they were kids; who knows? Regardless, if a parent is ignoring the majority of the truth to turn their son or daughter into a victim, a major failure is taking place.

Make children accountable

If we really want to treat kids more like adults, then let’s do so. If an adults don’t deliver at work, can’t learn a new skill set, or insult other adults, they have to own up to it. Parents should make their kids take responsibility for their actions. By making our kids look in the mirror and face the truth, we’d be doing a much better service for our younger generation. We should teach our kids the consequences of their actions, so they’re better prepared for the real world.

I’ll be the first to admit, it grates me when a 5-year-old calls me by my first name, as if we were old friends. On some levels we’ve stopped trying to teach kids to respect adults, but the larger problem is the lack of respect from some parents to those same adults. This parenting style has started to have unexpected outcomes for the 20-somethings entering the real world. How many times do we have to see a young adult foolishly go online and post comments about their boss, post an embarrassing photo or admit to a wrong they committed, and then act shocked when they’re held accountable for what they’ve publicly admitted?

If your kids don’t understand the world they are getting ready to inherit, then don’t be surprised when they fail as a result of preventable mistakes they should’ve learned to avoid when they were younger.  

Matthew McNeil is the host of The Morning Grind morning show on AM 950, from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.

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