Life is often challenging. Few argue with that conclusion. And what is needed in those challenging moments is not a wimpy attitude and more whining. Despite this, many of us are raising our children to be wimps. They tend to lean away from challenges, struggles, and effort. This rarely works out well.
Some may be offended, but the reality is that our children are quite wimpy compared to their parents and grandparents, or more importantly perhaps, compared to their peers who are relative newcomers to this great nation. Is every child a wimp? Or course not! But many are rather wimpy and soft. Again, they lean away from challenges…rather than leaning into their life and the challenges ahead.
Here are some reasons these conclusions are widely accepted. Most kids today show limited initiative if not led step by step, and demonstrate little staying power in the face of adversity. They give up easily! The idea of sacrifice for others, or for any cause is a foreign concept. They seek instant gratification, expect magnanimous rewards with minimal effort, and once employed they expect to be the boss by the end of year one. They are the opposite of resilient, strong, and eager to approach challenges.
Childhood, adolescent, and young adult anxiety is escalating year by year. Our culture encourages finding relief for the anxiety in the most rapid manner possible, rather than seeking to build strength and resilience in moving through the anxious moment. Thus, dependence on pharmaceuticals continues to increase year after year. This does not build healthy habits, as we train our youth to seek ease or relief from stress, rather than finding out to build the muscle of confidence and resilience.
What Price Is Paid?
The price paid is severe, as reality will not be kind to the wimpy. The rules for success will not bend to accommodate the sensitive, the wimpy, and the unprepared. These children will inevitably feel as if life is not giving them the deal they deserve, and more should come their way with little effort. Why? Because we train them to think this way.
As some millennials now enter the workforce, employers and consumers see the effects of these false lessons. They quit the moment things don’t go their way, expect to check their cell phone any time they want, and can’t comprehend digging into goals that are years away. Companies are scrambling to set up training programs to prepare these millennials for the reality of work, with limited success.
Who Do We Blame?
Do we blame the youth? No, this is not their fault. I see these amazing, intelligent, and capable adolescents struggling in the world where we have adopted family habits that destroy their drive, their sense of confidence, and their resilience. We consistently protect them from the consequences of their choices and expect them to learn from our lectures rather than from reality. This fails…repeatedly. They simply have not been prepared for reality. So, let’s be clear…it’s not their fault.
So perhaps we should blame you, mom and dad? No, it’s not your fault either. You have been exposed to an inconceivable amount of change, as progress and information coming at you at light speed. And, much of this information is simply false, based on trends with little substance or proven research. Yet, it’s packaged in bright lights, with much public attention and energy…so who wouldn’t believe it?
And then, there is the pace of life and the direction that the herd is moving. More sports, more coaching, more private lessons, and more of everything…it’s exhausting. Yet, the entire herd seems to be moving in that direction, and it is genuinely hard to slow down, take a pause, and figure out how to prepare your children for reality. Every minute is filled with moving here and there. Where is the time to sort this out? It doesn’t seem to exist.
So, do we blame Covid, our society, or our culture, or our leaders? The media? The internet, with endless blogs and opinions? No. None of that will help.
Let’s Abandon Blame & Focus on Preparation for Reality
The key is that we must turn our attention away from factors that are beyond our reach and turn toward those within our immediate grasp. Where do we have the power to make a difference? For most, this comes with a long, hard look in the mirror and a realization that you are likely the most powerful force shaping your children’s destiny.
It doesn’t matter what has shaped your view up to this point, or what the choices have been. We can’t change that. But if you have indulged and supported wimpy, whining behavior…it’s time to fess up. And then, you can begin to change this. (Or not, if you want your 32-year-old son living in the basement playing video games while making excuses for not taking out the trash again.)
Bottom line: We want our children prepared to tackle life with enthusiasm, confidence, and joy. And to do so regardless of what life throws their way. This is nurtured through parenting that prepares them for reality.
In next week’s article, I will offer my top five shifts that you can make immediately to shape a healthier, stronger, and more resilient family.