This Week in Common Sense – Kids

When it comes to our kids, millions of people, backed up by decades of study from thousands of “experts” can’t be wrong, right? Don’t be so sure.

 In the 1970’s, when the modern version of child psychology really started coming into play, things were drastically different. Kids actually had respect for their parents, for the most part, and parents knew how to keep their kids in line.

Children from the 70's

Childhood in the 70’s

 Below are a few items that did not exist in public schools in the 70’s but are common practice today:

  • Metal detectors

  • Campus police officer

  • School shootings

  • Drug dogs

  • Schools nurses dishing out ADD drugs
  • Lock-Down procedures

  • Zero Tolerance policies on everything (often on free thought in contrast to what they would like you to believe)

The following list describes things we HAD in the 1970’s that we do NOT have today.

  • Parents who were involved in the education process

  • Prayer in school

  • Corporal punishment (Wooden Paddles)

  • The grade you earned was the grade you got

  • Focus on content rather than standardized test scores

 

It isn’t hard to see a pattern here. Simply look back 35 years, to 1979 vs. 2014 and make a few comparisons. How many book on how to raise a child were available 35 years ago compared to today? How many people were in the field of child psychology then compared to today? How many studies have been done, in the past 35 years, regarding self esteem? It seems to me, the more we listen to these “experts”, the more problems we create. At the very least, I feel we shot right past the point of a happy medium and landed in a whole other dangerous territory.

We live in a performance based society. Those who do the best work usually get promoted. The team that performs best usually wins the sporting event. So why on God’s green Earth would we remove that element from the teachings of our children? We adjust grades in school. Heaven forbid we fail a child. It could crush their self esteem. We can’t keep score at baseball games either, and for the same reasons. These children need to learn EARLY that it is important to do your best in an attempt to win, at sports as well as in life.

In my day, there were no TV shows depicting a nanny who could swoop in and take charge of unruly children. That type of show wasn’t needed. The threat of dad’s belt was all that was required (even though it may have been a tad heavy handed back in the day).

When I was in high school, in the late 80’s, things were drastically different. I carried, daily, a Buck brand pocket knife with a blade that was about 3.5” long. It was a hunting knife, and I carried it for strictly utilitarian purposes. I could pull it out in class to sharpen a pencil, and nobody would even give it a second thought. I don’t suggest anyone try this today!

Flash forward to a news story a few years back.

I’m almost ashamed that this happened just across town in another Dallas / Fort Worth (DFW) suburb. The story is from 2002, and can be found HERE. A father and his teenage boy used the boy’s pickup truck to load a few things in the back to haul to a Goodwill donation station. In the process, a 10 inch long bread knife fell out into the bed of the truck without being noticed. Fast forward to the following week at school, when a security guard notices the knife in the back of the boy’s truck. The school district has a strict zero tolerance policy when it comes to possessing a weapon on school property, and this young man was promptly expelled from school. Fortunately, after two weeks, a school board review of the incident, and massive public outcry across the nation, Our 16 year old honor student was allowed to return to class.

Of course we can’t have kids carrying weapons to school. In my day, it wasn’t an issue. As I stated in the Average Joe book on parenting, I had a friend in high school who had a compound bow with razor tip arrows hanging in a rifle rack in the back window of his pickup truck. I do NOT advocate this, I simply want to illustrate how things have changed. 20 or so years ago, people would have hardly noticed things that are a major issue today.

Often times I feel like we are doing a major disservice to our kids. I’m just as guilty of it as anyone too. We all remember the things that were difficult for us as children, or the things that were difficult to handle emotionally, and we want to protect our kids from some of that. But how much sheltering is too much? We seem to have turned out a generation of maladjusted kids who are putting an exclamation point on family dysfunction. 30 years ago you would never hear about a parent whose child completely ran over them. Have we created an environment where children are not learning consequences? Are they not equipped to handle the stresses of life because we sheltered them too much? I have no definitive answer, but it sure looks that way on the surface.

I really think that, if we applied a little common sense to parenting, we may be able to overcome a little of this issue. Kids need to skin their knees. They need to be allowed to get a bad grade in school once in a while. They need to win or lose when they play tee-ball.

I’m reminded of a quote from the greatest basketball player to have ever lived, Michael Jordan.

I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

If we never give our kids a chance to fail at anything, then we are not teaching them the reality of life.
It takes work to succeed in life, and our kids need to realize this. Jordan is such a good example, let’s look at his career a bit more. During his career Michael Jordan had one of the highest free throw averages. This was no accident. Such accuracy is only attained after thousands of hours of standing at the free throw line repeating that motion over and over. Eventually, the muscle memory is achieved that allows you to repeat the exact same motion repeatedly with the same results.

The same can be said for the top guitar or piano players, the best golfer, best selling offers, or anyone else who is at the top of their game. They didn’t get to that point by magic. It wasn’t an accident. They weren’t born with that ability. No, it was cultivated.

So, I suggest we should take a step back and look at how we are raising our kids today. We shelter them from everything, especially any resemblance of failure. Self esteem is important, but I fear we have taken it to the extreme. Sacrificing the ability to cope with disappointment, and minimizing the importance of working hard in the name of “sparing their feelings” is not helping anyone.

I wish I had the answer, the easy button, the smoking gun, that would make all the stars align and the issue would simply be solved. I do not. I have some ideas, as do many others. It’s a balancing act. We need to be certain that kids are nurtured, loved and made to feel important while instilling the principles of hard work, and knowing that success in life is based on your efforts. Competition should be embraced. Let them know that winning is best, but that losing is simply a way to show where you could do better next time.

There is that part of me who would like to stick with the “Back in my day” rhetoric, but I just can’t. Especially being a father myself now, things have changed. I still think a lot of the “experts” on the topic of children are way off base, but spanking a butt over every minor infraction is totally off the other end of the spectrum. I prefer to believe that there needs to be a balance between the two. What do you think? Feel free to comment below and thank you for reading.