It wasn’t long ago that children were raised with the expectation that they would earn their luxuries – they did work to earn whatever money they could to buy the things they wanted, whether it was toys, candy, or other items. In this day and age, kids are having things handed to them more than ever before. Parents justify this by saying that they deserve it, they are only kids and they should have the same things that every other kid has. But this attitude by parents is creating a new generation of kids that feel that they are entitled to whatever new toy, game, or electronic device that comes along. Later in life, this entitlement mentality manifests itself in unhealthy and unrealistic attitudes, such as the idea that one is entitled to a job, to housing, to food, or whatever basic necessities one needs to get through life.
Our children are not being taught the basic concept of responsibility, but it is not solely the fault of the parent. Fault also lies with the teachers of our children, who not only take a large part of the parenting away from the actual parent, but teach our parents that the child’s self-esteem and self-confidence are at issue.
In 1974, nine students were suspended from a school in Columbus, Ohio without a hearing after a fight in the school’s cafeteria. This was standard procedure in the majority of our schools at the time, and since the principal witnessed the fight, there seemed to be no reason to question the suspension. But the parents took the school to court, and in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, it was ruled that the principal had violated the student’s fourteenth amendment rights to a hearing before suspension because the school district decided to make education a right of the citizens. Because of the ruling of Goss vs. Lopez, schools not only had to madly rush to find new ways to discipline children, but they had to recognize that, because they were involved in mandatory public education, they had to treat children as if they had the same legal rights as adults. For this reason, schools began employing lawyers to make sure that anything they did would not violate the constitutional rights of students. Because of this new policy of due process in schools, teachers found their hands tied when it came to disciplining students, and bad behavior became prevalent in schools.
Desperate for a way to control the masses, parenting experts and psychologists entered the scene in the late ’70s and early ’80s and stated that the reason bad behavior was so prevalent was because our children had no self-esteem. A new movement was started, and included a self-esteem task force that was formed in California. Complete with the mistaken notion that self-esteem was formed by extrinsic forces, this movement involved educating parents and teachers in the art of praising children for everything they did – regardless of whether or not it was correct – in order to make them feel good. Children began receiving awards for “participation” in every area from spelling bees to soccer, all in an effort to avoid the hurt feelings of the losers. Everyone became a winner, no matter their level of commitment, or whether or not they actually tried to succeed. The phrase “good job” became universal for any work any child did, no matter how “good” it actually was.
This trend has continued for the past thirty years and has yielded even more interesting strategies to raise self-esteem. In many school systems the normal grading system that most of us grew up with has ben replaced by a system that doesn’t seem to grade at all. My own daughter was graded on whether or not her work was “satisfactory” until she entered sixth grade. This was frustrating for me because I felt that I never knew how well she was acutally doing. Many teachers have eliminated the use of red ink when grading papers, since red ink is associated with failure. And teachers and administrators have seriously considered getting rid of any type of game or activity that involves winning and losing.
Because of these measures that schools and parents have taken, success and failure have become subjective values, with our children feeling good about their work no matter how good or bad they actually do. This becomes a problem when our children can’t do simple math but don’t really worry about it because they tried.
Some experts are now seeing the effect of this thirty year long experiment and are saying that the parenting experts and psychologists had it wrong. The main problem is that once these children enter the workforce, success and failure become objective values rather than subjective. These new young adults can’t take criticism because they have been told that everything they do is good. They expect to be praised for everything and given rewards, such as promotions and raises, for no reason at all.
The way we can stop this trend is to understand that self-esteem isn’t built extrinsically, but intrinsically. The current philosophy builds a false feeling of accomplishment based on the praise received from other people. The philosophy of building self-esteem intrinsically requires that a person put forth the effort to do the best they can so that they can feel a real sense of accomplishment, a feeling that comes from within themselves.