The Recipe for a Return to Happy Children

Apr 22, 2010

I recently listened to a segment on a popular Talk Radio Program discussing the predicament children are facing as a result of the ever-increasing political correctness that we have embraced (or begrudgingly accepted, in some cases) as a society. In an effort to accept any and all, keep everyone happy, make everything fair, and hurt no one’s feelings, we have groomed children that are lazy, entitled, co-dependent and out of touch with what it takes to make it in the real world. I agree. I am fully aware that there will be people who disagree with me, or even resent the fact that I write this article. However, I think there is a place for parents to consider what we are doing to our children by accepting status quo without questioning the long-term consequences. We have the ultimate responsibility to give our kids the preparation they need to succeed, and without fighting the academic, social and political arenas, we will be hard pressed to do so.

It has become an expectation that kids should not have to feel “average”, should not have to try out for a team, should never have to face competition. The fact of the matter is that all of those things are important for developing self-esteem, a self-concept, critical thinking skills, tenacity, a strong work ethic, the list goes on. So why are we depriving our children of opportunities to build those things? So that we don’t ruffle feathers?

I am a confessed Country Music fan. Although Bucky Covington (former American Idol contestant) would not be one of my favorites, he sings a song discussing this very thing in “A Different World”. Feel free to listen to it on YouTube or iTunes, but here are the important lyrics:

“Not every kid made the team when they tried
We got disappointed and that was all right, we turned out all right”

I guarantee that if you were born before 1980, you remember Physical Education Field Days where you actually could compete and win ribbons. You remember Sports Team try-outs and were nervous and excited, whether you made it or not. You remember Talent Shows where the whole school voted on who they liked best. You remember MVP’s. Do you feel slighted or scarred in any way from going through those experiences? My guess is no.

The bottom line is that kids learn from failure. They build resilience from disappointment. They pick themselves up and try again with more determination when it doesn’t go well the first time. We can not be so caught up in protecting them that we prevent them from dealing with life’s challenges.

Back to the Talk Radio segment. The host tells the story of his son’s sport’s team who, at the end of the season, is 0 and 15. They are finishing the season the following week, and the Team Mom approaches him and asks for $7 for the trophy. He questions what the trophy is for, and she says everyone is getting one. He reminds her that they are 0 and 15, and she stares blankly at him. She finally surmises that he is not in favor of giving his son a trophy for losing the entire season. He reiterates to her that he believes his son should EARN a trophy, not have one handed to him because he showed up.

I wrote a previous article about Generation Y (kids born before 2000) in the news. Please read it, and see where the country is headed as a result of our inability to watch our kids struggle a little bit. As the next generation enters the workforce, we are in a big heap of trouble. Have you noticed that kids are angry a lot? They get mad really easily? They want things their way, no matter the situation? It is all related to the way they are being programmed that they should be catered to.

Kids used to be happy. They used to play outside; real, competitive sports in the streets and on the playgrounds. They knew what it felt like to lose. They learned how to commit to improving their skills. It meant something to practice and get better. Let’s be the influence in our children’s lives that encourage them to work hard, give it their all, and become happy again. It is, after all, how we were raised.