Last Christmas, my parents gifted all of us season passes to Silver Dollar City. A couple weeks ago, we decided to surprise the kids with a day at the amusement park. It was a beautiful day--we let them sleep in, then took them out for burgers before heading up to Branson. The park was all decked out for fall, full of carved pumpkins, fall colors, and the tastes of the season. The rides were open after dark--and oh my goodness, there's a whole different feeling when you're on a roller coaster and can't see the track ahead of you! We had a wonderful time making family memories (though as is always the case, things weren't quite as perfect as I had hoped: notice that one kid is missing from the pictures because he had no interest in going).
We had arranged for a day off of work in advance, then gave the kids an unexpected day off of school. What we hadn't realized, though, was that one of our kids missed a test that day. When he got back to school the next week and asked his teacher about it, he was told that it was an unexcused absence and he couldn't make it up--he would have to take a zero. He was mad and we were frustrated, but it was our fault. We knew the policy and should have thought about it in advance. We messed up, and his missing grade was the consequence.
We could have gotten mad. We could have gone to the teacher and tried to convince her to let him take the test. We could have done what many parents today do and go over her head to the principal and convinced the office to mark his absence as excused. We could have thrown a fit and gotten worked up and threatened and most likely gotten our way.
The thing is, though, we were the ones that messed it up, not the teacher or the school. Our son shouldn't have had to pay the price for our mistake with his grade, but that was the school policy and we knew it. So instead, he had to learn a costly lesson that wasn't really his to learn at the moment but an important one anyway--you have to stand by your principles even when there's a cost. It wouldn't have been right for us to go in and throw a fit to get his absence excused. Thankfully, that grade was at the very beginning of the 9-weeks. It will take some work on his part, but he'll be able to pull his grade back up to an A by the end of the semester.
As parents, we all want to make life easier for our kids. We want to rush to the rescue--fix the grade, stop a kid from being picked on, always deliver the forgotten homework or forgotten uniform. Sometimes, that's the right choice. Sometimes it is our duty as parents to step in and fix bad situations.
Other times, though, we as parents need to take a step back. While it's normal to always want to come to the rescue, it isn't what's best for our kids. We can't go ahead of them making sure nothing ever goes wrong, and we can't follow along behind them fixing every mistake. Failure is a part of life, and part of our job as parents is to make sure that our kids are prepared to face failure and have the tools they need to get through to the other side.
Failure isn't meant to be final, especially for kids. Sometimes that failure comes in the form of a test they didn't study for, or riding the bench on the ball team, or getting made fun of for something they did in front of their peers. Sometimes it's missing out on something they really wanted to do because they didn't meet the requirements. In the middle of all of those things, our job as parents is to guide our kids to handle them the right way. If they see and hear us blame the teacher or the coach or talk about how we're going to make sure those other kids get in trouble, they will definitely learn something. Our kids learn from everything we say and do.
The problem is, what are they learning? They are learning not to take responsibility. They are learning to blame other people for their problems. They are learning that it doesn't matter if you work hard for something--it's the people who throw the biggest fit who get the results they want.
I'm not sure what the reason is, but our generation is raising the next generation to be entitled and lazy. We are raising kids who think they can do whatever they want without consequence. We are teaching our kids that you throw a fit to get what you want--something that past generations of parents worked hard to get their kids to stop doing as toddlers. We are teaching them that merit and hard work are meaningless, because everybody "deserves" the same thing.
We are supposed to be raising the generation that will take our place as leaders in the world. We should be teaching them to work hard and earn the things they want instead of expecting those things to be handed to them. We should be teaching them about honesty, integrity, and values. We should be teaching them responsibility instead of how to get away with not doing things they are supposed to. We should be teaching them to make the right choice and do the right thing even when the consequences aren't what we want.
Until we start doing that, we will be failing our kids.