Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Self Esteem

I have watched over the past 23 years as our generation has done its best to rear children with the best of intentions. It turns out to be a validation of the bromide, "Be careful what you wish for, it might come true." We were overjoyed at our children participating in organized sports beginning at age 6. We watched other parents (and sometimes ourselves) take it all too seriously. We applauded with glee as each team member received a ribbon, medal or a trophy--just for showing up. "What was the score?" we were often asked and the answer was a variable of "it was a tie". Why have we done this? Because somehow we all drank the Kool Aid and bought into the theory that this built self-esteem in kids. It doesn't. A majority of kids who particpated in youth sports are finished by age 13, either because they were never interested in the first place or grew weary of being pushed and prodded by over-eager parents. Look it up.

With four kids of my own, the youngest of whom is now finishing high school, I have been left with many cartons full of the detritus from youth sports. Because I miraculously figured it out early on, the kids also concluded that the tangible rewards they received had no meaning. What did have meaning were the times a teammate said, "Nice job." We're reaping what we sowed, however, and now we are seeing the manifestation in what I refer to as 'The Trophy Generation'. The train didn't stop as the kids moved on to middle and high school. With a few exceptions, everyone gets to be on a team, no cuts. I've seen many instances of college-coddling akin to this, but outside of the athletic arena. Often young people expect a reward just for showing up. Who could blame them? It's always been that way. Guess what? That's not exactly how the 'real world' operates.

I know, I know, our parents said we were softer than they were and nothing could be more true. They wanted us to have what they didn't, but our kids have come of age in a time of plenty, not knowing a world without iPods, plasma televisions and the ubiquitous cell phone. These 'things' are simply an integral part of their life's template. These 'things' aren't considered luxuries, but necessities. Some reach driving age believing a car is some kind of birthright. We've done this and now kids are coming back home because they can't afford the TV, the Beemer payment and rent as well. So what goes away? The rent.

Finally, there is the school in Florida that has banned the cheers "air ball" and "overrated" at basketball games and other athletic contests as they hurt the self-esteem of the visiting players. Sow. Reap. The harvest is in full motion. Kids these days. Do I sound like my parents?

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