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The Incapable Generation

Kids need a healthy dose of adversity in life

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I believe the death of our national freedom will be that we protected our children too much. In a school district in Richland, Washington, they are banning swings because they are perceived as too dangerous. Parents are worried that their children will be hit by a swinging child. It’s highly likely that a child would get hit if he/she walked in front of a swinging child, but now, in Richland – in school, at least – that’s a life lesson those kids will never learn. If you get hit by a swinging kid, it’s painful and has actually caused a couple of deaths, but don’t kids learn something? Walking in front of something moving rapidly without being able to stop can hurt you. When we remove all potential for our kids to get hurt, we make them dependent on adults for life, unless or until they learn these lessons on their own.

I have two children. When they hurt, I hurt. Right now, my 7 year old daughter likes to taunt my 10 year old son (they each weigh about 60 pounds). She will annoy him right up until his breaking point and then she’s shocked when he hits her. Now, there will come an age when my son will no longer be able to hit his sister, but not yet. She needs to learn when to stop. He needs to learn that hitting his sister causes her to cry, something that he loathes more than the original annoyance. I get to sit through these daily routines and I used to try to referee and then I just stopped interfering one day. Neither of them draw blood or do corporal damage. And, if they don’t get the chance now to learn how to make their point, fight, make up, and move on, when will they? The family is the testing ground – the training arena where kids learn. I don’t like it when they hurt each other, but I’d rather that now where I can monitor than later, when I’m not around. The fights usually end with them playing together anyway – apparently, no harm no foul.

What can we expect from teenagers who were protected from most harm their developing years? Will they understand that getting hit hurts? Will they know how to handle conflicts with their wits and ego intact? How can we expect young adults who’ve never experienced real adversity to be successful in real life? Adversity breeds character. Being challenged to overcome odds teaches children that they are defined by who they are, not what they have done. Being hurt hurts. Being unable to deal with the hurt in a healthy way creates a monster that is brutal and selfish.

One thing I suffered from as a kid was I never felt adversity. The sense of being immune was, ludicrously, a painful one. – Diane Arbus

Looking at the survey Adecco did in 2012, a full three percent of Millennials took their parents with them INTO the job interview. If it’s three percent now, what will it look like in twenty years when the overprotected school-aged kids graduate and enter the real world? Twenty percent of graduates said they would leave their job if their current job assignment didn’t fit their interests. Fifty-five percent reported that their parents are paying for at least part of their living expenses, like cell phones, food, health insurance, internet, etc. Their expectations when they take a job (top five): Good health benefits, job security opportunities for growth and development, good work/life flexibility and last but not least, high salary/compensation. Adecco labels this generation the “I” generation. I’d suggest the “Mine” generation because these students clearly believe what mom and dad have is theirs, what you have should be theirs and what their peers have should be theirs as well.

There are negative consequences to never getting hurt, never facing adversity, never being challenged. First, when the overprotected youth does face a challenge, his/her first line of defense is to blame someone else. “I know I shouldn’t have taken my mom to my interview but the interviewer was clearly racist/sexist/classist/ist-ist; otherwise, I would have been hired.” Next is to hand off responsibility for fixing it. “Yeah – I didn’t get that job so my dad is calling his headhunting company to get me a job.” And finally, denial of the problem while hoping it goes away. “My folks pay my bills until I can get a job, so it’s cool.” Unless and until the parents force their kids to take personal responsibility for their lives, the are forever shackled with the child they protected from harm.

The school-aged kids now will grow to be toddlers in adult bodies and it’s really not their fault. We’ve got to let our kids get hurt from time to time. We’ve got to let them deal with the real world and real, unadulterated human behavior, good and bad. They need to practice trust and mistrust, hope and disappointment, failure and success. With groups like Moms Demand, the Center for Gender Sanity and all those who want to make adversity disappear, we are cursed with the Incapable Generation. What could be worse than a generation who is unwilling to serve their country – a generation who is incapable.

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