Fearful for the next generation: are we making entitlement OK?
I love kids, but I worry that sometimes the adults of the world are sending mixed messages to our kids. Part of it is we just don't want our kids to struggle or to want. That's normal. I also think that we've gotten so busy trying to get ahead and "have it all" that we've forgotten the importance of a few things.
My kids are 7 and a half and 11 and a half. They are, by all accounts, good kids. Not that I've taken any polls, but I've been told that they are and I see how they deal with the world around them. I'm also a bit biased, but a lot of parents are.
At any rate, much as I know my children are smart, and kind, and generally well behaved, I also notice that they are learning to procrastinate. In part, I know a little of that message comes from me, as I have sometimes told them certain things can wait til the next day. However, that message is coming from school as well. I'm not faulting the teachers; as a member of the profession myself, I understand that there's a push on to eliminate homework or for teachers to be a little more understanding about the after-school lives of their students and therefore be understanding if assignments are late.
My own kids come home with very little homework, or if they have it, there's a "floating deadline" of sorts. I hate to say it, but that "floating deadline" is springing up in a lot of classrooms, including my own, and I do understand there's a lot that happens to cause a deadline to shift at times.
However, the message that this sends to our kids and teens is a dangerous one. I've noticed that kids are starting to ask me things like, "If this is late, what happens?" or "I have X going on the day before. Can I get it in to you the next day?"
Truly, I get it. I honestly do. I'm no more or less busy than a lot of parents out there, and I know how hard it is to squeeze everything plus sleep into 24 hours.
What happened to balance?
I remember being told as I was growing up that if I wanted a job and to do well in school, I was going to have to work at it. I went to high school in the late 1980s, and there was no missed or shifting deadlines if I needed there to be; if I was sick, that was one thing, but otherwise, I had to get the work done and on time or marks would be deducted.
While that was an aggravating and stressful part of my life, particularly as I hit Grade 12, I learned a valuable lesson about the importance of ensuring I got things done when I was told to have them done by. I learned that if I wanted something, I needed to work hard for it.
I don't think kids are learning that lesson the way they used to.
What happens as an adult if we miss a deadline?
We run the risk of losing our jobs, if we don't immediately lose them.
Could you imagine if teachers missed deadlines to get report cards done? That'd be terrible. Kids and parents alike would be chasing teachers down to find out how they did in the course they took. Principals would be less than impressed with their staff for missing a deadline - and as you might expect, this becomes even more crucial as the end of the year looms closer - and there would no doubt be consequences.
Bosses can be sympathetic about unexpected computer glitches, or sudden illnesses - but when you have an employee who tells you something like "I had a dance recital" or "I was working at another job," a boss' chief concern will be why you didn't get their work that they are paying you for done on time.
Many teachers, for instance, have a tendency to be generous with the amount of work time given in any classroom. There are those kids who think, however, that this is the perfect time to kick back and relax - they will have a chance to get the work done that evening.
Don't get me wrong - I see how stressful the world is for many 21st century kids. I talk to them and they tell me about things that make me wonder why they aren't curled in a corner in the fetal position. I wouldn't want to be a teenager in today's world for anything, and I worry about my own children as they navigate the world around them.
I also want my kids to understand that nothing good happens without hard work, and if they have time to work on a project or really, any sort of work they are responsible for, they need to do it. Using time in class, if it's given, is one way of ensuring that's covered - this way, if something does come up in the evening, there's lower stress about getting the project done on time.
It's no different with things that need to be done around the house. If a house move is on the horizon, you don't want your kids waiting til the last second to be packed - deadlines are important, so figure it out and meet the deadline.
So where's the entitlement come in?
Lest you think this turns into a diatribe about how kids today are lazy ne'er do wells, I want to tell you I like children. A lot. I'm not saying every kid is entitled and figures they can just float their way through their day, figuring they'll be handed everything.
There are a shocking number of kids, though, that seem to think the world owes them something. I understand and appreciate that there are a lot of kids dealing with traumatic experiences at home, but that does not mean waiting til the last minute to meet a deadline or thinking that the world somehow owes you something will make your life any easier. There is no magic solution, and it is all to easy to just ask the kid, "do you have any work?" and when they say no, to let the matter go without follow through.
We tend to only see the surface of any given person, unless that person let's us into their inner world, so it's easy to say that life is easier for person X and that they seem to have everything handed to them. Unfortunately, there are many who are taught that it's OK to wait for something to just come your way rather than working for it, and it seems to have led to the belief that people are somehow owed something just for existing.
Underneath the surface of many people, though, are cores of driven, hardworking individuals who know that truly great things only happen by really working hard for them, so why are we telling our kids any different than that?