The law of unintended consequences typically reveals itself as good intentions gone awry. I think childhood setbacks have scarred my generation because as parents we go out of our way to protect our children from the harsh realities of life.
The first reality is every competition has a winner and a loser. Even more jarring is the sad fact we lose more often than we win, we are wrong more often that we are right, and we make far more mistakes than any revisionist history can correct. I guess my generation did not get that memo because we give out participation trophies, refrain from calling the victors winners and the word losers do not cross our lips.
Are we doing our children any favors? Are we preparing them for life? Do we really think we are defending their self-esteem by pretending they did not lose? Here is the second reality; after children start kindergarten we are not fooling them. They inherently know the truth as we know our little darlings will turn into hormonal masses of emotional outbursts as soon as ten age years’ dawn.
David Fabrizio, the principal of Ipswich Middle School in Massachusetts, recently cancelled Honors Night because he felt it would be “devastating” to the students who worked hard, but just missed the cutoff grade. Really? You mean to tell me junior who just missed the cut does not hear about it from the Mensa-to-be candidate who qualified.
Does Fabrizio think by not having a night to honor those students who did earn the grade will make those who missed feel better? Is the new America a country that is more concerned about supporting those who did not while ignoring those who did?
A look at our tax code and welfare state should give you the answer. I guess the honor students need to give their fair share of grades back to those who just missed so we can all hold hands and sing Kumbaya.
I feel bad for the child who just missed the grade or did not make the high school team. I want to encourage him or her as best I can to work harder or practice more. I do not want to give them a false sense of accomplishment because that will set them up for more devastation in the future.
I do not want to raise children to think they are victims. I do not want to raise children more interested in blaming someone than accepting responsibility. It starts with recognizing facts without trying to lessen the impact.
Ironically, teenage suicide was lower in the 1970s and 1980s when children were not sheltered from the harsh realities of life. Today, you have college students who cannot handle the pressures of expectations. What are they going to do when they have a mortgage commitment?
Young adults do not magically transform into people suddenly able to cope. It is a life lesson learned only one way. The hard way – people have to experience failure before they can understand success.