Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Not My Fault!

This article (written by clinical psychologist, Patricia Dalton) appeared in The Dallas Morning News a few days ago. I found it very interesting and thought I would share it with you:

Nobody's to blame for anything these days, says PATRICIA DALTON, particularly not the parents who are raising a generation of little victims

I once got a call from a couple whose son, a student at an elite college, had run up a huge credit card debt. His parents realized they had a problem and called to make a therapy appointment. I told them I wanted to see all three of them, but the son refused to come. "Tell me," I said halfway through our discussion. "If you had insisted, would your child be here?" The mother answered quickly, "Well, yes." The dad paused, then said, "That's a very good question."

These parents weren't requiring their son to take responsibility for his actions. And he didn't respect them enough to shoulder it.

The tendency to shirk the burden of responsibility permeates our family rooms and our boardrooms. I saw it in Vice President Dick Cheney's belated response to the shooting incident last month. And it has characterized former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay's public statements since his company's debacle: "Of anything and everything that I could imagine might happen to me in my lifetime," Mr. Lay said in Houston in December, "the one thing I would have never even remotely speculated about was that someday I would become entangled in our country's criminal justice system."

Mr. Lay sounds like the spokesman for our culture of victimhood, which reflects a studiously nonjudgmental attitude toward one's own behavior while ignoring its effects on others. And it is based on this belief system: I am more important than most people; I am good; therefore, I am incapable of doing bad things.

The upshot?

Excuses, excuses, excuses ...

Evasive attitudes are learned, refined and reinforced in the home. Ultimately, people become so divorced from the impact of their actions that they freely take advantage of others.

My clients have included parents who shrug when they realize their child has been stealing. One even said, "I have bigger fish to fry," referring to his true priority – which was his child's all-important transcript for college applications.

What is striking today is the number of parents who seem uncomfortable with teaching their children. They let culture do it and hope for the best. Some even side with their children against authorities.

Take one disturbing example I heard from a friend who teaches middle school. A girl, caught drawing in her notebook during class and asked to stop, kept going. The teacher confiscated the notebook. After class, the teacher tossed the girl her notebook. She reported to the school office that her teacher threw the notebook at her, intending to hurt her. A report (mandated in cases of alleged abuse) was written up; child protective services was called in to investigate. Only after fellow students refused to go along with the girl's story was the case dismissed. All along, the parents supported their daughter and her far-fetched version of events.

A generation ago, this kind of behavior would have been almost inconceivable. Parents' tougher approach taught us lessons critical for later life: that lying doesn't pay, for example, and that you must respect your boss even if you don't like him or her. Today's adults who coddle youths don't see that they are handicapping them.

Parents have two serious responsibilities. The first is to love their children without worshipping them. The second is to discipline them. Parents must be able to tolerate the distress that real discipline causes their offspring.

To do so, they must quit worrying so much about damaging their children's self-esteem. When I asked one set of parents why they let their daughter call them obscene names, they looked at me blankly. Later the father told me: "We want to understand her. And we don't want her to feel worse about herself than she already does." Incredible. Especially since it's behavior like gratuitous disrespect toward parents that actually makes kids feel bad.

Allowing children to evade responsibility may cost parents a lot. But it's nothing compared with the cost to their kids: misery that lasts a lifetime.


Blogger RagDoll said...

That girl and her parents need a good ole'fashioned butt whuppin'. Good thing the rest of the class seemed to have an ounce of sense.

Thursday, March 23, 2006 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger Kirkkitsch said...

No shit. I have officially renamed Gen Z, Gen V (for 'victim').

Friday, March 24, 2006 3:43:00 AM  

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