Well, watch out, because I’m about to get up on my soapbox. I’ve been noticing something about our culture lately.
If there is a feature about ourselves or our children that is unattractive or unsatisfactory, especially a defect or flaw in one’s character, we tend to blame our influences. It can be as big as a vice or as small as a shortcoming. It is as if it were no fault of our own. There is no responsibility or guilt, and we as a culture tend to cleave to this new standard.
In today’s society “finding fault with someone” has a stigma against it. To find fault is to be seen as critical or condemning. There seems to be no way to “constructively criticize” anymore. Even parents find the task daunting, and you certainly cannot remain your child’s friend if you are critical in any way. Why? Well, what would that do to Mary’s self-esteem?
I remember the first time one of my kids came home from school and told me that I might be “hurting” her self-esteem. I cannot remember what the perceived infraction was, but I remember that she brought this verbal message home from her guidance counselor–that I shouldn’t be so critical as it might “hurt her (my daughter’s) self-esteem”. I didn’t handle the situation very well, because I told her to go back to that school and tell that counselor to kiss my ass.
Years later, thankfully, my daughter told me that she never delivered the message. My daughter is now 34 years old with two children of her own. Believe me, there is nothing wrong with her self-esteem.
But back to finding fault, and all its negative connotations. Today, the easy way for a parent to skirt this problem is to blame everything on our influences. And it isn’t just others, I find myself doing it, too.
It is always the fault of our influences. It is a problem of poverty. It is a problem of not having a computer. It is a problem of going to school in a portable. The dog ate the homework. It cannot be anything else; and if it is, one must remain calm at all costs. I’m not sure kids today understand when they’ve really done wrong or not.
The opposite of fault is virtue. A virtue is considered a behavior showing high moral standards. Swirling around it is goodness, integrity, dignity, honor, and respectability. Ethics is part of it and is certainly in vogue today. At least it is for social discourse.
For example patience is virtue, as is the virtues of a simple life. Surely, if one acts virtuously, one can expect respectability. Take it further and it is an asset, a forte, an attribute, a strength, and an advantage. So if you don’t have virtue, then we blame your influences—certainly never the person.
Let’s take it back another step. We admire our virtues and the virtues of our children, though sometimes I wonder if we get mixed up about the difference between a virtue and simply working hard. Or is working hard a virtue in and of itself?
If our children do well, we take full responsibility. We commend ourselves and express admiration for the job they have done. Some of us expect applause, as we eulogize, compliment and congratulate ourselves. We may even wax lyrical about it. And we certainly expect a pat on the back. All the while, our kids are watching. Just imagine how our kids will be later when that “pat on the back” isn’t delivered, as they’ve been raised to expect.
As for our kids, we cannot praise them enough, even for the slightest little gain. We glorify, honor and adore them. We pay tribute with trophies, heap accolades upon them and hold them in great esteem. I often wonder what this young adult feels like during their first job when no trophies or accolades come their way, as is often the case even when we’ve done well.
If our kid falls short “in any way”, we must be careful not to condemn the bad behavior. We must not criticize for fear they will find someone else in which to take their troubles.
If the behavior is beyond our control and goes outside of the home, we can release ourselves and simply blame his or her influences. Suzie fell in with a bad group at school. The teachers and administrators had it out for poor Johnny. The law was always against him. There are too many guns in the nation, or television violence is certainly to blame. The latter is something I’m quick to use.
In short we always praise our virtues, but blame the influences when we fall short.
If your head is spinning, trying to gather your thoughts around all of this, then join the club. All I can say is it used to be more clear. No one ever worried about the Boomers self-esteem. Criticism came in heaps, and it was all of us against all the adults. Period.
No wonder we became so “anti-establishment”. The pendulum swung way too far, I’m afraid.
Influence means the capacity to have an effect on the character, development or behavior of someone or something. What seems to be conveniently left out of all of this is the influence of parents on their children, which I believe brings it all back to home (pun intended).
As parents we have that capacity. I’ll start with my pet peeve. We can turn off the TV. If it is really a problem, stop paying for cable and use Netflix to make sure they only see what you approve. Parenting means sacrifice sometimes.
We can teach them right from wrong. Every moment of a child’s life can be a teachable moment. Does it make you tired just thinking about it? Well, raising kids is hard work. No doubt about it!
We need to critize if it is needed; but constructive criticism is better, though I’m not sure they’ll understand the difference until they mature.
Pay attention! Apply pressure when needed. As someone from the Boomer generation, I think this maybe one of our shortcomings. I believe we thought incorrectly that if we played it cool, the kids would come around sooner or later. Well, some of us are still waiting.
Quit blaming the teachers or the school. There was never any doubt in my mind that my parents were on the teacher’s side. I only remember one time when they weren’t and that was when a teacher spanked one of my sisters and left marks on her, which is something my parents never did. Oh they spanked all right, but they never left a bruise.
They didn’t sue. They didn’t call the school board. They didn’t call the newspaper, nor did they call for the teacher’s removal. They simply went to the principal privately and asked him to say something to her. They also moved my sister to another class.
Above all, be honest with yourselves, your children and all others. Looking back, that is what I remember most about my wonderful parents. If they didn’t like it, there was no subterfuge. They made sure I knew it. Parents need to lead by example. If we face our circumstances honestly, that may be the best example of all.
The pendulum seems to have swung too far in the other direction from which I was raised. It is time for our children to bring it back some. There has to be middle ground here.