As parents, are we preparing our children for independent living or are we setting them up for failure? In an effort to support our children, we tend to overindulge them. Take a moment and think about your high school students. What do you really expect from them? Are your expectations clear? Do you hold your children accountable for the choices they make and for the choices they fail to make?
In any given day, how many chores does your son or daughter have? What daily responsibilities do your teenage children have? Unfortunately, in many households, Mom takes care of all the household responsibilities. She makes the beds, cleans the bathroom and puts things away. Most moms do the laundry and prepare the meals. They also go food shopping every week and mend all the clothes.
Moms tend to establish the atmosphere and the sense of welcome that we all long for in our homes. Moms are usually the conveners and Dads are the enforcers.
Most parents do whatever they can for their children. They will drive them to baseball practice and pick them up. On a Friday night, they will take their son or daughter and his or her friends to the movies and make sure they have a ride home.
If your son has a science project to do over the weekend and he needs supplies that you don't have at home, you will run out and get them for him. If he left his textbook in his locker and needs it for homework, you will probably run back up to school to get it for him. As a norm, we parents can't do enough for our children.
However, when is doing for our children too much? A growing number of our teenagers have real entitlement problems. They think they are entitled to everything without having to work for anything.
JK is seventeen and a senior at a local high school. He comes from a great family. He's an average student and an excellent athlete. His day is filled with school and sports practices. After school and practice, he comes home for dinner. Then, he spends a brief period of time doing homework and gets ready to go out for the evening with his friends.
Meanwhile, his mother and father work long hours to provide him with a good home and a wide range of social opportunities. Occasionally, his Mom will ask him to clear the table after dinner and do the dishes. Almost every time he is asked, he complains and makes an excuse for why he can't be bothered. Unfortunately, each and every time he whines, his mother lets him off the hook and does the dishes herself.
At seventeen, JK has few responsibilities in his home. All he is expected to do on a daily basis is make his bed, put his dirty clothes in the hamper and clean the bathroom that he uses each day.
More often than not, each school day, JK is running late. In his rushing to get to school, he rarely makes his bed and he leaves all his dirty clothes on the floor. He leaves the bathroom in a shambles, with the towels thrown on the floor.
On a regular basis, both his parents yell at him for being so non-compliant and indifferent about his simple household responsibilities. Although they bring his irresponsibility to his attention on a regular basis, both of his parents tend to clean up after him.
His Mom will regularly make his bed, pick up his clothes and make sure his room is left in a respectable order. His Dad goes to work after JK goes to school and usually cleans up the bathroom after his piggish son.
JK has a part-time job to make some spending money to fund his social life. Thanks to his parents, he has a car that is insured. The only thing he needs to do for the car is fill it with gas. Oftentimes on Monday, he is begging for gas money because he spent all his cash on the weekend.
Instead of saying no and making him walk to school, one of his parents usually gives him twenty bucks for gas. If they give him a hard time, he whines and acts like he's the most persecuted child since Oliver Twist.
In an effort to keep the lines of communication open and to be available to their children, JK's parents have a special family cell phone plan. They pay the monthly charge. JK only has to pay if he goes over his allotted minutes. Most months, he goes over his allotted minutes to the tune of $150. Needless to say, his cash flow is limited. He never has the money to cover his phone bill. He expects that his parents will take care of it, and they do. They threaten to take the phone away, but never carry out their threat. He knows they won't, so he doesn't change his behavior!
Recently, JK was given detention for cutting school. He had a major confrontation with his parents because they refused to write an excuse note, which would have gotten him out of detention. His Dad said he would not lie for JK. He indicated that JK had to be accountable for his choice. If that meant getting a detention, so be it! However, JK was wearing his mother out. He was trying every trick in the book to make her feel guilty, cave in and give him the excuse note he desired. The pressure on his mother caused her to be in conflict with her husband.
In the end, JK had to serve his detention. He was not able to manipulate his parents, and that was a first!
Shortly after the detention episode, JK asked for an overnight at a friends house, where the parents were away for the weekend. His parents clearly were against the overnight and told him he could not go. He went anyway. His parents were furious.
He finally came home after midnight on Sunday. His mother waited up and confronted him on his disrespectful behavior. His response was that his mother overreacted and was making a big deal over nothing. She made it clear that on Monday she was going to call his friends' parents house and inform them that there were teenagers sleeping over without their permission. She further indicated that she was going to express her dissatisfaction at her son's defiance and her suspicion that they were all drinking and smoking pot all weekend.
JK went ballistic. He could not believe what his mother was saying. He used every expletive known to humankind to express his rage and dissatisfaction with his mother. He went on to say that if she did this, she would be destroying his life and his friendships forever. He gave an Academy Award winning performance!
In return, she repeated what her intentions were and made it very clear that she had no intention of backing down. JK continued to be histrionic and melodramatic. He now threatened to leave the house if she followed through with her plan.
JK's mother was really torn. She felt backed into a corner. In her heart of hearts, she was not comfortable with calling her son to task. However, she knew she was wrong for allowing him to manipulate and get over on her.
Too often, as parents we say one thing and do another. A growing number of parents are afraid to have their children mad at them. To avoid that dynamic, they take a very passive approach to some very serious social behaviors. That approach oftentimes gives a mixed message to our teenagers. Sometimes they see that approach as a form of giving permission for unacceptable behavior.
As parents, we need to be clear on what is acceptable and unacceptable. Under all circumstances, we must be willing to hold our children accountable for all their social choices. Our failure to do so could be lethal.