Parenting is a challenging adventure, especially when it comes to parenting teenagers and young adults. It is hard to establish social boundaries and rules in a world that has few social rules that people comply with.
It is amazing how a growing number of parents are afraid to set limits and hold their children accountable for the choices they make.
It is not unreasonable to expect your adolescent son or daughter to go to school every day, attend all classes and make an effort to pass. In addition to school, it is not unreasonable to expect your son or daughter to gather for the family meal, do chores and come home at a reasonable hour. These are very basic expectations that most parents should have of their children.
Honestly, I think we need to expect a little more than this. As parents, I think we should expect our children to make an effort to communicate with us regularly, to be honest (even if their honesty makes us uneasy), to be respectful and to be responsible.
Too many parents compromise on the honesty and respect expectations. When we tolerate blatant lying and downright disrespect, we are enabling very destructive behavior. This behavior not only threatens the very heart of one's family, but also reinforces very counterproductive behavior within the life of a developing young person.
The way some teenagers speak to their parents is scandalous. Even more scandalous is the fact that some parents accept that behavior and reinforce it by their silence.
Too many parents treat others with rudeness and disrespect. It does not cost a cent to be courteous and respectful. We need to demand a certain code of conduct, not only from our children, but also from all in public service, whether they are the police, teachers, doctors, human service workers or other public officials. More often than not, children model what they see and hear.
JK is twenty years old. He is the older of two children. He is bright, articulate and spoiled. He comes from a very loving family. Unfortunately, when JK was in his late teens, his parents divorced. It was mutually determined that JK would live with his Dad.
Much before his parents decided to separate, JK walked to a different drummer. His Mom says that by middle school JK was wheeling and dealing and getting over on the system. By early high school, he was cutting class and talking his dean out of giving him detention or calling home. He missed his calling. He should have been an actor. He could probably charm the Vatican out of the Pope and convince the Holy Father that he was doing a noble thing.
Unfortunately, as JK continued to wheel and deal, he got sloppy. He was getting into more and more trouble that he could not sweet talk his way out of. By junior year, he had cut so many classes that his principal asked him to voluntarily sign out of school and work on his high school equivalency.
JK's parents were devastated. They had such high hopes for their son. As JK was their firstborn, they had hoped to be at his high school graduation and to send him off to college. The thought of him being a high school dropout was overwhelming.
When the principal called JK's Dad and informed him of JK's circumstance, JK gave an outstanding performance. He said traditional education was not for him. He assured his Dad that he would work and get his GED ASAP and that he would be ready to go away to college when his class was ready. He said he would get a full-time job, which would teach him responsibility and give him invaluable life experience. This kid went on for two hours. His Dad bought his performance, hook, line and sinker.
Three years later JK still has no diploma and has worked at a variety of jobs for no more than ten minutes at a time. He is a walking disaster. If you didn't know JK and the plight he brought on himself, you would think he was the most abused child since Oliver Twist.
In addition to not working or receiving his high school diploma, JK contributes nothing to the family or household. He is a taker, not a giver. He really believes he is entitled to a car, three meals a day, new clothes every fall and summer and spending money.
When you suggest that he does not deserve any of the already stated, he goes off on a tirade on what all of his friends have and how their parents take care of all their needs.
JK's sense of entitlement is horrific. He really believes he deserves all kinds of perks just because he is! He thinks because he was born into a family of means that his parental units should just continue to wine and dine him, even though he is reckless, irresponsible and disrespectful.
Recently, he smacked up a second car, got arrested for assault and came home blaming everyone else and acting like it was no big deal.
This last episode of abuse and recklessness pushed his Dad to the edge. He sat JK down and told him if he did not follow up on his diploma and get a job, he was out. He gave JK seven days to set things into motion.
JK's Dad is prepared to have his son leave. He realizes that he is only enabling his son to be disruptive and irresponsible. It has taken him a long time to move beyond his guilt and not rescue JK anymore. It is about being accountable and responsible.
Parents need to realize that our children don't have any entitlements except for love, respect and a place to live respectfully until they are twenty-one. All the perks are optional. Maybe we need to be more focused on love, respect and accountability.