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The Real Side | Commentary by Joe Messina
| Monday, Feb 24, 2014

joemessinamugThis one had my head spinning. I had to watch and listen twice. Now, I know, some might say this guy has issues of his own, but the audience was proof that he was on target.

Jerry Seinfeld was on the new “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” and I am sure his audience was not a bunch of old folks.

After a few minutes of stand-up comedy, Seinfeld sat down with Fallon and got into a conversation about parenting. Seinfeld said he was not in agreement with this “new style” of parenting and reminded the audience that when many of us were kids, our parents didn’t give a darn about a lot of things.

Seinfeld said our parents never made deals with us to eat our food, brush our teeth and so on. Our parents didn’t have to ask us 147 times to go to bed – “Get back into your bed.” “What did I tell you?” “Did you brush your teeth?” “Did you use water?” – and so on .

How many books do you read to your children at night? How many hours of TV do they watch in their bedroom before going to bed? The inmates are running the asylum.

Look, I’ve had four children. Based on how different each was, they might as well have been born to four different sets of parents. My ex-wife and I had different parenting styles. (I am not picking on my ex-wife. I’m simply stating fact and using my own, real-life example, since I can’t use yours.)

I heard on a regular basis how she couldn’t get them to eat. She couldn’t get them to go to sleep, clean their rooms, make their beds, do their homework.

On the other hand, when they were at my house, we all ate at the dinner table at the same time. We cleaned up together. Everyone was in bed at the assigned time. Beds were made and rooms cleaned every Saturday before they went outside. Sounds a little like a militant lifestyle? Well, so what?

Kids love consistency. Kids want to know things are the way they should be. They want to be able count on mommy and daddy and other adults to be there for them, to guide them and help them.

Sometimes help is not in the form of, “It’s OK, honey, you broke the TV while playing ball in the house; I am sure you didn’t mean it.” (Insert buzzer sound here.) Wrong answer.

Life has consequences. When you do something you shouldn’t be doing like drinking and driving, speeding in a residential zone, cheating on a test or consistently showing up late for work, it’s not going to be all right. Those things carry serious consequences … jail time, fines, failing a class, or getting fired.

The best time for your kids to fail and feel the consequences is at a young age when they are still with you. Parents discipline in a loving and caring way, not demeaning.

According to Dr. Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist, there is a real backlash against these helicopter parenting strategies, described by Seinfeld and practiced by many millennial moms.

Helicopter parenting is when parents hang over the kids, never allowing them to feel bad about anything, to fail, or to make non-life-threatening mistakes. These kids ultimately learn nothing about real life or how to interact in the real world.

Dr. Ludwig says: “Certainly there is a generation of moms who waited a long time before they had kids. They’re working many hours. So, due to guilt or just falling in love with motherhood, they’re creating this whole ritual” of a feel-good eating experience or a bedtime experience or whatever.

Many of the offspring of these helicopter parents and the kids of the “no score, no grades” era are having real problems in today’s society and in the workplace.

When they encounter problems with authority at work, many go into shutdown mode. Friends who own businesses have plenty of stories to tell about that generation. People who show up late … a lot. And use excuses like traffic, couldn’t find a parking space, long line at Starbucks, I’m not a morning person, or I talked to another parent too long when I dropped off my kid. Really?

In the past, I have had employees who got extremely upset with me because they weren’t paid for 40 hours even though they only worked 36. Let that sink in. Then there were those who came in at 8:35 a.m. or 8:40 a.m. when everyone else started at 8:30 a.m. They went to lunch around 11:45 a.m. and came back at 1-ish when lunch for everyone else was noon to 1 p.m.

It was my experience that most of these people grew up in an “open” parenting environment.

According to Dr. Ludwig, these kids who were raised by a helicopter mom consistently say they are not so happy with the way the world worked out. The world does not actually revolve around them. Shocking.

Dr. Ludwig says it’s better for children not to think that everything is going to be easy, because life is not easy. In order to be successful in the world, you have to be prepared for reality. You have to believe in yourself. But you have to know things are not always going to go your way, and learn how to strategize.

By not allowing children to achieve on their own, good or bad, I believe we are doing them a disservice. They need to see what working hard will get you, and what working “kind of” hard gets you, and what “not trying at all” gets you.

To Seinfeld’s point, our parents didn’t care if you were always happy, got everything you wanted, or faced hardships. These things built character, and they taught us how to deal with them and work through them.

Parents need to be there to guide and encourage, not do and shelter.

 

Joe Messina is host of The Real Side (TheRealSide.com), a nationally syndicated talk show that runs on AM-1220 KHTS radio and SCVTV [here]. He is also a member of the Hart School Board. His commentary publishes Mondays.

 

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1 Comment

  1. Di says:

    It all seems like some vicious cycle to me. From my own experience and observations, these bad habits of the “milennials” is a result of the way that their parents were raised. I had these so-called “helicopter parents” growing up. But it’s been explained to me, or pieced together on my own, that they deliberately raised me and my siblings in a way that was completely opposite of the strict childhood they had as baby boomers. They didn’t want us to suffer seemingly harsh consequences for human mistakes. But now I’m living in a generation of lost souls who suffer from an enlarged sense of entitlement. So, I agree with this article, but I think there’s another layer to it that would be interesting to examine.

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