We are losing a great human resource in America. Many of the humble, hard-working, noble poor have morphed into unhappy, vindictive "blamers" bent on finding excuses for their discontent. At one time the majority of these folks found appreciation and love in the comfort of living within their means and within their limited luxuries. So many then discovered that simple things (Trust me, I'm not using this as a cliche.) provide lasting satisfaction.
Now, when the poor find themselves deprived of "the latest" and the "extravagant" choice, they take the bait of artificial materialism and swallow in painful gulps of indulged envy. They become hooked on expecting unaffordable possessions to substitute for affordable initiative.
Today, so many poor parents enable their children to become blamers. They, often unknowingly, teach their offspring to use strategies of attack and accusation to get what they want, not necessarily what they need. Guilty loved ones enable their "high-living-deprived children" to keep up with the wealthy as if expensive clothes, toys, and other expensive non-essentials will instill virtues with their instantaneous satisfaction. Ironically, they become haters of the rich who feel they must keep up with the rich. Go figure and I believe you will see their belief that the lack of respect is directly tied to the lack of possessions.
Enabling children not only falsifies their understandings of meaningful values but also encourages them to become covetous, impatient, and unappreciative human beings. Make no mistake -- children learn early on how to manipulate parents' feelings of guilt with dramatic complaints of deprivation.
Moms and dads quickly find it easier to cave to their offspring's insistent pleas of mistreatment due to uncontrolled circumstance than to extol any value in the reality of frugal living. As parents consistently reward bogus "desperate" imploring behaviors, habits develop and the stimulus/response solidifies. The result? Caretakers give youngsters what they want, not what they need. They enable future enablers. The cycle has been apparent for many, many years.
It is my view that children crave and need direction. It may be the last thing a teenager would admit, but the heart often does not speak through the lips. To me, proper love does not entail giving, giving, and giving to satisfy every desire of a child who wants more. What many parents think is "good parenting" through absolute devotion to gifting and catering serves to mask the child's most important asset of building honest individuality.
Helping is doing something for someone else that they are unable to do for themselves. Helping is admirable and essential for survival. Enabling is doing things for someone else that they can and should be doing for themselves. It is fraught with complications that can last indefinitely. Enabled young people are at risk, as they lack knowledge of essential responsibility.
Society tells us that a “good” mother or father gives their children everything they themselves never had. Imagine the strain on poor parents without resources who want to optimize the life of their child and view every opportunity to raise the child's status as "helping." Without proper understanding of how help involves responsibilities and consequences in choosing its acceptance, a young person develops an attitude that he/she is due unrestricted help of any kind without a "thank you" or without a commitment.
Too much of this enabling creates an intolerable, ungrateful, lazy, young adult who finds scapegoats for every denial of whim. This kid loses all credibility as he/she grows up in a parasitic relationship with overly doting parents. The child doesn't know society values bootstrap success and earned independence. A product of enabling cannot compete with keen opposition cognizant of their liability in a tough, real world.
Young people must be taught to recognize and to accept the responsibilities and consequences of their own choices. Rather than enabling the continuance of unacceptable behaviors to the detriment of everyone involved, parents must stop enabling their children while, instead, helping them in a reciprocal environment. This is a tremendous challenge for poor parents; however, the virtues at risk make teaching earned satisfaction and acceptance of needs vs. wants mandatory.
In addition, parents must employ reinforcement of helping behaviors. Positive reinforcement is doing “nice” things in response to behavior. Simple as that. When loved ones wake up on time in the morning, when they take their siblings to school, when they don't smoke pot on Friday night, when they help make dinner instead of going out for their own fast food, they deserve gracious acknowledgment. Acknowledging good decisions is reward, not enabling.
In my experience as a teacher, a poor child with dignity and a clear belief in virtuous behavior is a diamond in the making. With every success, that child gains the respect of staff and classmates who witness the honesty inherent in their character. In older days, these inspiring students seemed both satisfied with their simple lives and self-driven to accept more and more responsibility. In a nutshell, they were poor, but extremely appreciative of every opportunity to display their work ethic.
Yes, I blame overly enabling parents for failing their children. How else can a person view this? I am not condemning these parents because I certainly am guilty of enabling my own offspring at times. I understand the thin line between wonderful, unconditional love and negative enabling, and I thoroughly understand parents often make mistakes in judgment. After all, we are human beings. Yet, I have too little faith these days in raising youngsters without proper doses of tough love.
Poor, enabled children become poor, enabled adults. They are ill-prepared to accept the fact that the world does not owe them a living or a modicum of respect. The poor who live happy, industrious lives deserve all of our esteem for the dignity of their being. And, these folks should get some well-deserved sympathy from all classes. But, developing an attitude of blame that stems from an enabled life is detrimental to all.
"The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon,
but only to hold a man's foot long enough
to enable him to put the other somewhat higher."
Helping hands, not enabling hands.