I was reading an article recently about a teen that was involved in a drunk driving crash that left four people dead. This teen later gave a reason for why he should be found blameless for the accident. He (or perhaps his lawyers) said he suffered from a condition called “Affluenza.”
“Affluenza” isn’t a medically or psychologically diagnosable condition. It is merely a term that speaks about parents of upper-middle class parents who refuse to discipline or set proper limits for their children. These kids often wind up, “out of control” because they had no one to set boundaries around their lives and to hold them accountable if they crossed them.
Now, I am not writing to place my judgment upon this teen or his parents. Neither am I planning to give a Nancy Grace type commentary or synopsis of his case. I am hoping that the idea of boundary setting will begin an interesting conversation in homes across the land.
I think we can all agree that when it comes to improperly setting limits and imposing consequences on children, that it is a phenomenon that spans beyond those parents that earn a high income. Creating boundaries with your child is a really hard proposition. It is something that affects every socioeconomic group. Saying no to your children or doling out punishments are just as difficult whether you live in a penthouse or the projects. This difficulty, though is one of the things that comes along with this parenting journey. It just is what it is.
The laborious nature of setting boundaries and consequences is the reason many choose to ignore it. However, we are not doing anyone any favors by turning a blind eye to our child’s negative behavior or excessive requests. What we are doing is feeding a monster that will one day be unleashed upon society.
We are raising men and women who will one day be given the choice to obey laws and rules or face the massive consequences that come with noncompliance. Those consequences tear apart families, ruin the next generation, and cost tax payers $31,000 per year for each prisoner incarcerated in our penal system.
There is hope, however. If your kids are still under your roof or on your payroll, there is still time. The requests that they make are going to continue to come before us in some way, shape or form. It might be the desire for one more cookie, the new $500 Xbox One or simply wanting to take the car for a spin. Sometimes the greatest gift that we can give our kids is a simple, “No.” Sometimes the most appreciable lessons come when we allow our kids to suffer the consequences for their actions. There is still time.
We must learn to push through the pain of the crying, whining and nagging and do as the late Stephen Covey said in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.”
What type of adult do we want our kids to be? Most parents I talk to want their adult kids to be honest, self regulated, self confident and educated. Whatever attributes your list happens to contain, begin right there.
If we don’t set limits and consequences, someone else will. Whomever that person happens to be will not love your child the way you do. They may not use the mercy and grace that you would. Their words may not be seasoned with salt. They may not use any sort of justice or diligence in their punishment. It might be swift, cold and hard.
We still have time to teach them in a way that seeks to guide them toward a brighter future.
Teach them the importance of their actions and the unimportance of some of their desires. The world is counting on you...and so is your child.