How you can break from the herd to the benefit of your family
I was recently enjoying dinner in a Saratoga restaurant and noticed a table with four adolescent girls, their parents, and their grandmother. The girls were laughing, smiling, engaging with each other as well as with the adults. The dinner was notable because there was ease, respect, enjoyment, as well as a sense of genuine caring for each other. Repeatedly, turns were taken, and space was made for everyone’s comments.
How did these parents create such an atmosphere of impeccable social graces, laughter, and contentment? Well, as they were departing, I complimented the mom and asked her. She related that it was simple: No one (not even Mom!) brings a cell phone to any meal…ever! This one decision has profoundly shaped how the family spends its time together, and the quality of their relationships.
Why is this so “renegade?” These days, when dining out, it is much more typical to see children with their heads down, engaged with their devices – and the parents, sadly, are often doing the same. Even though these children are “getting what they want,” it is rare to see happiness and comfort during these dinners. Instead, there’s usually drama, angst, and anger.
The herd is seriously off track.
Regardless of where you turn, it is difficult to find evidence of the “wisdom of the herd,” particularly related to parenting. In fact, the data points to the opposite…almost everyone feels the painful, disappointing consequences of how we have been raising children for the past several decades, and perhaps most pointedly, in recent years.
Estimates suggest that anxiety is five to eight times more prevalent now than it was 50 years ago. At a minimum, this is a 500% increase in anxiety. This epic rise in anxiety and depression is difficult to comprehend, given that most children have lives of relative comfort, ease, and safety. They also have access to more pleasurable activity, more variety, and more resources than any children in history.
So what’s to blame here?
How far afield have we gotten when we are surprised and delighted by a “you’re welcome” rather than the now‐more‐common “no problem?” Most teens cannot look adults in the eye and can’t shake hands without staring at the floor. This social discomfort and degradation of social norms is directly correlated to what we have taught our children.
The disservice goes well beyond basic social interaction and affects employment as well. College graduates are ill‐prepared to work hard and readily quit or never even engage in their chosen careers. Businesses struggle to keep young employees happy, focused, and committed to working, while they continue striving to find and keep quality workers.
Over the past 50 years, adolescents and young adults have become increasingly focused on external sources for gratification and reward, rather than seeking those internally. This dramatic shift is due in part to the herd’s tendency to be superficially focused, craving things like fancy cars, mansions, expensive clothing brands, and social media “likes.” Toss in a growing obsession with their phones and all that goes with it.
The consequence is severe.
More is not always better.
Our children are being conditioned to continually expect “more” to fulfill their needs, with no accountability or sense of value for these things and activities. Children and teens are giving less these days yet getting more. More physical stuff, parties, activities, and vacations. This is creating a generation of soon‐to‐be adults who are entitled, expecting the awesome rewards of life without giving appropriate effort. These attitudes leave youth with a sense of disappointment and blame toward the world for cheating them, and further degradation of family and community. Children and teens become resentful when asked to help out, stating boldly, “That is your job, Mom!”
A dozen more paragraphs could easily be added to document how the herd is off track. Most will not read this article, and if they do, they will rationalize their choices to protect themselves from careful self‐scrutiny. They tell themselves a story while ignoring the problem behavior and attitude right in front of them.
How about you. What do you want for your children? Do you want your kids to grow up weak and dependent, living in your home at 30 after dropping out of three different colleges? Do you want an anxious, depressed child? Do you want to give yet another lecture on responsibility and have it do nothing? Of course, you don’t!
It’s time to become a renegade parent!
There is no room to straddle the fence on this. The herd is shaping your choices and your child’s destiny UNLESS you choose to be a renegade parent. It takes courage and fortitude, but you can do this. Like the mom from the restaurant, you will discover the profound rewards that making renegade decisions can bring to your children.
This is first in a series of articles on renegade parenting. In future articles, you will learn how to think and act like renegade parents; you will acquire the skillset to parent with renegade strength and clarity. Growing strong, resilient children capable of handling life’s demands is not easy, but the renegade parent will have the tools to do this.
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit terrificparenting.com.