Although many parents are radically successful in their focussed attempts to destroy any real potential in their children, some parents raised on a diet of Dr. Spock and after-school specials are struggling to know what else they might do to guarantee the permanent uselessness of the next generation. Based on my years of expertise as a parent, university teacher, and fan of INXS, here are 12 ways that any loving parent can ensure their children will never be able to do anything valuable on their own, ever.
Nothing says learned helplessness like a 19 year old who has to borrow a can opener to cook his dorm room Kraft Mac and Cheese. The 20s are about exploring the wonderful world of taste, aren’t they? If you would like to have your child spend much of her student loan on high-priced, over-salted, high-calorie takeout food, by all means, cut the crusts of her sandwich. I’m sure any future spouse will be thrilled.
Your child is brilliant. We all know this. A genius, really. And we all know the negative feedback on that assignment is most certainly the teacher’s fault. And even if Johnny may have been three days late on the project, or borrowed a little bit from a paper he found on TeachedHelplessness.com, he needs to know this one essential life lesson: you must stand up against oppressive forces in the world, like educators and employers who have minimum standards of quality.
It’s true, you and I learned valuable lessons about real life in having to save up for that pile of junk we loved as our first car. It was painful to pay for that insurance bill, and the fenders were held together by duct tape and dashboard prayers. Good times.
But do you really want your kid to suffer like that? If you buy her a car, then she can drive everyone around and be really popular. And, without walking all the time, she’ll have more time for homework. I mean, how else is she supposed to get to the gym to exercise?
Things are different than when we were kids. We spent our money on movies, concerts, weekend trips, hobbies, nights out with friends, and that icon of the late 20th century: music you could hold in your hand. Kids don’t have to do any of that now if they just have the newest phone. Who can put a cost on connectivity?
Plus, the upgraded phone goes nicely with the car you just bought them (see #3).
In times past, we had to face the world with courage, supported only by parents, bosses, teachers, friends, grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, pastors, priests, counselors, neighbours, schoolmates, teammates, coworkers, mentors, guide and scout leaders, and Mr. MacDonald who never paid his bill for the newspaper you were delivering, but who offered great advice. How did we survive we such a weak support system?
In this day and age we don’t need any of these people cluttering up our lives. All we need are posters of cats with motivational sayings like “Hang in There!” and “Faith isn’t Anything Until it is All You Have to Hold On To!!!”
Exclamation marks are very, very key to the future.
Only very, very bad parents would prevent a child from pursuing a dream for which he or she has no particular talent. Good parents will encourage their unintelligent child to become a teacher, their clueless child to become a detective, their awkward child to become a dancer, their tone deaf child to become a singer, and their ignorant child to become President. What is true of the world if it is not, “Follow your Dream—No Matter What!” on a poster with a cat looking hopefully in the middle distance at a rainbow?
It is essential that children learn the most important lesson in life: You are not an individual, but a number in a system, a cog in an economic machine. It is important that you contribute, and you do so by getting a good job. If your children rebel against this common sense message, talk about the other perks, like the house, two cars, 1.8 children, trips, golf, and enough money left over to give a little to charity.
If both these approaches fail, see #5 above.
Oh, and #7 is obviously for different families than #6. #6 parents intend to have their children live in their basement until everyone is retired.
It’s true, isn’t it? If smart kids actually want to work, they should get a BSc. This sort of approach saves your child a lot of time in worrying about what sort of education would be meaningful to them, or about whether they should work with their hands, or their minds, or with other people. Plus, the disciplines of science needs more scientists who got into the business because the high school guidance counselor’s brochures were from the 1980s.
January of Grade 11 is when students often get conditionally accepted into university or college. When this time comes, it is important not to take the soft approach of using the application experience as a way to explore options for the future. Don’t fall for the trick of having a “meaningful discussion” about “life’s possibilities” with your teenager. Instead, lock your child into the future that you think is best for him or her.
After all, if you don’t know by age 16 what you want to do for the following 50 years, when will you know?
If they get to grade 11—or even grade 12—and they are still pretending they are unsure about their future, fill out their paperwork for them. Taking responsibility for their lives by facing deadlines is something they can learn in the future. Who ever got anywhere by filling out paperwork?
It is essential that teenagers focus on their schoolwork and social lives. While it is true that a part-time job helps youth gain skills that enhance an educational career—things that school admission teams appreciate, like responsibility, time management, team work, and customer service—what is the good of gaining those skills if marks suffer or if your child fails to get 300 likes on Facebook for the motivational cat poster they just posted?
This is especially effective after you have been drinking. Remind them about how much harder it is for them that it was for you. Point out how there are hardly any jobs, how their high school diploma is almost worthless, and how 6 years of university and $100,000 in loans may not be enough to do something meaningful. We need realism in youth, even if the youth sitting in the chair in front of you is starting to blur a little after the fourth glass of sorrow-wine. Let them know how much you love them, saying, “I love you, man,” throwing your arm around them in a supportive way. Then your child will slip her arm around you and help you off for a little lie down.
Then, you can be rest assured that your child will be living off of your encouraging support until the point that they are helping you off to that final little lie down in the sky. Then, you will know you have done your job as a parent.
Very true. My wife and I were the first on either side of our families to ever receive college degrees. Our parents “allowed” us to do that on our own. They offered no support other than the freedom to live at home while we were still in school, which only worked in the summer, due to the campus’ distance. We didn’t begrudge that. We both worked through college and grad degrees and took as few loans as we had to.
Proud to say that we taught our kids from their youth that while we would offer them modest assistance with expenses, they would need to plan on working their way through school as well. (They did so, on through Masters’ themselves as well.) Oh, we did pass on to them used vehicles (toyotas that had already served the family well).
They’re planning to raise their own children with the same values.
Great list. I hope it helps some people see the light. If we love our children, these are not the lessons we want to be teaching them.
Thanks Rob. I think there is some error on the other side–the law of undulation, the pendulum that crushes both ways–but there is a great danger in this culture of learned helpfulness (or as I call it, “teached helpfulness”). It is more a cultural mania than individual problem, but it dribbles into all of our lives.
Nicolas will be on his own for school, but he can live with us if he goes locally. And we have a little for the last semester’s books and fees, but that will be a secret gift at the end of a successful sacrifice.
I love the layers of sarcasm here. Some good anti-advice
I’m grateful that my parents supported my pursuit of literature, despite my above-average intelligence. 🙂
And the support network you describe (sans motivational posters) is a great one!
Yes, many sarcastalayers. A bit more coming today, but straight on.
I will have to provide a motivational cat poster in the near future.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Pingback: The Real Problem with Teached Helplessness | A Pilgrim in Narnia
I’m a major believer in letting kids struggle a bit and learn how to overcome failure. That’s something my parents taught me – and I worked a couple jobs in college and lost competitions in high school. I’ve tried to share that with youth I’ve worked with too.
Yes, I’m largely in the same camp. I did enjoy when blessings came, partly because my schooling was so hard won.
LikeLiked by 1 person
hahaha this is literally the most amazing post ever!!!
Thanks so much! I had fun.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Pingback: Great Leaps and Skinned Knees | A Pilgrim in Narnia
Pingback: The Invisible Fellowship of Readers, with Annie Dillard | A Pilgrim in Narnia