You know, I served 20 years in the US Navy. Over that time I have seen some outstanding sailors and some real dirtbags. The thing about it is, though, that it wasn't until I was on the other side of my career (that means once I passed the 10 year mark) before I noticed the scales tipping. I don't know, maybe I chose not to see it but when I look back it is there plain as day.
I hit the mid-point of my career in 1997. Back then I was stationed in San Diego where I was volunteering and coaching Little League baseball. The kids were all good kids, to be sure, but there was something happening...it seemed like the kids and their parents were changing. So, here I was, working with these kids, teaching them the basics of baseball and how to play; more importantly, they were learning about teamwork and motivation while having fun. Well, our season didn't go as well as we had hoped; our team was eliminated from the championship. I started to tell the kids it was ok, the world wasn't going to end. I told them the old adage my grandpa told me when I was their age: "If at first you don't succeed, try try again." Then one of the kids tells me that's ok, coach, we all get trophies for playing. HUH??!!?? Somehow, somewhere, somebody changed the rules because they felt telling kids they lost hurt their self-esteem; the remedy was to give everybody a trophy.
You see, back in the dark ages, when I played Little League, we had tournaments and championships. The First Place team got a TEAM trophy, individual trophies weren't given. Second place teams got nothing...you got that...NOTHING. Back then it was understood that if you wanted to be recognized and rewarded you had to be the best, nothing less was good enough. Sometimes you won and sometimes you lost and when you lost, you didn't piss and moan about how bad you felt about yourself; what you did was PRACTICE. You practiced as often as you could so that next summer YOUR team would be the champion.
I didn't come back for the next season; I couldn't stomach the fact that these wonderful, bright kids were being set up to fail.
Special Note: If you are under the age of 35, you may not understand what I just said; that's ok, I will explain it to you.
The kids were set up to fail in the future because they were being taught that you don't have to practice and win; everybody gets a trophy! Then I read in the newspaper how schools in San Diego were not putting F's on report cards anymore. Failing grades being harmful to self-esteem and all.
Then, I started noticing the change in the Navy. I had junior sailors who rarely did more than the minimum required and then became quite upset when they didn't get advanced or they didn't get their Navy Achievement Medal. By the time I retired in 2007, I am sorry to say that I left a Navy with more of this attitude than anyone cared to mention. Now, I am NOT putting down sailors. NOT AT ALL. Any person who chooses to serve their country deserves respect and there are thousands of sailors who give more and do more than what is required on a daily basis. They do it all the time. Yet, there isn't an outstanding sailor out there who would disagree with me about the dirtbags.
So, what caused this change in thinking? Well, let's see, a good many years ago, there was a man named Dr. Spock (NO, NOT Leonard Nimoy from Star Trek!). This man, at one point, put a book out that told parents not to spank their children. Disciplining your child this way is wrong became the mantra across the land. Then, we were told that we needed to "positively reinforce" our children; in other words, we were supposed to lavish praise on our children and discipline became "time out". I don't know about you, maybe I'm crazy, but it sure looks to me like we've gone a bit overboard. Now we have a new term for parents; "helicopter parents" are parents who constantly hover over their children, lavishing them with praise, making them feel like they are truly special and better than everyone else.
The result? Well, look around you today. Today's young adults are going out into the world thinking the world owes them. They expect the $50,000 a year job fresh out of college; they think everyone around them should drop to their knees and kiss their feet. When I was on active duty, I watched sailors get Navy Achievement Medals for the damnedest things; the kicker was the baker who received a medal AND a meritorious advancement (read: un-earned) for...get this...BAKING CAKES! These kids today are spoiled rotten because their parents have raised them to think the world should be grateful for their presence!
So what do we do about this? Hell, I don't know. Maybe I should go back to the title of this post; hey kids, WAKE UP to what the rest of us call REALITY!!! Nobody owes you ANYTHING! You deserve NOTHING! You have to WORK to EARN praise and recognition, not sit on your duff waiting for the goodies to come to you! The REAL WORLD doesn't give a damn about your self-esteem!
Parents! WAKE UP! You are setting your kids up to FAIL!!! You want to know why our country is falling behind in math and science? HELLO!!! We are raising a nation of IGNORANT KIDS!!! Oh well, at least they will feel good about themselves.
Disclaimer Alert: If you are not doing this with your kids, you don't have to yell at me because this post isn't aimed at you.