About two years ago a 16 year old boy was labeled the Affluenza Teen when he was on trial for killing four people and injuring nine others while driving drunk. A psychologist for the Defense claimed that the teen, Ethan Couch, had suffered from leading such a privileged life that he didn’t know right from wrong. The judge chose leniency, sentencing him to just 10 years probation and a treatment program.
There are many, many things wrong with this picture. One is that the judge’s sentence is an affront to all those kids who have done the right thing even when it was really hard to do so, and to all those parents who taught their kids right from wrong.
The second travesty was that some mental health professional legitimized bad parenting by creating a bogus “condition” instead of using the old-fashioned term for this child – Spoiled Brat!
And at the root of it all are parents who were either misguided or just plain lazy, and weren’t willing to do the hard work it takes to raise a productive, responsible human being.
Unfortunately, Ethan Couch isn’t the only child in America suffering from Affluenza. While there seem to be way too many of them in our youngest generation, this is a problem that is very fix-able. In fact, every single parent is in a position to fix it, with just a little self-awareness and a lot of self-discipline.
Here’s what it takes to vaccinate your child against Affluenza:
1 – Mean what you say. If you say “No,” keep it that way. Don’t waffle and give in because your child whines or cries or throws a tantrum. Hold your ground and continue to say, “Which part of “No” don’t you understand, the N or the O?”
2 – Don’t try to be your child’s friend: they have plenty of buddies. Your job as a parent is to set limits and enforce your rules, and that means you’ll be unpopular. That’s not a bad thing: If your child hasn’t said “I hate you” at least once (or more like once a day when they’re teenagers), then you haven’t been doing your job as a parent.
3 – Understand that “punishment” isn’t a dirty word. Kids need to learn that when they do something wrong, something bad will happen. You don’t need to be physical — punishment could mean “Time Out” or a loss of privileges — but bad consequences must be seen to follow bad actions.
4 – Let your children fail, because that is the only way they learn what doesn’t work. In fact, let them fail as many times as it takes to learn how to be successful. When parents bail their kids out, either to “protect” them or because they need them to look successful, mom and dad teach them that they don’t have to be responsible for their actions. And that just sets a child up for an unsuccessful, unhappy life where they blame everyone else for their mistakes and failures.
5 – Don’t make life easier for your kids. If you pull strings or “put in a good word” to get them a better grade or a place on the All Star team, they never learn that they’ll only get out of life what they put into it. Only hard work will get them into that Ivy League college, or earn them that plum job.
God knows we love our children more than they can imagine, so let’s do them the favor of taking the heat, and being the Bad Guy, so that eventually, when they’re off living their own lives, they can be the Good Guy.