COLUMN: Children are paying the price for bad parenting and recession

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 9:41 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I have several friends who have grandchildren in their twenties. After hearing their experiences, I am convinced that they could each probably write a book on the wrong way to bring up children. This recession has taught them a lot about where they went wrong.

Their first mistake was in taking for granted that their grandchildren would be better fixed financially than their parents or grandparents. The big banks have spent several years squelching that possibility by playing so fast and loose with their investors' money they nearly brought the entire country down.

Many grandmothers and grandfathers have to sit back and watch their "little darlings" bite that mean old bullet. Those kids who have been reared having everything their hearts' desire have grown accustomed to that lifestyle and don't seem able to let it go. In the meantime, some parents and grandparents have not been able to avoid a downturn in their own finances. Now, those formerly coddled youngsters are finding it difficult to find a way to keep from sinking when they are trying to swim.

Unfortunately, a lot of parents bought into the ideas fostered by some therapists and counselors who hold the concept that no one is responsible for their inappropriate behavior. They advise if you look hard enough you're bound to find a cause for it. There is always an excuse why children talk back to their parents, never make it home by curfew or bully other children.

Parents aren't responsible for their addictions, either. If they have affairs it's their mate's fault. These parents don't have time to monitor their children's behavior because they have to work. They also have their own lives to live. The important thing to remember is that everybody can find some excuse for all the bad things they do.

Now, pity the grandparent who comes from the old school where everyone is responsible for his or her own behavior. These oldsters are quickly informed they are too old-fashioned or out of touch with the times to understand today's world. In many cases if they make too much of a fuss they may get locked out of the younger folk's lives. So, if grandparents want to stay connected many, very often, simply look the other way.

For a couple of decades this portrait of modern life worked, then the economy soured and unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies turned many individual's lives upside down. Suddenly, many twenty-somethings are out of a job and they have to plow through a pile of bills before they can get to their computers, video games, keys to the new cars, brand-name jeans and fancy gym shoes. Between the monthly bills added onto student loans, the credit cards are soon maxed out. Lack of health insurance makes even a migraine headache cause for alarm.

Perhaps some parents and grandparents will learn from this experience. The purpose of disciplining children is to help them learn to discipline themselves. They need to be encouraged to make good choices because when the going gets tough as it is now, this quality will serve to help keep their feet on the ground.

It's sad that so many of these young people truly do not know how to help themselves. Without parents around to pick them up when they fall, they are at a loss as to what to do. I'll always remember one young man I worked with in a training program. He was a student at a teacher's college in another state. When lunch was served, one of the sandwich choices was bologna but the only bread was hot-dog buns. I watched that young man struggle for fifteen minutes trying to find a way to turn the meat and bread into a sandwich.

Some forms of child abuse are subtle. Failure to teach children how to act on their own behalf is child neglect. The fact that so many children are victimized every day should alert their caretakers to make every attempt to provide them with tools to help them make wise decisions.

Hopefully, we can all take away from this recession the kind of learning experiences that will help us to lead more meaningful and productive lives. And maybe we can teach our lessons to someone else. Somewhere out there, a youngster is drowning because their parents let them down. A helping hand can make a difference, remember?

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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