Thursday, September 30, 2010

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Adversity Builds Character

          “The notion that adults should do all they possibly can do to advance the self-esteem of children is dying a slow but hopefully unavoidable death.

          Research done by a number of objective folks, most notably Roy Baumeister at Florida State University, has clearly shown that high self-esteem is closely associated with anti-social inclinations.  Unfortunately, it’s taken more than a decade for the research in question to bridge the gap between academia and popular culture.  At this writing, two generations of parents were persuaded to devote themselves to creating child-rearing environments that were rich in praise and reward but lacking in reality, elevating their children to idol status in the process.

          Thankfully, I am a member of the last generation of American kids who were not allowed to possess high self-esteem.  My mother and later her second husband did all they could to repress my Inner Brat, for which I am most grateful.  (I did not, however, appreciate their efforts at the time.)  When I had an outburst of high self-esteem, one of them would tell me I was ‘acting too big for my britches’ and needed to size myself to the psychic garment in question before they were forced to lend a literal hand.
          Then there were those occasions when, without reprimand, one or the other of them would say, ‘It would be good for you to always remember that no matter what you accomplish in this world, you are really just a little fish in a big pond.’  It’s very helpful for me to remind myself of this on a regular basis.

          Everyone in my generation heard these very healthy things from their parents.  I estimate that there are fewer than 10 parents in America who say these psychologically incorrect things today.  Today’s typical parent seems to think his/her child is the only fish in the pond worth noticing, which is

really too bad for his/her child.  It’s bad for all of us, actually, because the research also finds that the higher a person’s self-regard, the lower his regard for others.  (It is also noteworthy that high self-esteem puts the individual at high risk for bouts of severe depression.)  People with high self esteem want to be paid attention to and served.  They believe in their entitlement.  On the other hand, folks with high regard for others pay attention to others and look for opportunities to serve them. 

          It is unarguable that culture is best served, preserved, and advanced by folks who fit the latter category.  Entitlements weaken, and a culture-wide entitlement mentality weakens the entire culture.  Along these lines, every single manager, employer, and supervisor with whom I have talked in the last decade or so has told me that today’s young college graduates, by and large, are not looking for work; rather, they are looking for benefit packages

(i.e. entitlements).  They can’t handle criticism, I’m told.  They are loathe to do more than ‘the minimum,’ yet they expect promotions.  The list of high self-esteem symptoms goes on and on.  This is corrosion.  It threatens America’s future.

          Raising a child who possesses high other-regard simply requires that parents do what our great-grandparents did.  They put their Marriages first, not their kids.  They gave their kids all that they truly needed and very little of what they simply wanted.  They assigned daily chores from age 3 on.  They expected their children to always do their best, in whatever setting.  Their beds were for adults only.  They rarely helped their kids with their homework.  They did not serve them individualized dinners.  Family came first, not after-school activities, and so on.  This parenting paradigm is as workable today as it was when I was a child.

          In fact, a small number (but I sense it is slowly growing) of parents have made the conscious decision to create this retro-revolution in their families.  Surely, they are the salt of the earth.”[1]

          I was directed to the above article by a very special family member.  Since I can’t agree with it more and couldn’t state things better, I copied it here.   Expound though I might, the basics are all stated in it.

          I have always heard, and know it to be true, that adversity builds character.  Those who are sheltered from the constantly occurring consequences of life will always be at a disadvantage.  The lack of building coping mechanisms in childhood renders one incapable of appropriate responses and reactions in adult life. 

          I am not advocating that beating the ‘holy bajesus’ out of your children is the answer, but rather the firm yet gentle admonition of a loving parent.  Corporal punishment is not however out of the question (with restraint) in those situations where deemed necessary and all else has failed.   I have lived long enough and seen enough to have seen the differences in the work ethic of recent generations as compared to mine.  This same lack of personal responsibility in the work place bleeds over into personal and community relationships.

          Personal responsibility is absolutely necessary in a free and just society.  That is why our founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution with the wording that they used.  I am absolutely convinced that they would be astounded by the society in which we live.  When they referred to Providence, God, the natural laws of man, and others, they were in reference to the established thought patterns of the day which were based on the recognized basis of Judeo/Christian principles.  In the same way that Jesus used “hinting” (a Jewish method of referring back to Old Testament passages that in those days almost everybody knew) and parables that could be universally understood, the founding fathers knew what each was referring to in the vernacular of the day.  Far be it from our current society to recognize the Bible, and our founding documents, as the basis for our everyday lives.  Ridicule and condemnation are the by product of this type of behavior.

          "I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death."[2]  As I said, adversity builds character.  It takes a good character to benefit society. Those self absorbed, self-delusional and high self-esteemers just don’t qualify for true leadership.  To be a true leader one has to know and understand the value of serving others rather than being self-serving. Being self-serving only leads to further aggrandizement and power seeking of the individual.  Thus, they are the ones who think they know better what you need than you do, and therefore try to legislate your freedoms.  Your freedoms come from God, not from man or any government.  “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”[3] 

[1] Family psychologist John Rosemond, The Lakeland Ledger – 9-29-2010.
[2] Thomas Paine, The Crisis, No. 1, 1776
[3] Benjamin Franklin


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