In this two-part series, I invite parents to think
about a shift in priorities that parents have made during the last thirty years
or so. Previous generations of parents emphasized character, whereas the current
generation views feelings as being more important. This week we examine what it
looks like to place character development first; next week we look at feelings.
If you were raised by parents who lived through the
Great Depression or World War II, the chances are great that they taught you
many lessons concerning the responsibility that you had toward others. You
probably were taught to:
- respect your elders; you called your friendsí parents "Mr.
and Mrs. Smith" rather than "Bob and Shirley;"
- use appropriate manners for various occasions; you
liberally said "please" and "thank you;"
- choose your wardrobe appropriately for the occasion or
place you went; you had school clothes, play clothes, and dress-up clothes for
a variety of occasions;
- place a higher value on giving than on receiving.
Additionally, you were taught to defer your
gratification. If you wanted material objects, you saved your allowance or
worked for the things you wanted.
Most importantly, you didnít ask about what you would
receive if you did what you were expected to do. Your parents led you to
understand that these behaviors were necessary so that everyone could live
You may not have understood what your parents were
trying to teach you. But they held steadfast and tried to impress upon you that
you would understand and appreciate the lessons when you were older. And when
you grew up, you realized that, by and large, they were right.
But something happened when these responsible children
grew up and had their own children. When they asserted their authority, they
buckled under to their childrenís displeasure at not getting what they wanted.
It was disturbing to them to see their children
unhappy. They convinced themselves that if the children were happy, they would
be happy, too. Thus, the focus shifted away from character development and in
favor of their happiness.
Next week: what happens when parents put happiness