A few years ago, a teen left our youth group because (his mother told me) I had hurt his feelings. Well, here is what happened. While allowing teens to do some work around the church to help pay for their camp, I struggled (as any parent or youth pastor totally understands) getting them to stay busy working. One of the things I had this particular teen do was to vacuum. I left for 5 minutes and when I came back he said he was done. A quick inspection told me he did a poor job, and so I asked him if he knew how to vacuum. I proceeded to show him how you do it: "V" pattern, left to right, back to front... slowly so as to pick up all debris. I demonstrated and then had him do it again. I honestly don't remember being rude, but perhaps it was obvious that I was frustrated. And "BAM!" he didn't go to camp that year, and didn't come back to our church for some time. I had no idea anything was wrong until I read a personal attack against me (on Facebook of all places) a few days later by his mother.
I was not surprised that a young person didn't know how to vacuum. I was not surprised that he didn't like being told that he didn't do a good job vacuuming. I was a little surprised that the parent didn't back me up on this since I was not only teaching him how to vacuum, but we were also basically paying for her kids to go to camp in exchange for this work. However, I probably shouldn't have been surprised, knowing the way our generation has been taught to raise our children.
We have been taught "Think outside the box" more that we have been taught "Stay inside the lines."
I'm actually an "outside of the box" thinker. I'm an artist; a "left-brainer." But just about every job that I have had that paid the bills required learning how to do things the way I was taught, and to do them over and over again without deviating. Whether it was mowing neighbors' yards, loading boxes in trailers for UPS, folding and hanging cloths for Dillards, Building and boxing up oil pumps for Kimray Inc., or cleaning houses when I owned and operated a cleaning business; it all involved doing what I was taught, the way I was taught to do it, and doing it over and over again the same way.
Even as an "outside the box" thinker (and one that would probably be put on drugs for ADD if I went to public school these days), I was still able to accomplish these jobs pretty successfully. I owe much of that ability to my parents. As a child, I remember my parents kept me stocked up on coloring books and crayons. I didn't have video games and cellphones back then, so when I was bored, I colored or I drew pictures (if I wasn't playing outside). I would spend an hour coloring a page, and run to show it to my mom. She would say something like, "That looks great, Son...but I see you were going too fast and didn't stay in the lines in that spot there." Then, a little frustrated, I would go color another one and try to do better.
I'm not sure why anyone gave up on this method! It seems like the attitude today is "rules are made to be broken." But even if that is true, one must understand the rules and know how to function within those rules before they can begin successfully working by their own set of rules. A good example of this is the art of Picasso. Whether you appreciate his work or not (you know, the cubism pieces where you can't tell which way the faces are looking...if they are even faces...if he even did them...or was it actually a 5 year old?), he definitely succeeded at his style which seemed to break so many rules. But go ahead and Google "Picasso's early work," and you will see that he indeed knew how to follow the rules he had been taught about realistic painting and drawing.
The same is true about professional athletes. We may watch our favorite basketball player seemingly breaking all the rules of the game, but a closer look at their early years will show that they had a clear understanding of the fundamentals and had learned how to practice the same fundamentals over and over and over again until they mastered them. Why would we expect anything different from our children who, chances are, will never have the opportunity to be a professional athlete or famous artist...but even if they do, the basic fundamentals will be a prerequisite. Stop teaching kids to think outside the box before they can stay inside the lines!
We need to stop rewarding young people who haven't earned it.
Another great hindrance I see, in regards to the success of our children, is this idea that they should be rewarded even when they don't deserve it. I'm not for Santa Clause, I'll tell you that right now! But even more than lying to our kids about a jolly, fat man in the North Pole who rides reindeer and brings presents to good little boys and girls, I hate the fact that parents threaten all year long "if you are bad, Santa's not going to bring you that present you want. He's going to bring you coal instead," and the whole time the kids know that, come Christmas time, Santa will forgive all their naughtiness and give them what they want.
We are doing our kids no good when we give them "participation trophies" even when they do nothing to help the team and the team loses. We are all tempted to do this. Grandparents are probably the worst (which, considering the amount of grandparents raising their grandkids today, that might explain a lot as well). I'm not talking about discouraging our kids or making unrealistic goals for them that they can't live up to. I'm talking about rewarding good behavior and success, and encouraging them to try harder when they fail.
Look at some of the issues of our day, and tell me if these apply:
-We provide welfare and unemployment for people who clearly should be working and earning a living.
-We reward people who have high credit card debt ("Credit card debt? No problem! You can still finance this brand new car!")
-We offer .03 percent of people who claim to be confused about their gender the restroom of their choice so as not to hurt their feelings, regardless of how the 99.97% feel about the matter.
-We call everything from "anger management" to "alcoholism" a "sickness" and give them drugs rather than disciplining them for their behavior.
-Our churches are looking more and more like the world and preaching less and less against any wickedness other than being "too judgmental," even though the world clearly has no semblance of godliness and righteousness.
But it is okay...because we are thinking outside of the box. We are growing and discovering new things. We are moving forward.
I think not.