Guest Blog Written By: Joseph Iannicelli (original source Panoram Italia)
Having children has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. We coddle them, nurture them and protect them. We tell them they are wonderful, that they have important opinions and reward them for effort, any effort. How many times have we praised our children for an “excellent effort”, even though it is clear that it was not their best effort and in fact inferior to other participants? We lobby teachers on their behalf, and we solve any problems that come their way (“Daddy or Mommy will take care of it, don’t worry”).
We have, my friends, created a generation of under-achieving, overly-protected kids that have no idea how to manage life in the real world. And it is totally our fault. For years, we have treated our children as sacred, to be revered. We include them in every aspect of our everyday life, no matter what age they are.
We have abandoned the role of parent by making our children our friends.We ask them their opinions on matters that are clearly decisions that need to be made by adults. We treat them as equals in our families when in fact they are not.
They are not equipped to make serious family decisions and yet they are often given an equal say in big decisions that are made in life. We were raised to accept decisions our parents made because in the end they knew best. They might have asked our opinion, as often occurred, but there was no expectation that it was the final decision.
We have this great desire to make our children’s life easier than ours. In theory there is nothing wrong with this, after all, that is what our parents did. Where we went a little overboard is that we don’t want “any” degree of discomfort for our children. We want our kids to have everything that the other kids have.
My kids believed that they would be getting a car when they graduated from high school. Many of their friends received a car for making it on the honour role. I quickly reminded my children that it was their “job” to be on the honour role in order to attend the best post-secondary institution possible. Attending high school for me was about doing well enough to get into university in order to have opportunities my parents did not have. Believe me, there was never any mention of a car!
We also do not want our children to have any physical discomfort either. We will drop everything to make sure that they get where they are going without having to walk or take the bus. We adjust our schedule to accommodate their schedule. Then, we turn around and complain that we have become taxi drivers! By providing for everything, our kids have learned nothing.
Then, once they reach a certain age, we expect them to magically transform into responsible, mature, autonomous adults who are capable of doing the most simple of daily tasks, like waking up on their own, preparing meals, taking public transportation, organizing their own lives. Many of us coddle our children and in doing so never allow them to learn simple life skills that they desperately need to survive in the real world.
Italians immigrated to Canada largely for a chance for a better life for themselves and their families. They sacrificed for the good of the next generation. They did not want us to be them. They did not come to Canada for that. This could very well be the greatest learning experience of our lives. Inadvertently, our parents taught us life skills that have helped us achieve success on our own.
Now that it is our turn, we also don’t want our children to be like us and this is a very bad thing. We provide them with everything we never had – countless toys and electronics, expensive shoes and clothing, their own cars at 16 years of age, and the list goes on and on. We, on the other hand, were raised much more carefully.
I, as an example, played organized hockey and had one hockey stick that would need to last for two seasons because there was not another one coming.My skates were two sizes too large so I could ‘grow’ into them. Street hockey goalies used old brooms for goalie sticks, newspapers as a chest protector and cut-out cardboard for masks and tied to a mitt for a blocker. Our baseball glove would double as a goalie catcher’s mitt. We did not want for anything, but we were very careful and understood and respected money.
Now we complain that our kids are spoiled. They are not street savvy like we were. They are not as independent or resourceful as we were. We are disappointed they cannot ‘figure it out’ on their own. We should not be disappointed in them, but at ourselves. Our parents did not want us to be them and by and large, we turned out OK, and we thank our parents for this. Now we, in turn, do not want our kids to grow up like we did. And they have not.
Joseph Iannicelli is retired President for Standard Life of Canada, son of immigrant parents, former street hockey goaltender and father of three wonderful and spoiled kids.