Sunday, November 6, 2011

Entitlement, Self-Esteem, Self-Importance

Entitlement, self-esteem and self-importance are concepts attributed to many in the up and coming generation of young people in this country. We are bombarded daily with images of these young people expecting to be handed their future without working for it.  These same young people think with a basic degree in "bifurcated gender studies" that they are entitled to be handed the keys to the castle and they can't figure out why noone steps out of the way for their greatness. I remember seeing one unemployed young man hold up a sign "Will work for $75,000 a year." When asked if he would take a job for less money, he replied only if the benefits package was a good one. I kid you not...

An interesting incident occurred right before the start of school this year. The asperger support person on campus called me up and we had an interesting talk. She told me that in all honesty she didn't think CM1 or CM2 needed her support since they had so much individual attention. I thought that she was being honest and quite frankly didn't want to take my money unnecessarily. She also recommended that since CM1 was going to be going part-time he needed to learn some new skills apart from school. She thought he should have a part-time job. I told her that that was our thought as well. She then went on to tell me that it doesn't have to be a highfaluting job or one in the field he wants to work in. It should be any job. One in which he can get the necessary job skills of how to work and handle responsibility. I started to laugh because I knew that. I figured she must talk to alot of moron parents who think their little darlings have to have major positions when they have no skills, background or marketable educations.

It really reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite movies The Devil Wears Prada. All recent college grads, not a one of the four of the main characters have a job in the field that they want to work in. In this one particular scene they go through and extol the virtues of their horrible jobs...they laugh and toast to jobs that pay the rent. Miserable, boring, unexciting jobs, but ones that people need to do in order to move up in the world, garner experience, job skills and learn perseverance. It's called paying your dues. We all did it. It's part of the real world.

The truly sad thing is that there is a large segment of young people who resent that they cannot have that highfaluting job. They resent that they have to compromise, veer from their plan or quite frankly not be taken to the front of the line. They resent that we as a society have finally said "no" to them. They are actually acting as if this is the first time they heard the word. The result is that they seem to be having one major temper tantrum and public meltdown. These young people have not been taught to take responsibility for their choices, nor their actions. They have decided that their problems and issues are everyone else's fault. They think that everything they want is coming to them when they want it. Honestly, we as a society need to try to find a way to get these spoiled brats to grow up.

Am I unfeeling? Not really. No one told them to get a useless degree and pay $200,000 for it. There are degrees that are employable; engineering, computer science,  nurses, therapists...All it takes is a little research and they could have found out where the jobs are while they were still in school. (We are doing it for our children now.) You can have any passion you want in life. But you need to be able to pay the bills and the only way to do that is to garner an education in fields that society wants and needs. Also, no one told these young people to go to a private university instead of a community college. No one told them to take out massive student loans and go into extreme debt. You are not entitled to vacations, cars, expensive clothing, ipads, iPhones, laptops, living in doorman apartments and every material thing you want when you just enter the workforce. Someone at some point should have told these children you are not entitled to any of these items ever.

Heck out of law school I couldn't find a law job so I taught religious school for $7000 a year. Then when we moved states while I studied for the bar exam I was a para in a nursery school. When I was finally offered a law job it was for $20,000 a year. Hubby did better. He got a job with the government right out of lawschool, making $25,000 and worked weekends at a home-improvement store for extra money. (By the way this was in the era when certain lawschool graduates, a handful,  were walking into 6 figure salaried jobs. Even today most law graduates do not get offered those jobs no matter what propaganda you may have heard.) We did not complain. We did what we needed to do. Oh and one more thing...we paid off hubby's student loans and quite frankly I am still paying off mine. I never asked anyone to forgive my debt. I understood when they said loan it meant I had to find a way to pay it back no matter how long it took or what I had to do without in order to pay it back.

Meanwhile, we see this sense of  entitlement and attitude in how some raise their children. These young people and their attitudes didn't just appear out of thin air. Someone brought them up to think and act any way they pleased. Listen hubby and I raise our children to feel good about themselves. Self-esteem is very important.  It is a good thing to have self-respect. But so many in society,  have confused self-respect and self-esteem with the notion of entitlement.

From the time they are born we worry about our children's self-esteem. We cut back on the amount of competition they have to deal with. We try to teach them the rules of the game. We tell them its not the outcome but how you play the game that counts. Unfortunately we forget to teach them that at times, even if you follow the rules you will not win. There is not always a trophy waiting for you at the end of the day no matter how hard you  worked to earn it. We forgot to teach them to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start the next day anew.

Life has no guarantees. But for some reason we have taught our children that it does. There are some who feel entitled to a future that they have not earned. The truly sad thing though is that this future may not even be there for those that have earned their future. (But that's a different post for a different day.)

Honestly I do believe that there are more hard working young people then we are led to believe. Those who take any job they can, even two and three jobs to make ends meet just like we did (one such youngman just waited on me at the local Apple Store.). They do not resent that they need to live with mom and dad. They understand that they need to find a way to make everything work. These young people are not the problem. In fact I suspect in many ways they truly are the majority of their generation, but you wouldn't know that from the news. Yet these responsible young people will inherit a world filled with those who think they are entitled to someone else's product.

It is one thing to wake up one morning and be told that everything you had bargained for is gone. How many of our parents, how many of us, after decades of hard work have lost everything or nearly lost everything they had? We understand that we had to start again. It's just life. It's not fair. But noone said life was fair. It is quite another thing however, to wake up and think you are entitled to a life (material gains and expectations) you did not earn.

Again, what does this have to do with autism?

Let me tell you. It has everything to do with autism, disabilities and special needs. For the most part we in this community understand that there are no guarantees in life. Honestly, most of us have been hit broadside by life in a big way. But we were able to marshal our reserves and figure out how to help our children. We had no choice. We did our job as parents.

But the next question that is essential to our children's well-being and future, is at what point do we teach our children that even with accommodations, access and support that there are no guarantees for them? In fact how do we do it? We try to approach things with as little anxiety, angst and hurt as possible. But how do you prepare a child for failure when that failure may not be due their own malfeasance?

We fight with school districts to get them to understand our children. We know that in the end that the job of the district is to get our children through through high school. That is all. The rest of  life is not their concern. It should be, but it is not. (Life skills are sorely overlooked in school.) We need to teach our children that they are not entitled to a post-secondary education, job training or a place in the world that they do not earn. Now this does not mean that there should not be understanding and access. But we need to teach our children that to have a future, you need to work hard, and not expect anyone to hand it to you. Even with a disability it is something you need to earn.

I know that I teach the boys that they will have to be appropriate in life. That they need to work hard at anything and everything they do. The other day CM2 became very frustrated in a  class and yelled at  the professor. The professor took the para aside and told him, that there is "special needs" and there is being "rude." If CM2 is becoming frustrated to the point that he can't control himself the para needs to remove him from class. We wholeheartedly agree. However, at the same time, CM2's being rude was part and parcel of his special needs. Yet, there comes a time when excuses will not work and excuses will not be tolerated. As an aside: It is also one major reason we need to teach our children how to deal with the police and to teach the police how to deal with our children. A 6 foot tall 200 pound young person having a meltdown in public is not going to be sent to his room, he is going to be taken to prison.

By the way, once CM2 was threatened with loss of video games and no new games until the semester is over, he seems to be holding himself together better. Will it last? I have no idea. But what I do know is that  I hit on the right incentive. I just wish the right incentive at this point was the fact that he will not do as well as he should in school if he doesn't behave appropriately. I also know that holding it together for him is very very hard. It is something he should be proud of, so he earned his games back and the new game he ordered as well. He is still learning so bribes are OK. In the long run however, by learning to access his inner mojo to help himself, his reward will be a successful career, respect of his peers, and providing for himself the way he wants to.

Meanwhile CM2 did go and apologize to the professor for his outburst. Also just so you don't think this professor is a meanie and not understanding. He sits with CM2 every week for extra help in this class. The reality happens to be that CM2 has to learn how to channel his anxiety, frustrations and emotional disregulation. Is it hard work for him on top of transitioning and first semester freshman year of college? You betcha. But that is life and noone will tolerate excuses anymore.

Our children will not be given a pass by society because of their disability. Society will not have patience for their issues and that they need to learn to function despite all that is on their plate. Remember there is a difference between accommodations, access and production. Society is required to give our children a chance, but it is our children who have to make sure they earn the right to stay in society. Just like everyone else. (Remember-I am talking about high functioning individuals. When talking about society and the requirements of those with more extreme needs that is very very very different than what I am discussing here.)

But thinking about entitlement, self-esteem and attitude,  I now realize I have a new issue to teach the boys...that even if they do do well, even if they work very hard, it may not work out as they planned. I know CM1 learned that with the last art class he took. He worked harder at that class and spent more time on that class than anything he has ever done, but still only received a "c." When he confronted the professor about his grade, the moron-professor (and I use the word professor lightly)  actualy asked why CM1 was upset since "c" is passing. This is when  I had to tell CM1 that there will always be assholes in life. The trick is to make sure YOU are not the asshole.

But I fear the one lesson I did not emphasize is that even if he did work hard, that there are no guarantees. That yes there are even times when assholes rule the day in the real world as well as college. Being able to transfer a lesson conceptually from one situation to the next is not my son's foresuit. Unfortunately there may come a time he will learn this the hard way. My hope is that I can forestall some of the disappointment and maybe just maybe prevent its occurrence through teaching the right way to handle situations....

I know we try to make a world that our children have better guarantees. But when did it go from guaranteed the right to try,  to guaranteed entitled results? I fear we have done our children a terrible disservice. Life is not a game of chutes and ladders. Life is not T-ball where everyone gets a trophy in the end no matter who wins. Life is not non-compete-soccer where they are taught not to keep score. Sometimes, quite often actually, things do not work out the way you planned. No matter how hard you work, or try and follow the rules. There are no real guarantees in this world except death and taxes (and there are even those who try as hard as they might to cheat at both).

Honestly at this point, I do not have any answers, solutions or ideas. All I have is questions and crossed fingers.

Until next time,