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What Price Success? By James A. McKenna, Ph.D.



With both parents working, the norm for family life is becoming that most children return to a home without either parent to greet them. This means that as the rate of "latch key" children increases there is a lack of teaching social skills Vs teaching how to be strong and manage things alone. Both parents are likely working and pursuing their own careers or the children are in homes of single parents. Either way, thereís a price to pay for these social changes from the times when children could come home to at least one parent to get the support and protection they could internalize.

Today, more than any other era, we expect our children to raise themselves, grow up fast and to be strong. However, if one must raise oneís self, where are the guidelines and what are the rules? In earlier, less complicated times, when people were taught a sense of personal responsibility and respect for themselves and of others, skills in resolving conflicts seem more apparent. However, youngsters are now expected to fend from themselves and to be strong.  All this without even a model of how parents resolve conflicts. Their models are teaching them (in absentia) how to be strong and work long hours to pay the bills. This sound like we may be returning to the "survival of the fittest" mentality.

 



Where do limits come from, if both parents are gone and youngsters are left to their own cunning and imagination? Television canít be blamed for everything. Yet, where do youngsters get their values when the parents are absent? TV and computer games seem to reinforce the notion of competition, survival, and isolationism. Similarly, where do "latch key" children learn how to settle problems with verbal skills if they donít see their parents or teachers fighting without violence?

Is the violence in computer games and TV shows teaching latch key children, "Itís not how you play the game,  itís weather you win or lose that counts!" Omission of guidelines and limits is probably worse than loose or strict limits. Some minds are too young and inexperienced to come up with whatís the best way to resolve problems.

With lack of verbal skills and the power of attack weapons, the answer to youthful resolution of conflict is on the evening news. More and more tragedies of drive-by shooting and school violence are quickly approaching the status of common place Ė thus, disqualifying as "news."

In times when both parents must be absent, a lot of such parents have not found ways to teach essential values to their growing number of unprotected children. It not so much the parent being physically gone that is the problem. Itís the absence of parental values in the heads of their children thatís the issue. Itís this PROTECTION of established guidelines that such children LACK. Protection comes from people introjections or incorporating the "shouldís" that allow self-concepts of being close to others AND resolving differences.

The social tragedy of the modern family is that most youngsters are not learning to be close, to care about others, or to allow them to be cared for. At the same time, these isolated young people have not learned to resolve conflicts in a WIN/WIN fashion. Feeling all alone, lacking rules in their heads, having been strong and holding in feelings, more and more are finally reaching the fourth stage of passivity: VIOLENCE. They explode on others or implode and get very depressed.

© 2007, James A. McKenna, Ph.D., Chesterfield, MO

Check out Jim's Website: http://www.JimMcKenna-Phd.com

E-mail:    jim@jimmckenna-phd.com

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