Saturday, February 16, 2013

We're Raising Big Babies

This week in my hometown we had a big scandal.  We don't get many of those here, thankfully, so this one blew up pretty big.

At a high school hockey game, the goaltender had a temper tantrum.  It was senior night, which I believe is where they celebrate the seniors and showcase them more, since they are nearing the end of their high school hockey career.  It should have been a fun time, with some bittersweet emotion and some memories made.  I guess some memories were made, just not the right kind.

Apparently, the young man tending the goal for our team was angry.  He felt he had not been given enough play time over the season, and the coach was putting out a lowly sophomore at his position instead of him all too often.  He decided prior to the game that he would certainly show him what's what by displaying his emotions for everyone to observe.  How generous of him.

The game was tied up, and I'm sure quite exciting, when a play left the puck behind his goal and the rest of the players on the ice hurried toward the other side of the ice to wait for the goalie to hit the puck away from his goal.  Instead, this young man at goal decided to casually skate around to the front of his goal and tap the puck in, scoring against his own team.  He then displayed his distaste for his coaches (and also his own team, the fans, and his community) by removing his gloves, flipping off his own bench, doing a big sarcastic salute, and then skating defiantly off the ice.  The word that keeps running through  my mind?  JACKASS.  Yes, he's just a kid acting out.  But he's a senior.  Pretty much a man, by definition, but obviously still just a child.

It caused quite the commotion.  It was all over the local news.  Radio programs talked about it.  It was all over Facebook.  I personally became a bit obsessed about it, for a number of reasons.  Primarily because I'm raising boys, and I was so disgusted that this kid acted out like that, and with what appeared to be SUPPORT from his parents.

Right now my feelings for this kid have shifted, and I was curious how everyone else was feeling about this.  This kid has been suspended from school and kicked off the hockey team, appropriately.  In that few seconds, with that one stupid tantrum, this kid changed his life.  His future has been altered--he will always be that kid.  And from the looks of the comments on the internet, and how everyone has been talking about it, the feelings about what he did are 99% negative.  He has a handful of supporters, but they really are few and far between.

My thoughts are this.  What he did was not a spur of the moment decision.  He had planned it.  He had told a buddy to be ready with his phone to film it, so the whole crappy thing was plastered on YouTube.  This was not just a temper tantrum.  We've all seen those in our kids.  They are hardly planned out.  So in his mind, he felt justified to act out this way.  Because this sophomore who obviously wasn't as good as him (in his mind) got to be the starter most of the time instead of him.  He felt entitled to be the starter, and this was NOT FAIR.  boo hoo.

Our culture is causing this.  Kids are being brought up in large part to believe they are entitled.  To trophies.  To awards.  To an equal amount of time on the field, the court, the ice, whatever.  They believe they are amazing, not just in the eyes of the parents, but in general.  We are telling them that they are!  But they're not.  The are our kids.  They are amazing to us.  But to the world, they are just another person who is going to have struggles.  Who is going to need to overcome them.  They don't deserve ANYTHING for just showing up, it should be their responsibility.  When did we stop caring about that?  There will always be a kid that is better than them.  There will always be a kid that is tougher than them, more popular, smarter, funnier.

I think our job is to teach them about this reality.  When our kid gets a bad grade at school, we need to help them deal with it.  Not by going to the teacher and telling them how ridiculous their grading system is, or calling the school and chewing them out, or by telling the kid it's okay, they're still amazing and smart and perfect.  We need to help them figure out what happened and find tools with them to do better next time.  When our kid doesn't get the lead in the play, we can't act like they should have, and that the people just didn't know what they were doing, or the kid who got the part must have a parent that made it happen.  How about there was a kid who fit the part better?  When our kid doesn't get to be the starter or make the top team in a sport, how about we teach them that this is life in competitive sports?  That the coaches job is to build a winning team, and sometimes that means other kids will get positions you wish were yours?  And how about teaching them good sportsmanship in the face of disappointment?

Here's an idea.  How about if kids are brought up to learn that we love them UNCONDITIONALLY.  We love them so much no matter what talents they have.  But not every one will, nor should they.  If they don't make the team, it's okay.  As long as they try their best.  If they don't get the part in the play? It's okay.  We are proud they were brave enough to help out.  (And painting sets is important too.)  If another kid starts as goalie more than you, well, son, maybe he's proven himself to the coaches.  And if you think that's unfair, maybe you should work harder to prove yourself.  And guess what?  If that doesn't work, maybe he's a better goaltender than you.  And that's okay.  It's life.  Congratulate him on his success and set an example as a senior on your team.

I mean, for God's sake, people.  What are these kids going to be like when they need to let go of our apron strings?  We need to think more about that.  Prepare your kids, don't coddle them.


  1. There are ways to protest, but it seems this kid wanted the publicity. You are right though, how he will always be remembered as "that kid".

    It was in the 70's and 80's that parents/schools started that campaign to tell our kids, how special they were. Special yes, to us, their parents. But to the world, just another kid. That message has gotten out of hand and seems to have created that "entitlement mentality" that we are seeing now.

  2. I agree completely! I see this sort of entitlelment attitude all the darn time. Fortunately, I do see lots of kids who are taught about sportsmanship, too.
    That hockey player is a spoiled brat. Hopefully parents are showing their kids the video and having productive conversations about how NOT to behave.

  3. TOTALLY! I couldn't agree more. Awesome post!