Rockwall Herald-Banner (Texas)

Opinion

May 16, 2014

When did we become a country of coddlers?

Last week, my oldest child took part in a school event that made me cringe. I guess it wasn’t the event itself that gave me an uneasy feeling, or even the small volunteer role I had in serving meals to a couple hundred middle-schoolers. More than anything, the plain and simple existence of this event disturbed me.

Unfortunately, these kind of gatherings are happening more and more, and – as much as I disapprove of them – they don’t seem to be slowing down.

The event in question is called MORP (the word “prom” spelled backward), or the middle school prom, if you will. I’m not sure who’s idea this was, but I can assure you there are a lot of parents like me who agree with the level of absurdity this type of event is attached to.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

In the past, prom was considered a special event, kind of a big party for high school seniors – toward the end of the school year – that signified the end of an era. That’s the way I Iooked at it, anyway. Now, it appears as if it’s open to anybody, from high school seniors down to the kids who aren’t even old enough to be classified as teenagers (my oldest son is 11).

It’s the same with graduation, an event for high school seniors to celebrate 12 years of scholastic accomplishments, serving as a launch pad into “reality.” So then, why do middle schools feel the need to have graduation ceremonies?

To make matters worse, I heard from a friend earlier this week who is preparing her child for a kindergarten graduation. Yes, kindergarten.

I’m still waiting for somebody to make a case as to why these events exist. To this point, I’ve yet to be convinced that there is something to be gained from 6-year-old kids walking the stage to receive a “diploma.”

You know what I think? I believe we’re coddling our kids too much, plain and simple.

I like to believe having prom or graduation for younger students is the same thing as passing out trophies to every player on every team. That’s also ridiculous.

While you’re attempting to advocate for kindergarten and middle school graduations and proms, why don’t you take a stab as to why “participation” ribbons and trophies exist. On second thought, don’t waste your time. The answer is this: we’re coddling these kids and – during the process – cheapening any sort of achievement they may have to look forward to.

I see it more and more in youth sports, unfortunately. A perfect example is unfolding before my very eyes this baseball season.

The coaches (which include myself) for my 8YO’s coach pitch team teach a few things every day: working hard, getting better, having fun and of course, playing to win. We don’t baby this group any more than what’s needed. We reprimand them when they don’t pay attention and encourage them to do the things I just mentioned. As a result, our team is the league’s best.

On the other hand, my 11YO plays on a U12 team where the coaches seemed more concerned with “not hurting any feelings” and less concerned with winning, or improving, for that matter. Errors in the field, at the plate or on the basepaths are never corrected. Their idea of constructive criticism is “there’s always next time.”

Sure, that’ll get ‘em ready for high school ball.

In no way am I suggesting the coaches lose their cool every time a mistake is made, but these kids – many of whom will hit high school very soon – need somebody to put a fire under their butts, not baby them.

With coaches who spend more time “babysitting” than actual coaching, it’s no surprise that this team is not only in last place, but winless on top of it.

For a lot of these kids, they’ll be unprepared when they head into high school athletics, where coaches are quick to correct ... without coddling. But that’s where things are heading in this day and age. In today’s society, it seems perfectly acceptable to reward kids for things they haven’t earned.

Graduation – in my opinion – is sacred. You finish 12 years of school, you get a high school diploma. You finish college, you get your degree.

That’s the way it should be.

You finished kindergarten? Congrats. Here’s an extra juice box before nap time. You finished middle school? Hey, great job. Now get ready for a real challenge.

Hug your soon-to-be first grader or high school student. Buy them a present, take them out for ice cream, or whatever they may like.

But leave the big rewards for those who have truly earned it, and let’s stop cheapening the truly special moments by offering them to any kid with a pulse.

Life is a constant challenge, and I’ve yet to meet the person who has achieved success without earning it. But that’s the idea we’re harvesting today isn’t it? A kinder, gentler society?

It’s sending the wrong message to our kids.

By making them earn it today, they’ll be more likely to strive toward goals tomorrow. Life doesn’t hand out participation ribbons.

Cliff Gibson is the managing editor for the Rockwall Herald-Banner and Royse City Herald-Banner. He can be reached via email at cgibson@heraldbanner.com.

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