When Did Jail Become Cool?

The trouble with making a child the center of the universe is that the child grows up believing it's true.
01/31/2012 03:41 pm ET Updated Apr 01, 2012

I don't know about you, but I've never been in jail, and I never really gave it much thought before, but I'm pretty proud of that. It seems that this is just another source of pride that has become obsolete in our society, as now it is unusual to find someone under the age of 30 who hasn't been in jail, and these people seem to think that's somehow "cool." It has to drive human resources professionals absolutely crazy.

When I was embarking on my journey into adulthood, I considered the future, I thought about making a good impression, and I made an effort to be someone that my parents could be proud of. I was well aware of the existence of consequences, and I possessed a healthy fear of them, which caused me to regularly do the right thing. I learned that making the right choice often means making the harder choice.

I never considered having my parents arrested because they disciplined me for doing the wrong thing, and adults did not tiptoe around me for fear that I would call the cops on them for doing their jobs. I didn't automatically expect to receive lavish items that my parents couldn't really afford, nor did I bully them into buying me everything I wanted. I mowed lawns, washed windows, and did any other suitable odd job for a kid my age and saved money to buy my first car. Sure, it was a vehicle with problems, but it was mine. I worked at the neighborhood pharmacy when I was 17, and I rode my bike to work every afternoon (unless it rained, in which case I took the bus). I was never too cool for public transportation.

When I worked at a wireless retailer, I was shocked by the number of kids who demanded expensive mobile devices from their parents, rolling their eyes and throwing tantrums in the middle of store. The sense of entitlement was outrageous and appalling, and the complete lack of respect for anyone else was shocking. What really amazed me was the surrender and compliance of the parents, in a surreal reversal of roles.

When did this happen?

Kids who walk all over their parents and teachers become kids without respect or regard for the law, and going to jail becomes a bizarre badge of honor. One of my friends has an adult son in his twenties whose lawless antics resulted in his being the fugitive of the week, and dozens of his friends commented on his social media page about how cool it was, and how the local police were "chumps" and how funny his mug shot was. What is most upsetting is the fact that this young man has repeatedly been arrested and sent to jail for the same offense, consistently serving less than 10 percent of the time sentenced, and not only does he continue the same behaviors, but his friends seem to think its hilarious. How can we impress upon our children the importance of doing the right thing, when doing the wrong thing carries little or no consequence?

These are the same kids who begrudgingly get jobs where they expect to get paid just because they show up, who talk on the phone to their friends while they stand at the cash register and ignore the customers, and who have a way of making people feel like they are somehow inconveniencing them by expecting them to do their jobs. Very often, they are also the kids who refuse to work at all and choose instead to be a burden on their friends and family; borrowing, stealing, and lying to get what they want.

The trouble with making a child the center of the universe is that the child grows up believing it's true.

Naturally there are kids out there who work hard and struggle to do the right thing. I wish they could get more recognition for that, because maybe having more positive "consequences" would inspire others to get on the same path.