This Memorial Day, I spent the greater part of the holiday weekend cleaning up around the house, doing yard work, chasing my toddler and watching my two little sister-in-laws, ages 10 and 12. The key word is "watching" them watch me work.
When I was 10, I carried golf bags to make a buck and during my downtime, I mowed lawns, raked leaves, shoveled snow, and played sports. Kids these days seem to have lost this type of work ethic. Video games, Facebook, Nickelodeon AND smartphones dominate their attention despite parents' best efforts to get kids to focus on more meaningful activities such as reading, math, outdoor play or, in my case, house work.
What concerns me about lazy kids today is the potential long-term cost on the country. Numerous reports highlight student debt climbing to $1 trillion and the prospect of post-college unemployment becoming ever more likely.
As a 21st century dad, I often question my tendency to be hard on kids ages 9 and up when they act lazy, make obvious mistakes or miss opportunities to demonstrate maturity. This is where I am perplexed because sometimes I feel like I am too hard and could use more constructive language that I use in board rooms, policy discussions or motivating staff.
For example, instead OF saying, "Do not pick up the vase while your hands are full -- why aren't you thinking straight," I could have said, "Why don't you put that stuff down first and ask your sister for help -- that would be a real teamwork exercise." I can/will make this adjustment for teachable moments like this; however, when dealing with disobedience, I struggle because, in my day, my parents would beat me with a thick leather belt called the 'Eagle Belt' when I acted out. My dad would say, "The Eagle Belt is going to fly if you don't act right." That's all I needed to hear and I stopped whatever it was that I was doing that prompted that statement.
Today, kids are bold. They have technology, television, Internet access and feel empowered to resist being disciplined. This puts tough love in a bind. Granted, I'm not advocating striking a child. My wife and I disagree on how to discipline our son when he gets older. I "watch" kids in grocery stores talk back to their parents, complain about restrictions on their smartphones or throw temper tantrums at Costco when they cannot get something they want. By age 9, they should know better. I acknowledge that their misbehavior is part of their growth process, but an occasional spanking should be too.
Coddling has its place, just not in the real world where banks will not apologize for demanding timely payment. If we continue to slack on giving the next generation a dose of tough love, the less prepared they will be in facing many life challenges ahead.
As I expect a lot of feedback on this topic, let's agree to hashtag #Toughlove to keep the conversation going on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and where ever else this may go.