Excuses just don’t count

Parenting styles today praise kids for everything, and yet they're not learning rudimentary math anymore or other things they should

Steve Harvey’s TV show has replaced a number of early afternoon talk shows I once watched such as Dr. Phil, which has devolved into a repetition of abusive relationships, to women-only shows that lost me when lax hosting allowed four panelists and a guest to speak at once until I could distinguish nothing.

Harvey’s March 3 show invited James Harrison, a Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, to defend his parenting style after the social world erupted last August when people learned he had returned the participation award his five-year-old son had been given by his school.

The youngest of 14 kids, Harrison believes you have to earn everything you get, nothing is given to you. That’s the philosophy he was raised by and the philosophy he and his wife share raising their two young sons.

His son didn’t whine or cry when James returned the award. The kid was prepared to be without it, knowing in their family you have to work to be rewarded.

This parenting style is so out of vogue these days. As Judge Judy said in an interview, “Kids are told, “Good job!” or “You’re awesome!” for everything little thing they do, even tying their shoelaces. In a survey of American teenagers, most could name every celebrity and who they are marrying or divorcing, but 25 per cent couldn’t name the vice-president of the United States.”

Even in higher grades some Canadian students don’t learn even rudimentary math. A volunteer working in an old folks home sat in to make up a foursome playing bridge one afternoon with an 80-year-old man, a 91-year-old woman and her Grade 9 grandson.

Now I don’t play bridge, have never watched a game, know absolutely nothing about the rules or how scoring is done. But I’m told at this old folks’ home the highest a player needs to be able to count is 15. Granny could do it. Her grandson couldn’t.

He also pooh-poohed the rule which calls for one player dealing the cards in a clockwise rotation beginning with the player on the dealer’s left. The grandson argued it made no difference where he began dealing or in which direction. The volunteer set him straight tout de suite.

Evolving language detracts in so many ways from former sterner rules.

Remember when families might have trouble getting along, so hostesses took care who they seated beside whom at Thanksgiving dinner? Such families are now termed dysfunctional and counsellors of every kind stand ready to listen, diagnose and advise for a hefty fee.

When I was a youngster, a drunk was a drunk. They might risk freezing to death in a snowy ditch but they seldom hurt anyone but themselves or their hungry family. And once they sobered up, they were as good as before until the next weekend.

Today we label such people alcoholics or drug dependent. Some claim to black out, remember nothing while they were speeding down a highway in an SUV that T-boned a van at an intersection killing four; or steering their snowmobile straight into an Iditarod musher and dog team killing the lead dog, and injuring several more as well as the musher. Saying they blacked out is a convenient excuse.

Equally depressing is our laziness when it comes to food. Sobey’s in Thornhill, Ontario is selling Calavo avocados pre-cut in half, packaged in plastic and cardboard. This is to eliminate guessing about ripeness, and for the convenience of anyone inexperienced in peeling or seeding a fresh avocado. Calavo claims the sealed avocado will remain fresh for 55 days but once the package is opened the fruit must be eaten within 24 hours.

Claudette Sandecki monitors the world from her Thornhill, B.C. home.