Thursday, January 10, 2013

Marriage, Family, and Social Norms in the US (part 2)

This is part two of a two part series, I recommend you read part 1, which I wrote as a guest post for Laughing In Purgatory, before proceeding to read this post

In part 1, I responded to an article by Libby Anne of the Patheos blog Love Joy Feminism about gender roles, and gave my own views about the US views on gender and the way US divorce courts are ran. Today, I have a rant, related to family, and US society, but the focus will be in a different direction this time

I can not tell you how many times I have been hearing complaints in recent years from families about their adult children who have just dropped out of life entirely.

They won't get a job (and won't seriously search for one), won't make plans for their life, still live at home, and have no intention of ever leaving.

Their parents gripe and complain about this endlessly, and it probably is frustrating, but many of these same parents don't even realize that they have created this very situation, or at least are enabling it.

They should not complain, unless they are willing to admit that they created the situation, or at least allow it to continue, and then actually do something about it. Many of these problems have been caused by the fact that many families in our society raised their children, giving them everything they wanted (that was within their financial means to do so, and sometimes beyond their finances), and raised them with no expectations of them ever taking responsibility for their life or their behavior. I see families with young children who keep giving them all the latest electronics, and anything else they ask for, and then failing to punish them for bad behavior.

I have personally heard parents when confronted with a credible accusation by other people about something their child has done, deny it, "my child didn't do that", "I didn't see it happen". They are resistant to punishing their children for anything, they are unwilling to let their child face the consequences for their children. Not only is punishment not applied, but they don't teach their children how to do anything for themselves or that they should even do anything for themselves in the first place. When parents do this to a young child, it's wrong, but when they do this to a young adult, it's sickening and pathetic.

Ask anyone who works at a college, they will tell you stories of parents not letting the students fill out the forms necessary to start college, calling professors to try to make excuses for their student's poor performance, and trying to plead with the professor to give the student a break. Many of these parents are still hovering over their sons and daughters as though they are still in the 4th grade, and this hovering is holding them back in life.(This hovering also leads to the now common term, "helicopter parent")

It's destructive, and there's two reasons why this could be happening in the US today.

One, I think there's much guilt among parents today. Whether it be due to divorce, both parents working, or other factors, parents are often not able to spend as much time with their children growing up as they should. Hey, I understand it, life gets in the way, and often, there's little to nothing you can do about it. This lack of time spent with their kids leads some parents to feel guilty, and want to do everything they can, be it financially, emotionally for their children as possible, and to take over all of what would be the normal responsibilities that the child would learn to take care of, while learning on the road to adulthood.

These parents mean well, for them it's an expression of love, they feel it's a normal part of taking care of their children. These parents are often dumbfounded, and can't figure out why, once their children become young adults, why they are behaving like they are. Though the young adult should be taking responsibility for themselves (and I don't excuse their lazy behavior by any means), these parents just can't understand how their behavior helped to create this situation.

Even the parents in this situation who are starting to wake up and realize this are still at a loss, because they are trying to figure out how to change both their perspective of parenting, plus change their adult son or daughter at the same time. It's a messy predicament to be in, and it's hard to change the effects of at the least, 18 years of a relationship between the parent and child. The parent's whole perspective on life and parenting must change, and they must develop the resolve to stand firm, and either force the son or daughter to take responsibility, and start acting as an adult, or if the fail to, then cut ties.

 If they are still living at home, and will not take responsibility, even if the parent has made it clear that it is time for them to so, (and outlined what they expect from them), then it's usually best for the parent and child to part ways, at least financially (make them move out of the home, and don't financially support them form then on), but maybe even emotionally, if the relationship between parent and child have been too strained, or if the parents finds themselves wanting to keep interfering in their life. Sometimes it is best to part ways, be it temporarily or even permanently.

 The second group of parents who find themselves in this situation, has more sinister motives. I know I may upset many people with this idea, but I feel that some of these helicopter parents want to continue thinking of their children as young children, doing everything in life for them, because it helps to rationalize in their minds the way they treat them.

 They don't ever want to think of their adult son/daughters as adults, because coming to the realization that they actually adults would mean that they would have to recognize to some extent the fact that they should be independent adults. They shiver at the idea that some day, they will have to face the reality that their son/daughter has grown up, and needs to chart their own path in life. To prevent this, they do the helicopter parent routine, and they have been doing it ever since their son/daughter was quite young. They have raised them not to expect to take responsibility for their life, because they know that with responsibility comes independence. That is the last thing they ever want to see happen.

Some people may not think that this is common, but I have seen it many times, especially in fundamentalist circles, where power structures tend to be top heavy anyway, and the traditional ideas of family and marriage are constantly preached. Some parents in this situation are doing this consciously and deliberately, out of an existing thirst for control and power, long after their child has become and adult. Others feel that it is their way of caring, but don't realize how this overbearing nature can cause quite a bit of damage.

No matter the motives, it is destructive to families and to society over all. Both parents and the adult children in these families need to realize what is going on if they are in this situation, and work towards change. These kind of ideas on parenting and family are leading to large numbers of young adults that don't know how to be an adult, and aren't willing to learn anyway, young adults who expect others to take care of them when they are fully capable of taking care of themselves.

Many of these people, if they don't realize the path they are headed down, and make the decision to change, will end up with failed relationships/marriages (who can stand to be with an overgrown child for long?), and strained relationships with family members who are supporting them (and who need to stop supporting them for their own good), or they will end up on government aid for much of the rest of their lives, causing problems for society as a whole.

It's time for this trend to end, now.

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