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History will not be kind to the baby boomer generation, especially those that live in developed economies. Under our watch the world’s population has done irreparable damage to planet earth, we’ve seen a massive consolidation of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people, and politics has become a blood sport fuelled by hatred and self-interest.

Everywhere you look you can find evidence of boomers saying one thing and doing another. This is especially true when it comes to parenting. Sadly my generation has passed this legacy on to their children and grandchildren. In my opinion this is our biggest failure.

Academy Awards For Parents

If all the world’s a stage, as William Shakespeare once proclaimed, then the competition for best actor and actress in the parenting category of hypocritical parenting would be intense. There is no way to statistically validate this, but based on my observations, a huge majority of parents would be top contenders. To add more clarity, let’s break the category down into three different sub-categories.

Best Male and Female Performers In The Role Of A Dishonest Cheerleader

Awards in this category are hotly contested. These parents are quick to criticize a world that teaches young people to fear failure. They nod their heads wisely when they hear stories about successful people who didn’t let failure stop them. A prime example would be Stephen Speilberg who tried on multiple occasions to get into the film school at the University of Southern California. He was never accepted, although he was later awarded an honorary doctorate from the same school. (Fun fact. Speilberg agreed to accept only if it was personally signed by the admissions officer who rejected him for an average “C” grade when he applied there as an aspiring film student). Speilberg seems to have done okay for himself.

These same parents share stories like this with their children and tell them that it’s okay to try something and fail. Unfortunately for most kids, 99% of parents believe this is good advice for other children, but not their own. If I made this statement in front of 100 parents it’s likely I’d get some disagreement. In fact most if not all parents insist that they encourage their children to try new things. The problem is this advice applies everywhere except school. Need proof? How many parents do you know that take their kids out to celebrate when they bring home a bad report card or exam result? On the flip side how many parents do you know who provide overt bribes to their kids for getting grades that meet or exceed parental expectations? Let’s cut the BS folks. As a society we continue to teach our children that failure is for losers. This is a big problem, since contrary to popular opinion, the most important lessons in life come from our failures, not school.

Best Male and Female Performers In The Role Of Shame Prevention

This category is dedicated to all the parents that continue to perpetuate the myth that the only path to success is through a 4-year degree program. As children become teenagers parents start asking the big question. What do you plan on doing when you grow up? Kids learn early on that saying you’re not sure is a bad idea. These leads to a lecture about the importance of getting a good job. If the child asks what a good job is, mom or dad usually reply one that pays well (Yoseph Elkaim on Episode  74 says his parents made it even simpler. He could be a doctor, a lawyer, or a failure).

It’s pretty stupid given that straight A’s are primarily proof of a students ability to sit down, follow instructions, and regurgitate information or formulas. This is pretty much a direct quote from Seth Godin in episode 100 of Screw the Naysayers. I agree with him. For today’s children those particular skill sets are a one way ticket to the unemployment line. Everywhere we look we can see incontrovertible evidence that for a huge majority of students, the value of a 4-year degree does not come close to the cost of acquisition. Two year colleges are pumping out young men and women with skilled trades who quickly find good paying work in their field. Recent research shows that 50% of young adults with 4-year degrees are underemployed or unemployed. The trends in this area are not encouraging.

So why do parents persist in telling their kids to focus all their effort on getting into a 4-year college? Why do they place so much focus on grades that mean so little? I asked Seth that question when we spoke. He answer resonated with me.It’s primarily because parents are seeking approval from their friends and family. A 4-year degree from a prestigious college provides big bragging opportunities and earns lots of congratulatory praise. Standing up and declaring that their child has decided not to go to college makes them feel uncomfortable. To avoid feeling ashamed, they’re willing to sacrifice their own offspring on the altar of higher education. This brings us to Category #3.

Best Male and Female Performers for Turning A Blind Eye

This category is reserved for those parents who practice hypocrisy at its highest level. LinkedIn has in excess of 550 million users. A large percentage of that number are people who live in affluent neighbourhoods. Many of those same people proudly declare that their purpose in life is to make an impact. They hold their heads high when they reflect upon the legacy they are creating for their children. And most of those same people look at homeless people with disdain. Although technically they don’t look at homeless people.

Marnie Grundman, my guest on episode 76, started living on the streets when she was 13. She was raped the first night she slept away from home. Marnie had good reasons for running away. When she was two years old her mother intentionally dropped her out of a two-story window. When the ambulance arrived to take Marnie to the hospital her mother explained that the child had fallen. This was just the beginning.

During our interview Marnie told me that the thing that hurt the most was when people refused to make eye contact with her. It just reaffirmed her belief that she was worthless. If you live near a city in North America, chances are there are places where homeless people congregate. I challenge you to visit one of those neighbourhoods. Then watch the endless stream of well groomed, well dressed, people who pick up their pace when they approach someone passively asking for a handout. Watch to see how many make any form of eye contact. I’ll confess. I used to be one of those people. Not anymore. But here’s the thing. If you stand there long enough you’re going to see a pattern. Most people walk right on by. Of those that stop and give a small donation of change, its mostly young people. The older well dressed crowd pushes by, busily working on their legacy.

As Marnie said so well on a recent social media post, the lack of compassion and understanding for homeless PEOPLE in spite of all of the information to the contrary is still “a thing.”

This weeks article may not sit well with everyone. I don’t really care. We’re surrounded by hypocrites who say one thing and do another. As for their legacy? Their children will be the ones to judge that. This I know for sure. Our kids don’t always listen to what we say, but they watch everything we do.

Tim Alison

Tim Alison

Business Mentor, Harvard Speaker, Magnify You Facilitator, Author x 3, Podcast Host at Screw the Naysayers

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