OK, Ill confess. I TIVOd the American Idol tryouts and watched them while exercising on my new elliptical trainer. Im generally not a fan of the show, but theres something embarrassingly fascinating about the tryout episodes in a gawkish kind of way. Its the same sensation I get when I slow down to look at a traffic accident. I know I shouldnt look, but just cant seem to resist.
The legions of personalities represented in this competitive frenzy to become a celebrity would provide enough fodder to write a book of commentaries on our postmodern fascination with pop culture. Rarely have so many with so little talent attempted to achieve stardom with more confidence and less reason for that confidence in all of human history.
But today, I want to focus on one particular category of entrants those precious darlings of over-involved parents who have convinced their progeny that they are prodigies. One such American Idol wannabee was a rather awkward teenager who claimed to possess the triple-threat of being a singer, a juggler and a dancer. Without trying to mimic the cruelty of the AI judges, lets just say he was none of the above and thus was summarily dismissed without the essential golden ticket to return to the expectant arms of his fawning parents.
The explosion occurred within micro-seconds of entering the presence of his family. It was sheer rage punctuated by incredible profanity, an amazing dive into the depths of self-pity and depression, followed up by what can only be described as girlish wailing and sobbing in the bosom of his precious mother who rubbed his back and assured him that the judges were idiots and that hed still achieve fame one way or another. The stunning thing was the rapidity of the emotional transitions as this sixteen-year-old hustled through each stage of his temper tantrum faster than you could say, Taylor Hicks.
This sad display was but one of several similar ones and brings me to the topic at hand. Todays generation of parents have lost their perspective when it comes to how to raise their children with a genuine sense of their place in the universe.
The Psalmist marveled when thinking of his Creator, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Conversely, todays child behaves as if the entire universe has been created to serve him. This selfish and self-centered attitude is born of parents who have adopted a child-centric attitude toward their children.
So often, we have heard the mantra of the social liberals who proclaim Children First! as they demand more money and authority in invading the privacy of the nuclear family. Indeed, children do demand a substantial commitment, constant and diligent attention and enough personal energy to light up a small city. However, our generation takes this attitude to a whole new level.
Whether its our constant concern over the development of self-esteem, the way we assume that our children are always right and the authority (as in teachers, police officers and coaches) are always wrong, the tendency we have to structure our entire life around the scheduled activities of the childs recreational, social and entertainment life, to the irrational desire many parents have to be liked (as opposed to respected) by their children, we are developing a generation of self-centered brats who think that they are entitled to every opportunity, every consideration, every convenience without ever having had to wait for, earn or attain the privilege.
In doing so, we have reared a generation that does not understand the definition of words like humility, perseverance, duty, respect, submission, courtesy, self-control or sharing. By sheltering them from lifes unfair moments, by not using moments of failure or disappointment as opportunities for instruction, by telling our children real lies like you can do anything you set your mind to (really, lets see your five-foot-six son who weighs 195 pounds, but likes basketball dunk it someday), by constantly intervening when something doesnt go their way, we create a distorted view of real life for our kids.
Without a doubt, parents need to be supportive, positive, compassionate and engaged. But part of good parenting involves preparing your child to survive and thrive in a world that is often unfair, difficult and occasionally filled with disappointments and times of testing. When we equip them to persevere, keep their perspective and to accept or at least endure difficult times as part of the process God can use to make us more like Him, we are giving them a gift that will produce a character that will sustain them when talent fades or fails to develop at all. Hollywood, Nashville and New York are littered with the sad tales of people who had talent, but not character. When it comes down to a choice of celebrity or character, Id prefer my children possess the latter every single time.