Today I struggle with the fact that parents- guardians- schools – coaches and communities excuse kids from tough circumstances from standards and consequences. So in honor of Thanksgiving I am writing this BLOG – because I am grateful for my parents – family – friends – mentors - teachers – coaches who never allowed me to be the victim of my choices and decisions. They demanded I owned my mistakes – choices and decision as well as the consequences that came from them.
Pity is the highest form of discrimination. To excuse someone from the standard is to deem them less human. It’s the slippery slope I see teachers and coaches tumbling down. As more research emerges about the effects of trauma and stress, the more excused, inexcusable behavior has become. Pity becomes a destination – one that no one truly wants for their students and players. You are not defined by your circumstances but by your actions and choices. To care about that child means you are willing to fight those battles necessary for them to be successful as an adult. It takes a great amount of energy and love to fight these battles but most importantly you fight these battles because you care.
“If you only knew their home life…” is a really popular phrase being used daily in our society. Let me rephrase that – it way overused and becoming the norm. First of all, NO child should suffer abuse, neglect, and trauma. The harsh reality is that they DO! Many of these stories are truly heartbreaking. We make bad stuff way worse when we let what happened to them determine what CAN happen to them. To tell a kid they can’t help the way they act is to tell them what happened can’t be overcome is not only wrong but an injustice to that child.
There’s a lot of cruelty and racism out there disguised as acceptance and tolerance. Let’s be honest. Across the board, does white privilege expect the same standard from the wealthy white kid as we do the poor African American? What is the internal story we tell ourselves when we see someone homeless? Do we believe they are capable of big ideas, leadership and humanity? Or do we look away, shrug our shoulders and say “that’s sad.” Not believing that they can be great is truly discrimination!
We will not lower the bar to meet your expectations is a phrase used greatly but how many times do we as adults truly adhere this when we have to impose consequences to those from adverse circumstances. WE – AS ADULTS ARE FAILING OUR CHILDREN! We the adults cave into the fear of crazy parents who are complaining that the consequences of their children are an injustice. It is way easier to just ignore the behavior than deal with the conflict that comes with confronting the actions. If we do not care we will turn our back and excuse the behaviors of today’s children. Having pity on someone is directly saying I don’t believe that you can anything other than a victim
If we all believe the nurturing environment caused the behavior, why can’t nurture change it? We can’t be talking out of both sides of our mouth. We cannot attribute low character to trauma, but also believe new environments cannot set a new course. What we tolerate we encourage! The actions of the program are either taught or allowed. At the root of each child’s birth is innocence – a state of innocence that is pure but unfortunately because of the environments that adults expose them to that state of innocence is ruined via by experiences. If I had a dollar for every time a parent- whose child is in trouble states - you just do not understand what they have been through etc I could solve world poverty. My response to them is when they go in front of the judge – the judge doesn’t care about their trauma based childhood when he sentences them. They judge them on their actions not their circumstances .WE HAVE A DUTY to care and love ALL Children as WELL as Demand from them and Hold them Accountable. This is what they mean by fighting the good fight. Care so much that you KNOW they are capable of being so much more than they are in terms of character and behavior. I refuse to believe that all humans are not capable of being good people. I refuse to believe that for the first decade ever that we are unable to meet and live by timeless universal principles.
There is nothing hateful about asking a struggling kid to struggle more. Actually it is pure love. When we demand from a kid, what we’re saying is “I believe in you” “I believe you are more than your abuse, more than than your learning disorder. I believe that you are more than the poor kid in foster care who struggles to connect to others. I don’t care what your excuse is, because I care about you more.” The old adage, when I stop getting on you and stop demanding from you is when I don’t care about you speaks volumes. When we think back to those adults in our lives that we have the most respect for – it is always those who pushed us to become far greater than we ever thought we could become. Those adults saw things in each of us that we could not see for ourselves. They believed in us and held themselves and ourselves to the highest standards of conduct. That is the essence of leadership – we are not – we will not – be defined by our circumstances but by our character and core values. We “help” kids to death because we don’t think they are capable of doing it by themselves. We make things safe because we do not trust them. We remove all responsibility because we believe them to be inferior. That’s how you love a dog, not a person. The human brain will adapt to the standards we do and do not enforce. One is love. The other looks like love but is something much different. Excusing children from standards is a death sentence for those children. They will not grow – they will remain stagnant and die. Words become labels and excuses become destinations. I close with the late Rita Pierson’s famous quote – “Every child deserves a champion, an adult who understands the power of connection, and insists they become the best they can possibly be.” I want to highlight – “insists they become the best they can possibly be.” This means you will not allow excuses for their behavior to allow them to spiral down a life of misery. There is a huge difference between having empathy for someone than sympathy for someone. Empathy connects you to that person and enables you to care and sympathy means feeling sorrowful about their misfortune. So please -Stop the Pity and Start Believing that the children you are leading are WAY better than their Circumstances.