In our society we have seen a rapid increase in childhood and adolescent depression over the past several decades. It seems most people are running around asking how we fix it.
For me standing back at a distance it seems the response is typically to medicate and tell them how great they are. My guess is the only thing for most of them that has changed is the addition of the medication because their parents have been telling them how incredible they are since they could put on dance shoes, pick up a microphone or swing a bat.
What I am not saying… I am not telling people don’t encourage your kids and build them up. I think it is vital for their development and growth. Love your kids, encourage them and build them up because the world will spend the rest of their life trying to tear them down. What I do want to tell parents, teach your kids the world does not revolve around them. Teach them, their world is not THE WORLD.
We live in a world where everyone thinks they are above average. Where every parent believes their kid is the next Josh Hamilton, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Mozart, Julia Roberts, or Steve Jobs. Not only are they telling them, they are putting their money behind it. Parents are literally spending $1000’s of dollars putting their 8 year olds in select leagues, buying them the very best equipment. Traveling all over the US for every dance and cheer competition. What happens to the kid when they go into High School and don’t make the team? What happens when they audition and they are told you are not good enough? Or what happens when they get a job and begin in the real world and they quickly find the world does not revolve around them and their schedule.
Don’t get me wrong, I think sports, music and academics are important but I also think we put way too much emphasis on them, especially the sports, music, dance, theater. I hate to break it to you, but less than 1%, .5% to be exact, of people who play high school baseball will play professionally (independent, minors, majors). I am pretty sure it is about the same percentages for the performing arts as well as other sports.
Well, my kid is special. I have often heard the argument from people, Bill Gates dropped out of college and he made it. What is often missed is Bill Gates dropped out of HARVARD because he was board. Bill Gates is exceptional. Josh Hamilton, Michael Jordan, Mozart are exceptional. They are where they are because of their God given ability. Here is what I have noticed in life, no matter how much money is poured into a kid, no matter how much time they practice and how many activities they are involved in, the exceptional are the ones who will continue at the next level. It is just the way life is and I know, it is not fair, but fairness ended in the Garden of Eden.
So what is the problem with letting them dream a little? Nothing, let them dream, have big ambitions but as parents we must be very careful that we are also teaching our kids to see other people. Teach them to be humble. When people are given everything they begin to think and assume they deserve it. Is it any wonder when it stops, because they are done, not good enough or their parents have acquired too much debt they can no longer pay for it, that more and more kids are depressed? Here is what I am sure of, if your kid is talented enough, no matter what you do for them, he or she will rise to the top. Yes practice makes you better but it does not make great. You have a great voice or you don’t. You can throw a 98 mph cutter or you can’t. You can run a 4.4 or you can’t.
I think we have a lot of kids finding out they are average and they are devastated. The majority of the world is average and that is okay. When we feed unrealistic expectation in their mind, there is nowhere else to go but down. It is no wonder more and more adolescences are struggling with depression. So where do we go from here?
We as parents, ministers, counselors and leaders must begin to redefine for children and adolescences what it means to be GREAT. What if our children’s definition of greatness was not defined by what they gained but by how much they gave? What if our children grew up with Jesus’ understanding of greatness and not the worlds?
43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. NIV Mark 10:43-44
If we are truly going to redefine greatness, it begins with what we do. If we want to redefine greatness we must do it by example. We have to be modeling a servant’s heart and a giving spirit. We restructure our priorities. It is amazing to me that we have let coaches and instructors of teenagers control our schedules. We can’t miss a practice or heaven forbid a competition. Why have we let coaches, instructors, leagues and performances take over our schedules and dictate our priorities?
Parents take back control of your family; it is okay from time to time for your child to miss something they want to do. It is the only way they will learn the world does not revolve around them. In fact let them miss something they want to do to go serve someone else as a family. As we begin to restructure our priorities maybe our kids can see a new definition of what is means to be great.