There were a few different articles that I was working on this morning hoping to publish them by the end of the day. Then I came across the news that former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez had been arrested and my writing for the day changed. I know this story is going to be covered from a number of different directions. Some are going to talk about how this changes the Patriots chances of winning a Super Bowl while others will discuss what it means for fantasy football. Still others will talk about the gun violence and how there needs to be more legislation. I’m not going to talk about any of these things. This is not a sports story to me or even a gun story. This is a story of turning a blind eye, of neglect and ultimately of entitlement. This is a story for parents, teachers, coaches and anyone who is in a child’s life where they can have an impact.
Do you know a kid in your life that is really good at something? Can they throw a football really well? Are they the fastest kid in the neighborhood? Do they have the prettiest jump shot around? Can they sing really well or are they amazing at playing an instrument? You shouldn’t have to think too long because we all know kids like that. Now think of that same kid. Does their exceptional skill get them out of doing chores? Are they held in higher esteem then the other kids around? Do their parents and others look the other way when they cause problems because they are gifted? Do they work so hard at their skill that the rest of regular life as a kid is being neglected?
These are all questions we need to ask ourselves about the children in our lives. And not so we can deprive them of their goals and dreams, but so we can make sure that they end up as well rounded responsible young people. These kinds of kids need to know that their skills don’t make them any better than anyone around them. They need to understand that the rules still apply to them and that their actions have consequences. A lot of pro athletes get arrested because they haven’t learned this. They still need discipline as well as encouragement. Most of all they need to know that they are loved and cared for but they will not be handed anything without working for it.
Too many people skate by on their talents because people let them. The worst thing a parent can do for one of these kids is reward them for their successes. “Great goal today, you don’t have to clean your room.” How about when a teacher lets a kid pass a test or a class because they are the star athlete, Or when friends, family and coaches overlook things like drinking, drug use, laziness and overall underachievement in all other aspects of life just because they are remarkable at one thing.
You can’t hand a kid something without them having to work for it just because they are good at something, and that might make them famous one day. Having to work for something teaches humility, which is something most great athletes desperately need. We all need to understand that absolute success in one tiny thing in life doesn’t a successful life make.
If you haven’t drilled this into kids at a young age, by the time they become a star it’s too late. If they are given everything, their whole lives, they will expect it for the remainder of their lives. That is why so many athletes end up being bankrupt shortly after their pro sports careers are finished. I know that none of us want to have the kids in or lives to be in that situation.
So what do we need to do to make sure that these things don’t happen to all the kids in our life (not just the gifted ones)? 1. Make sure that they have responsibilities and consequences for not fulfilling those things. 2. Teach them right from wrong. Wrong is wrong no matter how amazing the person is who did it. There needs to be punishment when kids do bad things. They aren’t above the law. That is the only way they will learn to correct it. Don’t turn a blind eye in these situations. It will cost you down the line if you do. Don’t allow them to place blame somewhere else and especially don’t do that for them. 3. Make sure that school comes first. Not many kids end up being a pro, so when the time comes to give up the thing they love, they will have something to fall back on. I have listened to far too many athletes who can’t string two coherent sentences together in a row. Don’t let that happen to your kids. 4. Make sure they know that it’s okay to lose. You learn a lot more during a loss then you do in most wins. This will help them to work harder if they want to be successful. 5. Make sure they are having fun. Music and games are supposed to be enjoyable. If they aren’t having a good time this will most likely change their overall mood. 6. Make sure they know that you will love them either way. So many people link winning to approval. Hopefully this isn’t the case with the kids in your life.
If we can do these simple things then our kids will grow up as happy, well adjusted, individuals who know what it means to work and who more importantly, don’t take what they have achieved for granted.