On November 27, 1978 Dan White, a former supervisor entered San Francisco city hall and shot and killed Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. His defense lawyer successfully argued that Whites judgement had been impaired by his consumption of Twinkies. In more resent times, Ethan Couch at age 16 was driving drunk and speeding when he lost control of the car and killed 4 people and injured several others. Ethan’s defense attorneys relied on an ‘expert’ who argued that Couch’s parents coddled him into a sense of irresponsibility—a condition they termed affluenza.
When we deny people the chance to take responsibility and feel remorse for hurtful actions we deny them their basic humanity. This is especially true of adolescents a developmental stage of life when the values and character components are just beginning to firm up. What was Ethan’s response for being rescued by his parents and not taking responsibility for this terrible crime? He showed up on a video two years later where there was lots of drinking, failed to appear for his probation appointment and escaped to Mexico with is Mom.
Of course, this is an extreme case but at the same time a warning to all of us affluenza parents who don’t want our kids to suffer or fail. We take their forgotten lunches to school so they won’t go hungry, their forgotten homework assignments so they won’t get a bad grade, and take on their responsibilities at home like taking out the trash when they are too busy or stressed. In other words, do we prevent our children from succeeding by not allowing them to fail?