Saturday, July 30, 2011

Entitlement, China and Other Things

You know you're getting on in years when you hear yourself talking about "young people these days" and their sense of entitlement -- as someone who's recruited and worked with people now in their 20s (and to be fair, as with all generalizations, there are some very clear exceptions), I think there's something there.  I once had someone suggest that in a self-review that they should get an exceptional rating because they showed up for work every day (imagine the rating if they had actually worked while they were there!).  There are so many philosophies out there nowadays on child rearing, from Tiger Moms to the coddlers;  here is a great article about trends that a psychologist is seeing in young people today.  Where is the pain of growing up of yore, where you could actually not get a trophy because you sucked at sports and didn't deserve one?  Where is the humility and sense of reality you get from the experience of losing?  Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World: Seven Building Blocks for Developing Capable Young People is one of the best books I've read on how not to raise a brat.  Unfortunately, my enforcement of its principles is probably weak.

I've recently started reading Mao's Last Dancer, Li Cunxin's autobiography of how we went from a poor (and I mean, poor) peasant boy in rural China to being selected for the prestigious national ballet school.  I'm only halfway through the book (but based on the movie previews I know that love and defection ensue), but what really stood out to me about his description of his childhood was that despite being part of a loving family (without being coddled), and perhaps even because of his poverty, he had his head screwed on right.  Anytime you want to recalibrate your view of hardship, pick up a book about living in Mao's China.  

Of course, this book has nothing to do with child-rearing.  I've just twisted it here to fit my topic of choice.  It does give a good picture into the mindset and environment of communist China, and actually reminds me a bit of some companies at which I've worked.

On the topic of China (yes, this post is going to ramble), I also recently ready Peony in Love: A Novel.  Let me just say that it wasn't at all what I expected, but like all Lisa See's works of historical fiction, was an enjoyable read while painlessly educating you on various events, customs and philosophies (in this case, of dead people).  

Recently I started reading Louisa May Alcott's Little Women with my daughters.  I think I last read it when I must have been 8 or 9.  But I was struck each time the mother (who, I strangely didn't recall, they call "Marmee") spoke, at how she addressed my own sense of entitlement.  A lot to learn from that old Mrs. March, there is.

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