SAN DIEGO — Mexicans have a graphic saying that should serve as a warning to today’s parents, not only south of the border but also in the United States. It loosely translates as: “If you raise crows, they’ll scratch out your eyes.”
Believe it. Just ask Sean and Elizabeth Canning of Lincoln Park, N.J. Their 18-year-old daughter, Rachel, is now perhaps the most famous spoiled brat in America. She is also the epitome of what is referred to as the Millennial generation but really ought to be rebranded “Generation E” – for entitlement.
The Cannings seem to have been in denial that they had raised a crow until they got served with legal papers.
Rachel is suing her parents for support. Having left home (either because she ran away or because she was kicked out, depending on whose version you believe), she asked a court to declare that she is “unemanicipated” and order her parents to pay tuition for her private high school, cover her living expenses until she can support herself, and spring for her college education. She also wants mom and dad to cover her legal bills. You know, the ones she incurred by suing them.
Maybe Rachel’s parents do owe some restitution – not to her but to the rest of society. They seem to have helped her get off course.
Sean Canning, a former police chief, admits that he was better at laying down the law with the officers under his command than with his own daughter.
“I’m a liberal, liberal parent,” Sean told the New York Post. “I wish I could have grown up in my house.”
You have to wonder if the chief has figured out that, with young people, being too lenient often does more harm than being too strict.
From media reports, it seems that the Cannings wanted to raise a child with a lot of self-esteem.
Mission accomplished. When you sue your own parents, you’re no shrinking violet. The trouble is, what Rachel Canning has is what psychologists call “cheap” self-esteem. The real thing comes from striving, failing, persevering and eventually succeeding – not from having your parents clear a path for you.
When the Cannings finally demanded that Rachel do chores and adhere to a midnight curfew, she rebelled.
Of course. You set rules and expectations for your kids when they’re 8, not when they’re 18. By then, they’re accustomed to doing what they want.
Rachel got the money to file the lawsuit – $12,000 – from the parents of a friend. John and Amy Inglesino say they’re footing the bill, and letting Rachel stay in their home, because they want to see the young woman realize her potential.
If there is an unspoken code between parents, the Inglesinos have demolished it.
At this point, the Cannings claim that they just want to put their family back together.
“We love our daughter,” Sean Canning told the Post. “She’s our pride and joy. The door is wide open. We want her to come home.”
That’s another mistake. Rachel made her choice, and now she has to live with the consequences.
Recently, a Superior Court judge denied the request for private school tuition and living expenses. Another hearing will take place in April to decide whether the Cannings have to pay for college. Rachel moved back in with her parents Tuesday night.
Let this be a cautionary tale. Too many parents are lost. They set out to care for their children and wind up coddling them, which only makes their offspring whiny and weak. Before long, the kid is convinced that the adults – parents, teachers, ministers, coaches, etc. – are nothing more than a fleet of personal assistants whose only job is to ensure that the precious little darling experiences a constant state of bliss.
Too many parents today seem to be traumatized by how strict their own parents were, and they’re determined to do the opposite. They obsess over whether their kids are happy, indulge every whim, and strive to be their child’s “BFF.” Before long, the kid loses respect for them and pushes them around. Every day, at Little League games or school events, I see parents bullied by their kids. A few are being outright terrorized.
You know the rules. You don’t negotiate with terrorists.
Ruben Navarrette is a columnist for U-T San Diego. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.