As 2015 came to a close, an unbelievable story resurfaced in the news. Do you remember hearing about Ethan Couch, the kid who got drunk, drove his pickup truck off the road, killed four people, and then ran from the accident to avoid the consequences? (I blogged about this story in 2014.) While this is appalling enough, the story went viral when we heard his attorney’s defense for his conduct: Affluenza.
Affluenza is a term (used tongue-in-cheek) by some psychologists to describe the inability for adolescents to even know what’s appropriate because they grew up with privileges and money. It blinds them from seeing right from wrong, and life is pretty much about them. In short, affluence clouds clear judgment. Ethan was caught, but due to his Affluenza, he avoided prison time and was put on probation.
That is, until last week, when the story took a dramatic turn.
Ethan’s mother, Tonya, actually helped him escape his Texas probation and flee to Mexico. Yes, she sure did. Mama felt his light sentence (no prison, just probation) was too much for her boy to handle, and wanted to free him from the clutches of the law. In fact, before escaping to Mexico, she actually threw a going away party.
Enabling Young PeoplePsychologists have used a term for decades now to describe what this mom is doing. They call it: enabling. It’s when a leader actually fosters unhealthy behavior. It usually happens due to conflicted motives—we want what’s best but feel sympathy for the other person and somehow feel we should lighten their emotional burden. In this case, because Tonya felt sorry for Ethan, she overlooked the obvious negative consequences to her actions and eased the pain he felt today. Equally sad is that Ethan is no longer a minor; he’s 18 years old.
But when adults lead kids like this, they can be 18 and still not be adults.
An enlightening study was released out of the UK. The research shows that people don’t see age in terms of years, but in terms of major life events. Further, most don’t feel like adulthood really begins until 29 years old. That’s incredible to me. Although our young adults are rich in potential, we don’t really expect them to perform responsible acts until a full decade later than we expected a century ago. I believe it’s criminal, both for our kids and our society. In many states, we give them the rights to adulthood at 18 or 21, like smoking, drinking or voting. We don’t, however, expect the responsibilities. It’s wrong. They should always go together.
While this story is preposterous, it is a picture of so many adults today. We enable our kids and prevent them from maturing into healthy leaders. In other words, be very careful that as you lead teens and twenty-somethings, you don’t:
- Unwittingly teach them to dodge responsibility to avoid pain.
- Put their happiness today above discipline.
- Condition them to escape risks simply to guarantee safety.
- Enable them to feel entitled to perks by helping them take shortcuts.
- Foster narcissism in them by putting their own desires above the law.
- Prioritize today at the expense of tomorrow.
In the end, Tonya didn’t help her son Ethan at all. Both may now face prison time, and she could serve up to ten years. Her bail has been set for a million dollars. The lesson for us is clear: enabling costs everyone in the end.
- See more at: http://growingleaders.com/blog/six-trade-offs-not-worth-making/#sthash.WIhdXI1I.dpuf