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Christian Counseling - To Pass Or Not To Pass

Among the issues that I deal with in therapy are students in danger of not passing the grade in high school. It is often around this time of year that these problems come to the fore. Often the realization that the teen may not pass is followed by frantic efforts on the part of the school and the parents to work out some arrangement for the student to pass. This effort, while well-meaning, may not be in the best interest of the teen. Yes, it is important that the teen pass the grade. However, it is also important that they learn that their actions have consequences. The teen needs to take responsibility for their own behavior.

We are constantly teaching our children. It is a matter of what we are teaching. There is a distinct possibility that by rescuing them, they may not realize the problems inherent in their behavior, and, thus, may not change going forward. This is an argument that has been made in terms of the government bailing out Wall Street. The danger is that they may repeat the same behaviors going forward and find themselves in a similar situation again and again.

Certainly, there are times when aiding a student in this predicament would be the right thing to do. If the student is repentant rather than oppositional, then helping them through the situation might be the right thing. However, I often find that we as parents are more invested in our children succeeding than they are. If this is the case, then helping can move to enabling. I often ask clients how long they plan to be on the earth. If a person is going to live 80 years on this planet, repeating one year of school or going to summer school is just a blip on the radar screen. If the consequence faced helps them to grow, then the blip would be a lesson well learned.

There is another problem with rescuing children. Not only may they become dependent on help in the future, but they may also be hindered in their development of empathy. There is a growing body of research that shows when teens do not face consequences of their actions, they are less likely to develop empathy. This lack of developed empathy has been cited in a number of cases of athletes who commit crimes, most recently the UVA Lacrosse player accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend.

Finally, there is wonderful scene in the movie "Glory" in which a drill Sergeant is training a less-talented recruit harshly. The Colonel, who is a boyhood friend of the recruit, questions the methods of the Sergeant. The Sergeant confirms with the Colonel the childhood relationship. He then says, "You two grew up together? Let him grow up some more." We are training our children for a tough and sometimes unforgiving world. We need to make certain that we are helping them grow rather than enabling them to stay the same.

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