By BTS Prevention
Relatively recently—in terms of human history—young boys and girls were occupied from sunrise to sunset running through fields, gathering nuts and berries, and hunting for dinner. By the time they hit the literal hay in the evening, they were exhausted. They were not obsessing over what activities they had to complete that day in order to get an A for nut-collecting. They were not pressured into hunting only the most prized venison in all the land so that someday they could hunt in the prairies surrounding Cambridge or New Haven.
But in the times of Ivy-League preschools, 0 period classes, APs, ACTS, and more SATs than Star Wars installments, the pressure to succeed has replaced the joys of adolescence. Instead of moving children into their freshman dorms, many parents now drop their boys and girls off at rehab on their 18th birthdays. These are the same children who just moments ago were proudly bringing home their unblemished report cards. Many of them do not know how to fail; every time they were on the verge of a minute failure, their parents would bail them out. As toddlers, they were immediately scooped off the ground by patrolling parents. As preteens, parents made angry calls to administrators when their child got in trouble. And as teenagers, mommy would call teacher and work out an extra-credit bargain to erase the minus that must have been mistakenly placed on the upper-right hand corner of the otherwise perfectly formed A. This same child—the one who doesn’t learn how to fail— will never be able to succeed.
There is undoubtedly a connection between the pressure to succeed and the suburbanization of drug addiction. Addiction often stems from the inability to cope with discomfort. For many, it is easier to escape than to deal with pressure, easier to give up than to try and not succeed. Suburban children do not know how to cope with a family dinner unless they have an iPhone under the table and they do not know how to get a “C” on a quiz without catastrophizing. The current system, cosigned by parents and teachers, must be changed. This is not to suggest that children should be removed from Harvard-Westlake and sent to the hills of Topanga so that they can bring home a coyote for dinner. But it is possible that these hill children would turn into more successful adults than the Harvard-bound 6 year old who, as you are reading this, is stuck in a 40-by-40 cell learning conversational Latin.