I Hate “Buts”: How Defeatism Is Ruining Our Chidren’s Lives

DefeatismA way of thinking in which a person expects to lose or fail. My wife and I get really annoyed when our kids use the “B” word. It’s not nice to talk about buts. Imagine in the whiniest kid voice you can think of, “Uuuuh, but I can’t. . . .” Defeatism. But. I. Can’t. Three of the most powerful words in the English language. Is it any wonder there are many people who would rather go through the welfare system than to work a job? And before you go all “Jimmy is self-righteous” on me, hear me out. I’ve personally encountered dozens of people in our small town who have called our church for assistance and have flat-out told me that there’s no incentive to get a job when they are well taken care of by government assistance and churches. It’s not a judgment upon them, it’s just an observation. Defeatism–“Why work 40+ hours a week at a dead-end job when I can make more by staying home with my kids? I’ll never go anywhere in my career anyway.” These are the things we hear regularly from people who call on the church to help.

We happen to live in a county where heroin addiction is rampant. I’ve spoken with several friends who are addicted and they all say the same thing–“But I can’t quit.” Defeatism. It’s sad to see people who feel they have no hope of ever quitting. They’ve resigned themselves to the notion that the only option in front of them is to jam a needle into their arm until one day they are dead. And die they do. We have people losing their lives in large numbers, leaving behind helpless children. It’s sad. All of it is so sad. Yet there are plenty of addicts who have successfully overcome addictions. I know it because I’m friends with them. Conversely, they all have one thing in common–they not only believed that they could overcome the addiction, they were determined to do so! It was always at a great cost, but they did not resign themselves to defeat. They couldn’t, if they truly wanted to get well. We spend $600 billion1 a year in the US battling drug addictions. Our best scientific research on addiction says, “The chronic nature of the disease means that relapsing to drug abuse is not only possible but also likely.”2 Either this is a poor attempt at reverse psychology or our research has bought the spirit of defeatism hook-line-and-sinker. I’ve run this sentence through my head a hundred different ways. Imagine my wife and I telling our now 6 year old, “There’s an early childhood literacy gap and illiteracy among youth is an epidemic. Your inability to learn how to read is not only possible but is also likely.” How well do you think she would learn to read? I have a guess, and I’m probably right.

And the spirit of defeatism is being taught in just about every area, and from a super young age. Our anti-bullying agenda teaches kids that the only option they have is to remain passive and tell an adult after they’ve been violated. Defeatism. Our elementary schools here just had a presentation on “good touch, bad touch.” I asked my daughter about it and, specifically, what she was taught to do if someone actually persisted in touching her privates. “We were told to tell an adult.” “But what if the person insists on touching your privates, what did they tell you do do?,” I asked. “They just told us to say no.” I asked her if it was OK to kick, spit, scream, punch, pull hair, etc. if someone didn’t heed the “No” command. “Oh no, we’re taught it’s never OK to hit. We’re just supposed to tell an adult if it happens.” Defeatism. We literally teach our kids that the only option is to play possum, allow an abuser to molest them, then tell an adult after the fact–something that is nearly impossible for a child to do who has just had his or her life threatened by the abuser. This is unacceptable. We’ve got to do better at teaching our kids that they are not doomed to be groomed. We need to teach them that, when they are isolated and about to be abused, it’s OK to fight back. It’s OK to stand up for other kids who are getting beat on the playground and intervene. It’s OK to believe that they can actually overcome addictions. It’s OK to struggle with a job to support your family. It’s not a “dead-end” job, it’s a job.

We’ve got to shift the language away from the “buts” and start telling our children that they can! Perhaps Eric Church is right–we can learn a lot from 3 year olds!
“Three Year Old”

Use every crayon color that you’ve got
A fishing pole sinks faster than a tackle box
Nothing turns a day around like licking a mixing bowl
I learned that from a three year old

A garbage can is a damn good spot to hide truck keys
Why go inside when you can go behind a tree?
Walking barefoot through the mud will knock the rust right off your soul
I learned that from a three year old

You can be a cowboy on the moon
Dig to China with a spoon
Talk to Jesus on the phone
Say “I love you” all day long
And when you’re wrong, you should just say so
I learned that from a three year old

“Mama is an angel, ” I heard him tell the man upstairs
He went on and on and back and forth like God was laying there
Tonight, I sleep me down to lay and pray to keep my soul
Yeah, I learned that from a three year old

You can be a cowboy on the moon
Dig to China with a spoon
Talk to Jesus on the phone
Say “I love you” all day long
And when you’re wrong, you should just say so
I learned that from a three year old

Sometimes, all you need is a hand to hold
A couple arms to kill the cold
And when you’re wrong, you should just say so
I learned that from a three year old
Yeah, honey, I learned that from our three year old

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