What Qualifies a Person as an Adult?

“You want to stop the school shootings, teach kids to be responsible for their own actions again. Let kids learn that disappointment is fine, and failure is a lesson for success down the road. Most importantly, teach them empathy.”

I admit that I am still fully indoctrinated by military culture. For example, I stand up straight and I’m not shy about looking people in the eye. I am highly direct with little curtailing of my opinions. I am very unapologetic about this tendency. I also believe in taking responsibility for my actions. My kids know that the words “not my fault” are highly volatile.

I also believe in charting your own course and not hiding behind the proverbial apron. In this regard, they are all aware that after graduation they have a few choices: go to college and move out, live at home, or simply move out. Kids need love and support, but they also need to know that they are responsible for their lives at a point. This does not mean they are thrown to the wolves, but it does mean that there is a hard transition point which is written in stone.

Even when I was in high school, it was always understood that after graduation I was expected to stand on my own. I could live at home if I went to college, but if not, I needed to get a job and be an adult. For some crazy reason, this sort of parenting has become the oddity. In fact, society as a whole is doing a great job in regressing our children in age. It has, for me at least, created a divergence on my take on reality.

You want to stop the school shootings? Teach kids to be responsible for their own actions again.

There has been a lot of talk recently about gun control, but I have heard nothing about personal responsibility. In fact, I have heard the exact opposite. Stores like Walmart have taken it upon themselves to change the age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21. While I am all about stores being able to do what they want, two things bother me.

First, how is this different from a baker telling a gay couple he won’t bake them a cake due to religious reasons? After all, it is legal to sell an eighteen-year-old a rifle, and Walmart is simply making a moral decision. However, that topic is for another article.

My second problem is that Walmart is continuing with this national trend of removing responsibility from supposed adults. So we call an eighteen-year-old an adult, yet they aren’t treated as if they’re an adult.

Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) Cadet Ensign Aaron Stewart, a junior from Pearl High School in Pearl, Miss., and Cadet Ensign Martin Stewart, a senior from Stadium High School in Tacoma, Wash., prepare to test their solar-powered vehicle. There are more than 600 NJROTC units worldwide, overseen by Naval Service Training Command at Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill., that are part of a citizenship program that instills service to the United States, personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment. (Credit: Michael Miller via Wikimedia Commons)

In the military, I learned two lessons about people that apply to this issue. First, you will always spend 90 percent of your time with 10 percent of your troops. It does not matter what you do, you will always have those people who need your additional attention. I also learned that when you treat the rest of your formation as if they were part of that same 10 percent, they will start acting like it.

In the military, we had a saying: Do the time, do the crime. It means that if you are consistently told you are a problem, you might as well be a problem. I find this in stark contrast to the way my wife ran her classroom as a teacher. Her mantra was, “set the bar high and students will pull themselves up to your expectations.” While she still had to deal with her bottom 10 percent, the other 90 percent continued to meet and exceed her expectations. Society, however, has done the opposite.

While I support Walmart’s decision to change the age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21, I am expressly concerned about the debate to legally raise the age for purchasing a rifle to 21 on the basis that they are not responsible enough. I think that we should be glad that this mentality did not exist in World War II, especially for Medal of Honor Recipient Jacklyn H. Lucas.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lucas joined the Marine Corps. By the way, he was 13. He then spent the next four years trying everything to get into the war. Finally, at 17 and afraid that the war would end before he got to it, he stowed away on a ship bound for Iwo Jima. He only came out of hiding when the marines stormed the beachhead and did so without a rifle of his own. He quickly procured one from a fellow marine who had been killed and joined a group heading into the jungle to assault a machine gun nest.

At some point, the marines found themselves in an ambush, where Lucas got his first kill. His rifle then jammed and while trying to clear it he noticed a grenade at his feet that the Japanese had thrown. He threw himself on the grenade and then saw the second one. He reached out and grabbed it, throwing it under his body as well. By doing so, he saved the fire-team, who then went on to complete their mission.

After returning to collect his dog tags, the team discovered that Lucas had survived. After multiple surgeries he made a complete recovery. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Lucas was raised in an era of personal responsibility, consequences, and expectations. It is not the weapons that have changed over time, it is the expectations of our youth. You have schools supporting children conducting walkouts for all sorts of political reasons. The lesson this teaches them is a lack of respect for the institution of school. If you can simply walk out to protest something, then why should you even attend classes. When a parent receives notification that their child did something wrong, the immediate response is: “Not my Jimmy!” When children act-out in public, there is no one willing to step up anymore and tell them to knock it off.

When I was a kid, the expectation was I would open doors for women. Now we listen to music that calls them sluts and whores, while at the same time professing equality and respect.

Is it any wonder that we are reaping a generation of snowflakes, weak-minded and lacking in any self-reliance or resiliency? Parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, etc. have told them forever that they are fine with virtually anything they do. When they commit acts to which previous generations would be severely punished, they are given virtually zero consequences. They live half of their lives in a virtual world where they can pretend to be someone else, then use these identities to bully others to the point of suicide. Now, when they are finally about to reach the age of maturation, we give them another signal that says, “Whoa, slow down. You’re not capable yet of making good decisions on your own, so it’s fine to continue to live a life without consequence or purpose other than your own glutinous indulgences.”

Personal responsibility: teach them when they are young. (Credit: Facebook/Damage Factory)

We allow our children to worship celebrities, athletes, and musicians who do nothing but promote hedonism. When I was a kid, the expectation was I would open doors for women. Now we listen to music that calls them sluts and whores, while at the same time professing equality and respect. Luckily, I am married to a horrible wife who actually makes our kids go outside and play. She will actually take away digital devices and make them interact with other kids in a non-internet-based social manner. Worse yet, when a kid comes inside crying, she will often (upwards to 99.9%)  tell them, “Rub some dirt on it. Don’t come back inside until I call you.”

Is it any wonder that in our country we ship our parents off to retirement homes and hospices? Most of us never learned respect for the elderly. In fact, most of us have never learned respect for anything.

You want to stop the school shootings, teach kids to be responsible for their own actions again. Let kids learn that disappointment is fine, and failure is a lesson for success down the road. Most importantly, teach them empathy. Teach them to reach out to those who are hurting, instead of jumping on social media and trying to be the one to stick in the last knife. Teach them the importance of others over self.

Do this, and we will solve much more than school shootings.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Matthew Wadler

Matthew Wadler is a U.S. Army veteran. Matt served in the Army for 20 years as both enlisted and officer before retiring. His service includes time as Military Police, Field Artillery, Adjutant General, and Recruiting. His deployments include Somalia and two tours to Afghanistan. His formal education includes a master’s degree in HR Management. He is a strong supporter of the constitution and advocate for the military and veteran communities. Follow Matthew on Twitter @MatthewWadler.

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