Kids Today...

When I have a pet peeve, it tends to consume me until I figure out why it’s so important to me.

Here is one I’ve been wrestling with lately:   Articles online or in print media, or tirades in person about why parents shouldn’t let their kids _______________________ . 
Fill in the blank with “talk back to their parents,” “not talk to their parents,” “throw tantrums in restaurants,” “have too much screen time and rot their brains,” “participate in too many activities,” “participate in too few activities,” etc.

The most recent example was a link to an article entitled "Your Kid Is Acting Like an Asshole and It's Your Fault" shared on Facebook by a teacher whom I respect.  I had to click on the link to find out why I'd be proven wrong in feeling that this was a hideous use of an online platform.

It wasn't exactly what I thought it was, but it was a person who felt responsible for teaching all the other parents out there exactly how to parent.  A server in a restaurant was disturbed by a child's behavior and even more disturbed by the mom who coddled him (in her opinion) by allowing him to pick whether or not they'd be staying to eat there.  She also suggested that we shouldn't be so caught up in how smart our toddlers are because they are toddlers.

It wasn't a horribly untrue message.  It was rather the tone that stuck with me.  It's the tone that seems to inhabit these dark, condescending commentaries.  It leaves you feeling dark, as if the writer is speaking from a place of control instead of a place of love.

I have three reasons for cringing when I hear these rants:

1.  We cannot know anyone else’s children or their family situation. These blanket statements can’t apply to everyone.  

Ex.  "Kids should be seen and not heard, especially in a public setting such as a restaurant."  

This is easy for quieter introverted earthy kids.  They don't even have to try to be still and quiet.  It is just their nature.  For airy kids who haven't slept enough, or who are coming down with a cold, but no one knows it yet, or any kid whose parents are traveling and have no other option but to eat at a restaurant -- this is torture.  The more adults who try to stuff that noise into the booth cushions with threats through gritted teeth, the louder the tantrum may be.

            Have you ever tried to stop a tornado from forming by saying, "We're in public!  What's wrong with you?" or otherwise shaming it?

When people try to enforce one specific parenting method for everyone, they are forgetting that no one else is living precisely the same story they are with the exact same cast and crew.  It is an impossible wish for uniformity so we know what to expect from (young) people around us.   

2.  We can’t even know how much different the kids being raised today are from the previous generation.  They have a larger mental capacity for a lot of things, perhaps for both positive and negative.  They receive everything we received in more concentrated doses.  They know things (good, bad, and neutral) at 8 years old that I didn’t know until I was 38. 

3.  The third part of my face-palm response to these tirades is that they inevitably include references to the good old days when we all drank out of the hose, and didn’t wear seat belts, and got backhanded when we mouthed off to adults.  (I might even be able to find an old Polaroid with all 3 of those things happening at the same time.)

Nostalgia is one thing.  Laughing at our collective mistakes or growth as a society is even interesting, but someone usually has to add that maybe kids today need to be hit once in a while! 

First I give them a mental hug, because people who say those things are hurting, for real.  I'm not trying to be funny or sarcastic.  No one enjoyed being hit as a kid.  Then I want to suggest that they look at what they learned from their youth, how they can do better for their own kids, and not glorify pain.  See it for what it is.  It was their chance to feel the sting of a thoughtless response from an adult and resolve to make smarter choices in their own parenting.

I never say those things out loud.  Honestly, I silently judge them to be unenlightened and at a different point in their understanding of life than me.  I say a teeny prayer for their children and know that they will probably do better when they are older.  It is incredibly challenging to honor that difference, but it heals an enormous wound for me to do so.

Instead of circulating lists about “What’s Wrong with Kids Today!” I think our time would be better spent nurturing them as individuals because...

1)  They’re smart.  That’s a little scary for us adults, because we don’t know what that will look like in 20 years.  We can't force them to grow up the way we did, because things are so radically different in their world.  The only thing we do know  is that they will be responsible for supporting our wrinkly old generation in a few decades.  

2)  Their potential is incredible.  If we remove the limiting beliefs we unknowingly instill in them (ex. Kids today are so disrespectful/don’t look up from their phones/need to be beaten into submission/don’t know the value of hard work), all the better.

3)  Focusing on what you don’t like about something is only helpful if you use that information for positive change.  

I would challenge these ranters to get busy modeling what they do love about people and helping the young ones in their lives forge the qualities they want to see in our society in the future.

1 comment:

I would love to hear what you think!