In the past few days, if one thing has become more clear to me, it’s that I am from the wrong generation. Hubby and I both must be, because the other day, we were having a pow-wow, and we were both just flabbergasted at the difference between kids these days, and kids back when we were kids. I know that makes me sound totally archaic (Hello? I’m not even 30 yet! Just a few more short weeks!), but I really wonder what made things change over the years.
When I was a kid, my mom would say “freeze” and I’d stop in my tracks. She would give a look and it would just ooze of the authority and instill that feeling in me that, “Whoa – I better quit while I’m ahead.” There was a clear distinction between right and wrong, and when I crossed that line, there were always consequences.
I know, that may sound like my mother was some sort of dictator. She wasn’t. She was a strong parent, though. My mom had a way of finding out when I’d done something I shouldn’t have – and boy, I’d suffer (getting grounded a few too many times over the years). When I was 15, a friend and I went out, and her mom drove us (oh the joys of life pre-drivers-license). Her mom was late picking us up, and therefore, I got home three minutes past my midnight curfew. I was grounded on the spot – no excuses were accepted. Later, mom lifted the punishment realizing it wasn’t my fault. I always had that fear, “If I break the rules, if I act out – I’ll get caught.” My mom wasn’t one to physically punish (I only remember one occasion of being spanked when I was a kid) – but she’d lecture and you’d know she meant business. She was a parent, not a friend.
Parents these days seem all too concerned with being buddies with their kids. Being fair. Negotiating with their kids instead of speaking with authority and teaching children that respecting elders is their job. Parents tend to advocate for their kids too much, perhaps.
As parents, while it is our job to protect and nurture our children, to do so at the expense of teaching them how to be responsible, respectable, contributing members of our society is a big mistake. When we teach our kids to question other members of authority because we don’t want precious Timmy to be “picked on” by a coach. Or telling the teacher that it’s just not fair that little Suzy had her name put on the board for speaking out of turn.
While there are definitely times when we need to speak up, it just seems like the values systems I was brought up with when I was a kid just aren’t being taught anymore. Kids are being taught that it’s okay to blame shift and not acknowledge when they’ve done wrong. They’ve been taught to make excuses, point fingers, and how to cry and complain about how it is so unjust that they are being treated this way.
I am seeing it with Stepson and it is really making me frustrated. At ten, he has a collection of tee-shirts that place blame on others. They are intended to be flip, cute – but to see a troubled child, whose teachers consistently say, “Stepson needs to learn to take responsibility for his actions,” wearing a shirt that says, “Okay, I admit it – HE did it!”, well, it’s aggravating, to say the least. Not only do I not find it humorous, the mixed message that it sends is not helping matters at all.
Stepson got booted from his soccer team this week for letting his mouth run away with him. When I heard the story, I was both mortified and appalled. Then, I found out his mother was wanting to get a lawyer involved, was going to raise a stink at the board meeting. Here is a child who time and time again refuses to accept responsibility for his actions – and his mother is essentially saying, “The problem isn’t YOU, dear. It’s all these OTHER people. They’re the ones who have messed up.”
Hubby and I are stunned. Since when is it so hard to let your children learn from their mistakes? While we don’t spank our girls, we fully intend to raise decent kids who will become decent adults. If that means at times they don’t like us very much, we’ll know we’re on the right track. Discipline is not a four-letter word, and neither is responsibility. It’s really sad to see a generation of kids being raised this way.
Maybe I’m sensitive to it this week. It’s been one of “those weeks”. Maybe not. But I definitely feel like we owe it to our kids to raise them with as much love and guidance as we can. One of the ways we teach our kids is through our behaviors – to model what it is that we expect of them, and of ourselves. Parenthood isn’t easy. Raising kids – well, it’s pretty darn hard. But it’s the most important job we’ll ever do… and we can’t afford to mess it up.