Are kids today more emotionally fragile than we were at their age?
Are said kids more entitled than we were?
This topic could spark debate for days. So this question came about as I watch my kids and their friends and then go back to the way I and my husband, my siblings and some of our friends were raised by our parents. And dare I say, my kids will never have survived in our household.
Growing up, it was understood that our job was to go to school, study hard and do well in school. And it was also understood that we had to do our share of chores in the household – cleaning, laundry, taking out trash and when old enough cooking and helping to take care of younger siblings.
On the school front, often I have come home with a grade of 97% and my parents have been known to say, ‘what happened to the other 3 points?’ Or if I placed 2nd or 3rd in class, they would say, did the kid that placed first have 2 brains? This behavior made us stronger and more competitive. It never made us inadequate or sad or depressed or anxious. It just made us work harder. They wanted us to be the best and we wanted it for ourselves too. And the competition was always to do better than we did on the last test, exam, race, paper, whatever. The competition was not against the other kids because it was already understood that we were better than them.
Contrast this with todays children, mine included of course. I can never imagine not praising or rewarding my kid for a 97% on a test. They would demand it! And what about chores? Do your children ask you to pay them for doing chores in the house? Mine do, and no they don’t get paid for doing chore. I do know people that pay their kids for chores though.
So why can’t we talk to them like our parents did us? I think a big part of it is that we as parents today fear pushing our kids too far for fear of pushing them off the ledge. Why did this work on us and won’t work on kids today? I don’t think there are any good answers but this is part of the emotional blackmail that we are subject to today as parents.
Do you remember your parents saying to you ( I think every parent has said this at some point) -‘I used to walk to school barefoot, uphill, in the snow(or snow equivalent), carrying my books on my head…’ I think our generation of kids actually believed it. My kids laugh when I try to say anything like that to them. First, I think our kids generation have photographic evidence of our childhoods that we did not, so our kids are less likely to believe us. Secondly our kids cannot imagine this because a lot of them have not had any hardships in life, so telling them about our hardships sounds like a fairy tale.
A possible huge factor in all of this is the whole social media and technology explosion today. We simply did not have all of this growing up. We had no cell phones(at least not cool ones), no video games, no endless TV shows and movies to choose from, no Google, no Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Tweeter etc. What all this means is that they are a generation that have both immediate gratification and no interpersonal skills. This is such a bad combination. I believe this lack of interpersonal skills makes one fragile to real life critique, failures and disappointments. The need for immediate gratification makes them feel entitled because everything you need is right at your fingertips.
We are stronger because we have learned to play outside with other kids and actually talk to them and learn all those nuances of friendship and connecting with others. We have also had to work for everything we have. If we need to do research, we go to the library or an encyclopedia instead of googling it. If we want a car or the new hot thing all the other kids have, we work after school to make some extra money. If mom and dad gave us extra, we are very appreciative because we understand that it is extra, not our right.
I hate to spout off problems that I see and not have any solutions for them. And I have to admit that I am one of those parents that fear pushing their kids off the ledge, but I’m lucky to have a partner who is onto the game. The key apparently is starting young. We consider young as early as preschool. Once children get to school, you have lost your window. The reasoning being that today’s kids are so much smarter and more advanced than we ever were. Their mental age at age one is the same as ours at age 6. So if you lay the groundwork from a young age, they are more likely to fall in line later on in life.
Laying down the ground work for us involves no social media or technology at home early on. They will get all of that at school. They should be involved in as much outdoor activity as you can get them into. There should be no televisions, computers or cellphones in the bedrooms and all must be shut down and not within reach at bed time. We did not let our children watch television on school nights and encouraged reading actual books not kindle when there was no homework to work on.
We do believe in the reward system. So long as the grades are good, chores are being done, and rules are not being broken, we give them what they ask for within reason.
These are just things that we have done that worked for our family and not meant to be the bible for raising kids. Hopefully those of my generation that read this can back me up a little and may have some other solutions. If so please share.
As always thanks for reading and leave your comments below.