There has been a strong and growing discontent for younger generations or more specifically, teenagers recently. There have been stories in the news that shed light on some particularly bad teens but I want to discuss the teens that are more the norm and not the outliers (and yes, I do realize that statement is an argument in and of itself).
I’ve noticed that those complaining the loudest about teenagers are people who are currently parents of kids who range from preschool age to teenagers or they are the generation of parents who have already raised their children and now have adult children and grandkids. So basically the people complaining are the ones raising these awful kids or they are the ones who raised the parents of these awful kids.
The finger is often pointed at the children themselves but eventually, the critiques always land back on the parents of these teens. The problem is, everyone wants to point it at the other parents; you know, those parents who are doing a bad job, not me.
The most suggested solutions for these bad parents? Less friendship and more parenting, stop babying your kids, instill values in your kids, spank your kids, teach your children respect, and for the love of God do not be a helicopter parent! In summary, we need to be harder on our kids. We need to stop being soft because we are making our kids soft and the world isn’t soft, it’s hard. We are raising ill-prepared, disrespectful, lazy adults.
My position, however, is that we are being too hard on our kids and we are getting exactly what we are asking for. It’s not entirely our fault; we are, after all, raising a generation of people who are experiencing a life that we are just now becoming familiar with. We don’t understand the life of our children or teens yet we have a lot of strong opinions about how poorly they are dealing with it.
School-aged kids are growing up with technology that we were introduced to as adults. They are being expected to be responsible well beyond what their age allows. They are being asked to sit for long periods of time when every physiological part of their body is screaming the opposite. They are learning harder material grades before we did. Kids have homework at younger and younger ages despite their desperate need for time to play. Kids have less and less time to be creative, be athletic, be musical, to be… kids.
We already are being hard on our kids.
Imagine how you feel when you are stressed beyond belief, we’ve all been there. It’s difficult to manage life. It’s hard to think clearly. It’s nearly impossible to be civil. Our kids are experiencing stress in ways previous generations have not and the result is a confused, over-stimulated, irritated youth; on top of the already expected teenage irritability.
It seems that all adults have come to an agreement that teenagers are steering the direction of our culture; that kids decide our overall level of civility. Are we letting a relatively small percentage of our country make this big of a decision for us or have we created an environment that kids are simply acclimating to? Perhaps our kids are acting exactly as we are teaching them but with their lack of filter and still-developing brains, it looks absolutely horrific.
I see adults treat each other terribly all the time (and no, I don’t live in a horrible place). We drive carelessly and aggressively with our kids in the car; we critique each other’s parenting, style of dress, weight, and looks relentlessly. We don’t extend a helping hand, we don’t hold the door, we don’t ask how each other are, we don’t show each other respect. Yet we wonder where kids these days are getting their attitudes from.
According to all the adults, we weren’t raised to be disrespectful. We, nor anyone we know, would ever do anything teens nowadays are doing. Ok, but maybe we are doing it now and our children are watching.
You may be thinking, I hold the door, I show respect when I am out but where are adults most cruel to each other? The internet; and where can we find our younger generation at nearly all times? Yep, the internet.
We throw ridiculous insults at and make snapshot judgments of people we literally do not know. We read a single sentence a person wrote and berate them until they cower over it. This is how we disagree. Here we are in a continuous full-on cyberwar with one another over the dumbest things and we are doing it all right in front of our kids.
As far as in-person goes, sure, we’re respectful towards police officers but how often are you really interacting with the police in front of your children? We tell our kids to respect authority while we are in the midst of disrespecting their teachers, coaches, and classmates.
We will challenge our children’s teachers unnecessarily, we will scream at refs and umpires at their games, we will undermine their teachers’ assignments and the other children in the class by “helping” with a project to the point we are completing it. We will scream at other parents at sporting events and we will degrade those whom we disagree with politically, religiously, or morally.
Sure, we respect our elders and tell our children to as well but we talk poorly about ourselves. We critique our looks, our weight, and our style. We’re trying ridiculous diets that don’t work and are unhealthy. We are idolizing people who are not worthy idols. We’re telling our kids to respect us when we aren’t showing love and respect for ourselves.
We are teaching our over-stressed, under-stimulated kids to hate themselves and each other and that it is perfectly OK to express that whenever and where ever you are given the chance. We are teaching this to a group of people who are biologically not yet capable of using the type of filter we may use to know when and where this is appropriate.
The last thing our kids need is for us to be harder on them. What they need from us is a little understanding and compassion about where they are in their lives. What they need is for us to exemplify how to manage stress, treat one another, have empathy, and be humble.
This first appeared in The Havok Journal on November 10, 2015.