Perhaps it’s just what gets aggregated in my feeds, but the interwebs seem to be spending a great deal of time metaphorically shaking their collective canes and muttering “kids today, amiright?” And there is an awful lot to be pessimistic about: helicopter parents, over-scheduled kids, technology, playdates (wait, what?) and the possibility of getting arrested for letting your kids play in the park unattended.
I happen to think most kids are just fine, thank you very much.
In a word; if you want to go viral, write a post about how there is no hope for the current generation and blame it all on today’s parents. To wit: the HuffPost Parents Blog entry by Emma Jenner, a British Nanny (who by dint of her nationality and profession must be a parenting expert… she’s practically Mary Poppins, after all) who lists Five Reasons Modern-Day Parenting is in Crisis, followed by this post that asks, Are We Raising an Ungrateful Generation? (Spoiler alert: yes.) Add to that a series of articles bemoaning the loss of a mythical ‘village’ that our parents (or was it our grandparents?) had to support them in raising their children amidst a rosy-tinted haze of benign neglect where if you were too busy hanging your laundry you knew some neighbour lady would feed your kids lunch for you. It’s enough to make you lose all hope for the next generation.
But I sorta don’t think so.
You see, I deal with children all the time. Lots of them. I have two daughters whom I spend a lot of time with, and I get to interact with their friends on a regular basis. I’m also a teacher, so I engage with lots of children at different ages and stages at work as well. In short, I think I have as good a perspective on “kids today” as anyone else.
And I happen to think most kids are just fine, thank you very much.
Most of the children I interact with understand the basics of good manners. They remember to say please and thank you, they address me and other adults with a reasonable amount of respect and they generally treat each other well. They eat with their utensils, they say excuse me when they burp. In play they’re mostly fair, they usually share their stuff and they generally follow the agreed-upon rules. Most of the time they tell the truth, own up to their mistakes and apologize for them, even if they do need a gentle reminder to do so.
Do children today sometimes ask for outrageous gifts from their parents? Yes. And while it might seem over-the-top to us that our children are asking us for tablets or cell phones, we have to be fair and acknowledge these things didn’t even exist when we were children. When I was thirteen years old, what I wanted more than life itself was a Sony Walkman, which must have seemed every bit as outrageous to my parents as my teenager asking me for an iPhone 5S. Wanting (and asking for) the newest thing is such a common experience that it has entered the mythos of childhood: think of Ralphie and the Red Rider BB gun he so desperately wants in A Christmas Story.
Forgetting their manners, being sore losers and asking for expensive toys are things that children do and have always done. Pushing boundaries, mouthing off, slamming doors and feeling entitled is what teenagers do and have always done. It’s normal behaviour. And some parents will respond well to these pressures while others won’t, which has also always been the case.
Then again, I guess there’s also nothing new in the cane-waving complainers who think the next generation is up to no good. The internet seems to have given them a much bigger platform, is all.