Saturday, June 3, 2017

Today's Kids Need Yesterday's Cures

Today's kids face challenges much different than previous generations. There is no doubt they are growing up in a much more complicated and pressured world than we ever did.

The pressures of social media, and media in general, high levels of communication with cell phones, laptops and tablets put the people they know, and don't know, at their fingertips.

It's a scary world at times. We used to let our kids play outside until it got dark not even knowing where they were. Now we panic when they get out of our sight.

And, to be fair, they also have greater opportunities.

Social media presents kids with opportunities to market themselves and their accomplishments to colleges and future employers. They can stay in touch with distant relatives. The internet and technology make researching and writing a paper for school easier than it has ever been.

But, even with all this pressure, and opportunity, we should not feel sorry for them. But many of us do. Every generation has its challenges. In the fifties, there was the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation. The sixties had race riots.  And, in the seventies we had out of control inflation and Jimmy Carter.

Today we have a tendency to want to shelter our children from the realities of society.  There is certainly some ugliness out there but there are positives too.  Especially when you look for them.

We even want to protect them from their own feelings. The feelings of injustice, unfairness and losing. This kind of protection does not help children grow to realize their greatest potential especially in today's very competitive environment.

Too often parents are paying more attention to their children than they do to each other weakening the marriage in the process. The children have become the focus where we place their needs above all others. Where is this leading us?

Children today end up growing later because they are not taught the fundamentals they need to care for themselves and cope with their own feelings. They end up leaving the home later in life than previous generations. Some kids, called boomerang children, end up returning home unable to the handle basic responsibilities necessary to begin an independent life.

Most parents are good people that love their children and want what is best for them. But, have we gotten confused in this society of convenience and instant gratification as to what is really best for our children? 

When you look around you see too many instances of institutionalized fairness as in participation trophies. Go to any store or restaurant and you see children talking to their parents in tones and language that would have earned you or I the reprimanding side of your father's hand. What are we doing?

I have been to friends' homes for dinner and watched the parents clear table, do the dishes and take out the trash while the kids jumped onto the latest version of Madden Football. And, the schedules we keep for kids today with one activity after another makes me think they need Personal Assistants. And, they have them in their parents. Where is all this leading to?

I interview many young people for jobs.  Fresh out of college, the jobs they seek are often the first ones in their young careers. Some of these recent grads ask questions around promotions, expense accounts and corner offices before they have even been offered a position. They never make the second round of interviews. And, I'm sure they sulk away thinking how unfair my company was.

This is what today's youth looks like.  Entitled, self-centered, and more concerned with the reward they think they deserve rather than the contribution they need to make. But, it is not their fault.

We raise kids differently these days. We lean towards comforting and coddling them more than we should. We are not doing them, nor ourselves, any favors. We need a return to some of the classic values that were the hallmark of previous generations.

Here are five of those values:

1. Family Time - this starts at the dinner table. This daily meeting is a hallmark tradition of the family unit since the dawn of time. In the earliest time of human existence, when food was scarce, the family would gather around the harvest or the kill to eat. Of course, this has evolved as food sources have become more abundant. But, the premise is the same. We gathered daily to be together, eat and bond. And, it doesn't end there.

Family time spent together playing games, watching movies, doing chores would all contribute to the building of a bond that would strengthen the family and establish its value systems. It is time well spent.

2. Allow Failure - as parents we need to stop shielding our children from the natural consequences of competition and life. It is unfair of us to prepare them for life this way. Life is not that way.

We should be preparing our children with the tools to be able to deal with the inevitable times when they will fail. For more on that see "Should You Let Your Kids Fail."

3. Good Manners - nothing says more about the kids we meet than the manners they keep. Yes Sir, Yes Ma'am, Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, etc. These go a long way when our kids meet other parents.  But, they go an even longer way when they use them with their own parents.

The manners kids use outside of the home start inside the home with their siblings and parents. If you insist on the best manners at home, you won't have to worry about them using them outside the home.

And, tone of voice counts. Nothing says more about a kid's personal self control and respect for his parents than when he yells at them in public. And, it says even more about the parents.

4. Chores - kids who end up becoming responsible, productive and contributing members of society weren't born that way. They learned those basic values by taking care of some simple responsibilities at home from a very young age. 

Making the bed is less about the bed and more about child. The good habits, discipline and sense of pride that grow in a child from this simple responsibility spill over into other areas of their lives and sets the stage for a productive adult life.

5. Playtime - remember "Kick-the-Can, Hide-and-Seek and Tag?" Whatever happened to these games? They involved imagination and physical activity. These days kid's dexterity is found in the speed of their thumbs on a game controller. And, forget about imagination! Every time I hear a kid say their bored I wonder what planet they woke up on.

The job of parents is to prepare their children to be productive, contributing members of society. The principles used by parents in previous generations were more effective at reaching that objective than what parents are doing today. We need to give those values more serious consideration for today's youth. 

Not only do they need it, the parents and society need it.

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