If you’re a parent with young kids then you can’t help but read articles like this one from Maclean’s entitled: The collapse of parenting: Why it’s time for parents to grow up or hear stories about how we are raising a generation of selfish assholes and that we suck at parenting. Perhaps you’re like me and think you’re not making “those mistakes”; that your kids are polite, respectful and relatively thoughtful. Perhaps like me, you think you’re doing a good job controlling TV time, avoiding sugars and packaged foods, ensuring they play outside. Perhaps you’ve exposed them to another country or culture to have them experience something MORE than a life of consumption that is all too common in our North American culture. Maybe like me, you avoided throwing them big elaborate birthday parties until they were at an age to appreciate it, or you skipped the big Christmas hurrah and focused on “What toys should we donate” and “What fun things can we do with our family” over “What did you ask SANTA for”. Maybe you repeat yourself a million times a day to ensure your kids say “please” and “thank-you” and perhaps you also question every piece of advice given to you by your mother, grandmother and friends. Which means then perhaps, like me, parenting has become a never ending exhausting exercise in MINDFULNESS and the only real pay off is that you HOPE you are not contributing to the asshole society you hear so much about. The fear of course, is that it’s unavoidable and that all you’ve really done is made a very hard job, even harder and they will turn out to be as selfish and demanding as the rest of their Gen Alpha peers.
You only have to have to read an article like Why Parents don’t respect Teachers or have a conversation with a teacher to know this is true. Ask any teacher, from any district, province or state who is currently teaching any grade and you will hear the same scary stories about the decline of respect in the classroom. It’s crazy to me that kids can not only bring their phones into class, but often use them and then talk back when asked to stop texting. This attitude is not only supported but too often enabled by the parents who argue “What if I need to reach Jr. during the day”?
Parents who accuse teachers of not doing their job, when the parents know damn well that Jr. is an asshole at home, doesn’t listen at home, doesn’t do his homework, eats too much junk food, watches too much TV and has no respect for them or other adults, they can’t be surprised when the teacher complains of Jr’s attitude with a side of subtext that the parents clearly aren’t doing THEIR job. (I know it hurts, but it doesn’t make it any less true).
Imagine not having to respect your teacher? Imagine growing up in an era when you could write private notes in class, fold them up origami style into little triangles, pass them in the middle of class and if you got caught tell the teacher that she has NO RIGHT to take it away, that it’s YOUR private property. Then you go home, tell your Dad that your teacher DID take it away, so he goes into class the next day, yells at your teacher and defends your defiance as a failure in the education system. How could you not become an asshole?
One of our generation’s biggest parenting failures seems to be our fear of the word NO. We explain things, justify our decisions and ask our kids their opinions. I believe in giving our kids choices to a point. I believe there is value in acknowledging our kids emotions now so they will have a better understanding and control over themselves as adults. I believe that a flat NO isn’t always the best answer. This is where we vary from our parents generation whose favourite lines were “stop crying” and “because I said so”. I feel the actual breakdown comes when parents apply that philosophy to the BIG decisions. Let them choose their P.J’s, not their bedtime. Let them choose if they want a fork or a spoon, not IF or WHEN they will eat. And when you say NO… it’s final.
For me, if a big emotional breakdown happens over the NO, then I understand that the NO needs to happen more often… not less. They need to become familiar with the NO. I’m not expecting them to accept it or be “at peace” with it. I expect them to be pissed off about it but I am still the parent. I still say NO. J and I are in line with our fellow Generation X/Y’s who offer age appropriate options and choices to our kids… but we’re also in line with the previous generation where WE ARE THE PARENTS and WE ARE IN CHARGE.
We’re not trying to be all that different from our parents. I don’t think our generation is making a grand statement that we are trying to raise our kids in OPPOSITION to how we were raised, or that we think we can do it better.
I actually WANT my kids to have a similar childhood to mine. I want them to feel safe and secure in their own neighbourhood, walk to school by themselves and respect themselves and their elders. Unfortunately for them, the world has changed. Nothing is pure and too many decisions have been made in the name of money so you can’t trust that anything is what it appears to be. When the twins were babies, my mom suggested putting Vicks Vaporub on their feet and then covering up with socks to get rid of the sniffles. I went to Google. She was surely offended. But I didn’t go to Google because I didn’t trust my mom, I went to Google to see what chemicals were in Vicks, and if the product was still considered safe. (apparently use under the age of 2 is not recommended as it can irritate their airways). But it’s a common thing I hear from my parent friends. We google, and our parents think we should just listen to them. My argument still stands that our kids are exposed to too many harmful chemicals disguised as “wholesome” and “natural” and that as a parent you HAVE to be on your game.
All of this is to say that I’m scared. Like EVERY generation before us, I’m doing the best I can, with the information I have. Like every parent, I am raising my kids with their best intentions in mind and hoping that I’m getting it right most of the time. There is no way to parent perfectly but as a parent you can make sure you are setting the boundaries so our kids feel safe and understand their place in this big scary world. What we DO know is that there has been a power shift from parent to child and this has only turned our kids into assholes and made our lives that much harder. AT the VERY LEAST we should be stepping up our game and getting back in the driver seat. We are clearly not a generation of tyrants, so if you’re wondering if letting that tantrum go unpunished, or if ignoring your son as he hits you is going to make it stop… the answer is a scary, generation defining, hard NO.