Monday, November 22, 2010

What is this world coming to?

I hear people of my generation speak often about the next generation.  What normally comes to their lips are things like - Kids today. They are so selfish. or I fear what the world is coming to with today's teenagers. They have such a sense of entitlement.  Words to that effect, anyway.  What I find most ironic about these statements is that they are spoken as if we have had nothing to do with bringing today's youth to where they are.  Is it not we who have raised them?
Is it not we who are charged with instilling more than just a sense of self in them?  Of course it is. If there is something wrong with today's youth it is because we have fallen down on our jobs.  We need to regroup, assess the damage and start doing some remediation.

I think one of the ways in which we get off course is in trying to save our children from the pains we experienced as a child.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I don't think there is anything wrong with sparing our children some pain. The problem lies in not allowing them to ever feel disappointment, sadness or frustration.  When we shield our children from everything, they end up learning nothing.  Or at best, next to nothing, about life outside their own presence.  This does not serve them well.  They are unable to work out problems on their own and they blame others when things go wrong in their own lives.

We also go wrong when, in an effort to build their self esteem, we forget to counter that with the ability to examine themselves fairly. They grow up believing that everything they do is great and wonderful, which leads to black / white thinking.  Everything is either all right or all wrong in their mind, so when someone points out something less than stellar that they did, they are either shattered by the realization that they are not perfect, or they deflect the accusation of wrong-doing and blame others for their mistake.  Either way, their ego is damaged instead of intact like we had hoped it would be when we did all of that propping up early on in their lives.

Another way that I see our generation has veered from our target is by giving our children too many things.  We do this for a couple of reasons.  Number one, is because we remember wanting things as a child, and not being allowed to have them.  Probably because our parents couldn't afford it.  Again, we want to shield them from disappointment, so we overcompensate by buying them the latest toy they have their eye on. Number two is to assuage our own guilt at not being able to give them enough of our time. We live in a fast-paced world, often with two working parents in every home. We know our kids are probably missing out on something, so we (consciously or unconsciously) give them things as a substitute for ourselves. This is a problem in two ways. Our children have not learned the fine art of delayed gratification for starters and in the end - it's not even about the children, it is about us and our unresolved childhood issues.

All is not lost in this generation, however. We still have time to right these wrongs we created. Our children are very smart, savvy and quite resilient. All it takes is a bit of a shift in focus on our parts and our children will follow our lead. We have to create clear boundaries about things as well as actions; they can neither do nor have everything they want. We must allow them to experience negative, natural consequences at times. It is incumbent upon us to build up their self-esteem while still allowing for the fact that they are flawed human beings. If we teach them, they will learn.

I realize it is hard on us, as parents, to be the bad guy sometimes.  Heaven knows I have a lot to learn in this department; my children are by no means without problems. They and I both struggle in finding the balance between tough love and indulgence. Sometimes I come down too hard and other times I give them way too much leeway. No one said parenting was going to be easy. There is one certainty I think we can all agree on - it is the hardest job we will ever encounter.  Hard though it may be, however, we have to stay the course. We can't just throw up our hands and rail against the youth of today.  The youth of today is a product of our own making. We have only ourselves to blame with regard to the climate of society. We can either sit around, blame others, wallow in self pity or we can do something about it. Now. Before it is to late.  I have faith that the youth of today will rise to the occasion if we ourselves hold ourselves accountable and start to turn the ship around.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. ~Romans 12:3