Are today’s youth really THAT bad?


by Cindy Kerber Spellman

Nearly anywhere you turn, it’s easy to stumble upon articles and discussions questioning our culture and analyzing generations. Especially debate about today’s youth. They’re overweight. They’re sedentary. They’re entitled. They’re rude. A similar conversation was overheard between two parents in the bleachers at a soccer game recently.

But is this new generation really that bad? Am I really raising two heartless, selfish monsters? If you believe everything you read, I am. And so is everyone else.

The Miami Herald recently ran a story reporting on a book by family physician and psychologist Dr. Leonard Sax. In it, he “urges parents to reorder life for the sake of kids.” The article headline , “Why kids today are out of shape, disrespectful, and in charge,” makes a broad sweeping statement that would lead you to believe we have a major problem on our hands.

Yet before you dismiss it or go to the extreme and worry that the sky is falling, give thought to its message - do we have our priorities (and maybe our habits) aligned and in order to properly raise our children and set them up for independence and success?

In his book, "The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups," Dr. Sax makes compelling arguments that prompt us as parents to look inward at how we parent, the things we say, and how those actions shape the behavior we see from our children.

“Families are facing a crisis of authority,” the article recounts.

Headlines today have a fascinating impact on shaping reality and sentiment. Today’s narrative may be that kids are disrespectful and arrogant; tomorrow’s headlines could make us believe the compassion of today’s youth are saving the world. It’s easy to cast stones and make sweeping statements about a generation, but I’d like to believe people really aren’t that bad and that our world is filled with incredible kids -- and parents. In fact, I know first hand it is.

No one is truly ‘taught’ how to parent. We’re thrown into it when our children are born, and what we know about parenting we learn from our own parents, our own childhoods, trial and error, talking with friends, chats with pediatricians, workshops at places of worship, or reading up on our own. It’s safe to say we all want good things for our children and do the very best we can. At end of the day, knowledge is power, and the more informed we are, the better position we’re in to make choices - especially as parents. Dr. Sax’s book may be a worthy read so that parents have a better sense of self awareness about how our habits and actions affect our children.

Some of the biggest differences in generations between our grandparents, our parents, ourselves, and our children, are the distractions and time demands in our connected worlds at home and at work. With this “noise,” parents are often multitasking and expect kids to entertain themselves alone or with friends for short or long periods of time -- often from a very young age --  while we’re on our iPads, on a call, wrapping up work, driving carpools or taking care of housework. This habit creates independence in our children. A good thing, right? Yet, how many times have onlookers or we, as parents, been surprised when that child, no matter how young or old, expresses themselves, shows confidence or voices their wants? It’s often interpreted as strong-headed, bossy, or disrespectful, when in fact, the child is simply exhibiting the independence we’ve imposed on them from a very young age.

It made me think about my little monsters. They’re young, deliberate with their actions and words, and not afraid to speak their minds. Maybe as a working mom, our schedules and the things we do have made them that way. They’re also incredibly compassionate, sensitive, silly and bright. I’d like to think my husband and I have played a role in that, too.

Headlines should no longer define a generation - parents should. That job is on us. Perhaps Maya Angelou said it best when she said, “Do the best you can. And when you know better, do better.”