I know you’ve heard (read) it. There is a good chance you’ve even said it. Something along the lines of “Back in my day….” and then a little quip about how things were soooo different when you were a kid. Ok, sure I can get on board with that. It’s fair to say that a lot of things have changed since I was a kid. There were no iPhones. I saved for a year to buy my own Atari and could afford to buy maybe or or two new games a year for it. I had three television stations. One of them was French. My computer was a Vic 20 and you had to load a cassette tape into to attached to player to play rudimentary games. Internet was not a thing. You could arguably same that times were “simpler” when I was a kid.
But plug in technology isn’t the only that has evolved in the decades since I grew up. When I was a child nobody had ASD. Except yes they did. We just called them “special” or “different”. They still grew up with labels, just not labels that were helpful. Not labels that provided them and their families with resources that might actually be helpful. My third grade teacher had a strap and wasn’t afraid to use it if you so much as looked at her the wrong way. So, yes things were different “back in my day”. But they weren’t always better.
The appeal to tradition is hard to resist. The idea that the good old days were, well, good, is something that seems engrained in our psyche. Things were simpler, parents were tougher, kids behaved better. But the reality is that our perception of how things were and how things are is pretty inaccurate. And the way we are projecting these false perceptions on to our younger generation is not fair. And it’s not healthy. Our children are not just a bunch of spoiled, selfish brats. Far from it. Our kids today care. They care about the environment. They care about helping those in need. They are far better (thanks to technology) at seeing the big picture. They are empathetic and sympathetic.
Today’s buzz words, when it comes to describing the younger generations are entitled and narcissist. You know what? I’ll give you that. Sort of. The thing is a sense of entitlement and being a bit on the narcissist side exists because that is how youth are, how they have always been. It’s part of growing up. Kids think the world revolve around them. Until we help them understand that it doesn’t. This isn’t new. In fact this is how it has always been. Quick quiz – who said this?
The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.
Socrates said this. Over two thousand years ago. So yeah, adults have been complaining about kids since someone told them they should.
The irony of it is that we simultaneously complain about youngsters being coddled or not respecting authority but then we cheer them on when they have the balls to rebel against rules that we never liked. And then we lay all the blame squarely on the shoulder of today’s parents. It doesn’t matter how you do it, you’re doing it wrong. They tell us we praise too much – (psst no we don’t). We hover too much or we don’t give them enough attention. We are making our kids lazy but running them ragged with too many things. But again, this isn’t new. Critiquing parenting skills is just another one of those things we have always done. We just use to do it more quietly, or at least to a smaller audience. Everything, bad kids, bad parenting, all of it, is amplified today because we have 24/7 access to people’s opinions. We read things, we pick the ones that suit our confirmation bias and call it proof. I saw a mom hovering over her 5 year old at the park and my neighbour’s 21 year old still lives at home – see I knew we were screwing our kids up!
The cold hard truth is that kids have never been perfect. Parents have never been perfect. This idea that sometime, somewhere this magical age of the best kids ever existed is laughable. We aren’t doing it all wrong. Kids aren’t all rotten. Like every single generation before us, yes there is room for improvement. Yes times change and we have to take a cold hard look at how that impacts our younger generation and how we parent them. And this is the way it will always be. So can we please stop telling our kids they suck already? Because they don’t suck any more than you did.