A lot of older people, and by older I mean born pre-1980’s, often say “What’s happened to this generation.” Acting like we’ve let it go to the dumps with our lack of respect for authority, our crazy partying antics and just overall trying to have a good time. While I’ll give them some credit, young adults today are lost and have no idea what we are doing, I don’t believe that is entirely our fault. You want to know what happened to this generation? We lacked the proper instructions to handle ourselves in the world.
Before you start trolling the comments, I do respect every parent and believe everyone did the best that they could with what they had at the time. That being said, there was a lot of neglect and belief that you could smack a child into obedience. I remember being spanked, hit, ignored, left alone for hours, yelled at for being bad, yelled at for being in the same vicinity of a sibling being bad, forced to kneel on heater grates, soap in the mouth, wooden spoon on the rare occasion and either starved from meals or forced to sit and eat hours after everyone else left the table. What was I taught in my childhood? How to be afraid of my parents and do only what I was told to do and nothing more, for fear of retribution.
Some of my experiences are extreme, but some of them are the norm for many of my friends I talk to. This is how parents believed to raise and teach children. But as you can see, nothing was being taught. I was being taught how to follow orders, but not how to manage myself or the world that I was learning how to live in. Thankfully, I am aware of myself and the problems I had in my childhood and have been working hard on getting past them. Many people aren’t as conscious and continue into their adult lives with the mentality they had as children.
Children enter their teens with the instinct to explore and push the limits. They have enough control over their body, and have the ability to make their own decisions. ‘Grown ups’ often complain about teenagers saying “You think you know everything.” Well I’ll have you know that as a recent teen, and having been friends with many teens talking about parental issues, none of us thought we knew everything. I personally thought I didn’t know anything. In fact, we are all kind of peeing our pants, wondering how we can take on the world and get into the human rat race, but scared to take the first step. Teenagers are reckless because it is instinct to jump into the world, primal instinct, for survival. It’s in our DNA to want to discover, it’s why toddlers get into EVERYTHING. We want to discover, and it doesn’t magically stop as we get older and have the ability to discover more of the world.
Respect the Children
There are very few parenting views that I would ever shove down another parents throat. Respect your children is one of them I will. If you can’t respect your children, then why did you become a parent? To be the boss of someone? That is not what parenting is about. Being a parent is about providing a loving and safe learning environment for a person to grow up in so that they can enter the world on their own and succeed. As I said, our jobs as parents/guardians is to help guide our children and teach them how to navigate the world.
Just because you are old, doesn’t make me think you have a bad memory. Everyone can remember parts of their childhood, the closer you are to it, the easier it is to remember being a kid. A solid positive aspect of being a young parent that I appreciate. I remember what it was like to be afraid and want my parents for guidance. I remember what it was like to be afraid of my parents and want to run away when they got angry and I was in trouble. I remember I thought my world was ending whenever I was in trouble. In a childs mind, you have to remember that they don’t understand the bigger picture. Everything is literal, what they see is what they believe.
Some Personal Experiences
When I was a little girl I watched the movie Pleasantville. The one with Reese Witherspoon and Tobey Mcguire. The movie starts out in black and white and eventually everything turns colour. One day I asked my mom, “When did the world turn colour?”. A childs world is unknown and they believe everything they see in front of them. This is a funny story I like to share to prove my point. I also told you I thought my world was ending every time I got in trouble… growing up I never thought I would become an adult. I literally thought I would die before I hit 20, because my world was so extreme for me. Children take things literally, and when they are scared, they are scared for their lives. Kids aren’t fully aware of the bigger picture yet.
I was never taught how to deal with my problems properly. I also struggled with many power-hungry teachers in school. I was a great student, too. Not to brag, but I love education and learning. I was an honor student, was involved in many extra curricular activities and even won multiple scholarships throughout my high school career. I wasn’t a bad kid, I worked hard and did the best I could, because that was what I was told to do. But I still had teachers who had their bad days, or a student would have a bad day dealing with teenage problems and hormone changes. The teachers would overreact and yell, one teacher flipped a students desk in the middle of class! I remember everyone was scared into silence, and everyone was terrified of him for a very long time.
The same teacher embarassed me and sent me out of the classroom simply because he asked me to answer a math question. I did, it was correct, and when he asked me to explain how I got my answer, it was different than how he got his, and he ridiculed me in front of everyone saying I needed to do it his way, in front of the class. I didn’t understand his way and couldn’t, so he sent me out of the class and I was mortified. All because he didn’t like how I got my answer, even though it was right. The child was punished, for doing nothing wrong.
These are experiences that have moulded my life, these are my childhood memories and where I learned to deal with my problems. When you are angry, you yell and hit. When someone is wrong, you ridicule them in front of everyone and single them out by removing them. If you don’t do what is right, the person in power has every right to make you feel like you have failed at life, and no one, not once, ever corrected me or showed me how to be alive and live correctly. I struggle today with many of these issues, and I still feel like I am failing at life most days. Afraid of doing anything wrong for fear of retribution. I now have to learn all these skills to deal with myself and the world around me as an individual young adult, and be aware of how I act with my own family so that they don’t suffer the same ways I have.
Learning is not something that should ever stop. From birth to death, the old teach the young, and the young can most definitely teach the old. The problem is that if we don’t learn the correct life skills at the appropriate time in life, you will have problems learning the rest of your life skills later and trying to behave appropriately in society. Trying to play catch up is hard enough with regular life problems. Playing catch up in learning basic life skills is nearly impossible. The problem is that young adults who lacked the appropriate instructions to adapt and navigate life enter the world without a clue.
This isn’t a problem that is limited to just myself, as special as I want to make myself feel. You see the consequences of these problems all over, right in front of our eyes. Young adults don’t have the tools and skills to properly deal with themselves, and therefore they don’t know how to deal with each other. Bullying, over partying, drugs and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancies (babies are always blessings) and crazy antics that have made ‘grown ups’ shake their heads. Generation Y’s ability to move past these regular life experiences has been hindered, from the lack of education and proper instruction as children.
We all are doing the best we can with what we have, and I don’t blame previous generations for what they’ve done. An apology would be nice, but not likely to happen. I think we’ve all accepted that many things in life deserve apologies but we won’t get to hear them. The solution now, though, is understanding and change. Parents of today need to understand children, and change how they raise and discipline difficult children. There are three easy steps that every parent should make sure the enact on with their difficult child, and they are:
1. YOU STOP what you’re doing. You are the adult, you have full control over your body and how you control it. Get down to your childs level and calm yourself. Look at your child, if they are thrashing about, let them thrash! There is nothing wrong with someone getting rid of energy, as long as they aren’t hurting themselves or another person, let them thrash until they stop. Everyone needs to stop, and the best way to get a child to stop, is to show them how.
2. YOU LISTEN and consider what is happening to that miniature human right now. If they can talk, really listen to what they say. It might be nonsense, and it might take talking it out for them to realize as much. But more often than not there is something wrong, and the child can’t comprehend what it is. Consider what is happening and remember what it was like to be a kid yourself, think of how big, scary and unknown the world felt. Listen to your child, they will tell you what is wrong, verbally or physically.
3. YOU HELP them understand what has gone wrong, and how to fix it. Seriously, if the kid didn’t know what the problem was, how do you expect them to deal with it? Talk the child down and guide them in a way that teaches them a lesson, but shows that you still care and love them. Loud, angry words don’t show love and respect, it shows anger and dominance.
If you’ve applied these three simple steps from as early in your childs life as possible, you won’t have a kid that acts up and becomes difficult later as they grow older. You are teaching them how to deal with their own issues so that next time they can hopefully get a handle of themselves, and prevent the situation from turning negative again. Which in turn, sets them up for a successful adult life where they know how to handle themselves, which is what you want, right? You want your child to succeed and live a happy life that has as little speed bumps along the way.
If your child becomes a parent without the skills to handle themselves and navigate the world properly, how do you expect them to properly care and teach their children? This is where it has gotten dangerous. Adults today, young and old, are bringing in the next generation without a clue on how to properly discipline a child while giving them enough instruction and guidance to navigate the world. There is no need to hit or yell at children, there is only a need to help them learn about themselves and the world around them.
Discipline with Direction
The best phrase I think of when dealing with difficult children. Whether the child is acting out for no apparent reason to you, or because they have done something wrong and you need to discipline them, a parent should never just get angry, yell and walk away. Respect your children enough to help them, if you can’t remember what it was like to be a child, or take the time to imagine, you shouldn’t be a parent. Being a parent is a selfless act, you don’t do it for yourself. You do it for the child. If you can’t discipline with enough direction for your child to learn from the mistake and not make it again, then you shouldn’t be a teacher of any young mind. Treat the young minds gently and with as much care as possible, because they are the people who you will be walking beside tomorrow.
I wasn’t planning on going on this long, but I want to ramble off some of my final thoughts. I do think my parents did a good job raising me, but I believe they could have done better. I think they did the best with what they understood about the world, and that is all we can ever ask from any parent. Punishment, however, does not teach a child anything. You can have consequences for bad actions such as grounding them with reasonable rules to abide by. But treat every life experience for what it is, a learning opportunity.
It’s unfortunate that so many people of Generation Y are lacking the skills to navigate the world, and as a result we are getting in trouble with the law, bullying each other, not settling down with jobs, starting our families well into our 30’s, and many young adults of today are ending up in the ground.. dead and buried. I only hope that our society, as a whole, can learn from past parenting mistakes and provide a better environment for our children to grow up in.
Punishment alone doesn’t teach a child what they’ve done wrong. It only says they’ve been bad. Discipline them properly, show them how to do it right and move on. Treat them with a bit more respect, like an adult, and maybe they might just grow into a decent one.