I am 26 years old, live locally and have just started my career. I am wondering…do children today act more entitled than children from other generations? So often I hear teachers, parents, grandparents, just so many people complaining about “children today.” I see young children with expensive phones and other electronic games and I see teens walking with a group of friends and everybody is texting instead of talking with each other. All of this scares me as I pay close attention to the responsibility of adulthood and think about having children. What are your thoughts?
When people refer to “children today” it usually is in negative terms! Technology and the family is an issue that parents may not consider early enough and suddenly it gets away from them without any “rules” in place. Very often family structure is blamed for “children today” which really means that families are so busy, parents forget to parent.
Truthfully, and more accurately, to define a traditional family today is nearly impossible in terms of structure; blended families, single parent families, two parent families – same and different gender…are all families making up the definition of “normal.” Whatever the structure, children need support, love, guidance, and routine in order to grow into responsible adults. They also need these same guidelines to be happy children.
Between us we have seven children, three for Sally and four for Michele, so we have spent a lot of time contemplating this idea. Parenting tends to change a bit from generation to generation due to shifts in culture, economics, and experience. However, a few basic rules of civility never go out of style.
A fundamental truth: with rights come responsibilities: this is a code by which we have raised our children and find is a code that works for all families and all situations. For us, this is the definition of discipline. We believe that children, from a very young age, can achieve reasonable expectations for their behavior and actions. For example, a young child has the right to a safe place to play but that same child also has the responsibility to pick up toys in this space and to share those same toys. When parents do not hold a child to the responsible part of the equation, then the child begins to live from a point of expectation rather than thankfulness. Think of the adults who still live their lives this way…..do we need to say more? When children are called to regular, everyday responsibilities, they expect to be accountable and share in the well being of their family, reducing “entitlement” significantly.
Holding our children accountable also helps build their self-confidence. Children want to be needed. True competence is built through successful completion of a task or chore. While this idea is quite simple, it is so often overlooked. Failure is acceptable and is a natural part of learning. Parents who raise children with this strategy do not raise entitled children, they raise children who are contributors, inquisitive, open, and forgiving of self and others. Children can and should begin taking part in the daily routines of family life at an early age. Three and four year olds can set the table, pick vegetables or flowers from the garden, or clean up a small area. Seeing a task from start to finish builds a sense of pride in one’s work. The key is engaged parents who create routines that work for the whole family.
Start watching adults to see if they too are “disconnected” or “distracted” from the group they are supposedly “with”….do they constantly listen to voice mails, “make a quick call”, or read or send texts? They are the teachers/the modelers/the acceptors of this behavior in their children. We recommend a few easy rules for you to incorporate currently or for families trying to disconnect from technology and reconnect with humanity.
• No phones or computers after a certain time in the evening; we recommend 9 pm. Have kids hand them in and put yours with away too. Model what you want.
• If someone, children included, is/are using technology, don’t speak to them at that moment. Along with this…wait until they are done or say something as simple as, “I’d like to talk when you are not distracted.”
• Simple policies such as; No phones at the table! Keep phones on silent! And nicely remind when necessary.
Communication, face to face, is a bridge to healthy relationships. While most of us use email, texts, twitter, and other forms of electronic media, real conversation is an ageless form of civility. People want to chat, laugh, listen, and connect. Remember, breaking a bad habit is almost always more difficult than forming a good one. If you set the stage for communication from a young age, your future children will know what your expectation is and will rise to the standard. If there are no phones at the table, always, then staring at a screen during a meal is a non-issue. Parents get to decide.
Remember that “children today” also have great qualities; they are curious, intelligent, healthy minded, spiritual, goal oriented, carefree, caring and fearless.
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