As a mother of two teenaged children, it kills me to read or hear about the horrific crimes being committed today by young kids. And it’s not just the crimes, but also the parents lack of reaction to what their kids do to others. Case in point: Two kids—12 and 14 years old— were arrested and charged in the death of 14 year-old girl. The girl was taunted, teased, and aggressively bullied online for over a year by these two virtual assailants and 13 of their friends. The girl committed suicide. The parents of the female assailant had only one main statement: “That’s a lie, my daughter is a good kid!”.
A worse example: A teenager, unbeknownst to her parents, became pregnant, gave birth in secret, and then killed her baby. So she wouldn’t get in trouble, she carried it around in her backpack for several days.
A reflection of our times: A father of a high school football player filed bullying charges against another football team. The reason? Because the opposing team defeated his son’s team by too many points.
A fast glance at the news, and you’ll see that the list goes on and on… and it sickens me. As a parenting expert, I’m often tapped to offer my thoughts on these issues, offering solutions on how parents can change how they relate to their kids and stop this madness. And to be clear, this madness stems from the parents. Adults are in-charge; kids… are kids.
“Let’s just spank our kids then!” If you’ve been following my writing, you know that I am not shy when combating the craziness of some parenting techniques. Well-known are my opinions on the effectiveness of corporal punishment; the so-called dangers of technology; the ridiculous belief that “how kids act these days” are the reasons for all the problems in the world. In many of these discussions/interactions, I read or hear comments like: “These problems with kids today would stop if we could still beat their asses!” Or, “Everyone got spanked when we were kids and we didn’t have these issues!” Or my personal favorite: “Crime, childhood ADD and kids bullying each other got bad when they took away our right to whoop our kid’s asses when they need it!”
There’s a fundamental flaw in these statements, which goes beyond their obvious ridiculousness. The simple fact is, not all of us was spanked as a child. My father NEVER hit me, and I respect him immensely—then and now. I also believe that his parents didn’t hit him (or at least they never talked about it), and my father’s family is filled with great people. So what gives? Are today’s youths truly just uncontrollable demon spawn that could only be stopped by parents wielding the forbidden ancient switch of obedience?
When I was a teen helping to raise my siblings, and as a young new mother, I had many conversations about parenting, child-rearing, and discipline with my grandmother and great-grandmother. I followed up with them recently and asked them about some of the issues and comments parents are dealing with today, and what I learned was brilliant. As such, I must share with you:
“Yes! Of course we were ‘allowed’ to spank our children...but my dear, so are you and all of your parent friends. Some of the problems I see are that young parents spank too quickly and too harshly. They do it for silly reasons and they do it so they can brag about it. It seems like its more a method to control their children instead of teach them something. It makes me so sad to see that young parents believe that the only reason our generation had respectful children is because we paddled or spanked them. They seem to forget that there were hundreds of little things that our families did that had far more to with our children’s good behavior than making them pick a switch… which we honestly, rarely had to do.
“What we did do and without thinking about it, were the simple things. We worked hard; everyone did. Whether at our paying job or around our home. We took pride in our work and we gave thanks for everything we had. We didn’t pay our children to do housework, we gave them responsibilities from the time they were small. We showed them what doing hard work would provide them...a home, food, clothing, toys and fun things too, but as a reward for doing their part, not a payment for services rendered and they always seemed very proud of themselves when they did work on their own. Then, when they were old enough (around 14 or 15) we took them out and found them a paying job of their own. When children are working, they don’t have time to get into trouble. Children didn’t cry about being bored, because there was always something to do.”
“We sent our children to play outside no matter what the weather, and told them to be home for dinner, which we ate together. Making dinner wasn’t just about grabbing a plate and walking away with your food, we made them help us prepare the table and we said a prayer before we ate to thank God for the food and our blessings. We insisted on using manners, and not just please and thank you, but actual table manners! We had very meaningful conversations during those meals and we solved a lot of problems and told a lot of stories, then we cleaned up as a family and sometimes we would sit together and watch television or play cards. Radio and TV were censored and we were glad for it! We didn’t complain about losing our rights...who wants the right to hear people cursing or having sex or showing their privates? If you want that, go to a peep show!
And that’s another thing. Children spoke like children. If an adult used a curse word in front of a child, that child didn’t repeat it or they would have their mouth washed out with soap! Children were scolded and they were made to apologize if they were naughty. We didn’t blame others for our children’s bad behavior, we blamed our children...and then we gave them a lesson to help them remember to not do that again, but it certainly was not always a spanking! We made children clean up messes and repair or work off the cost of a broken window. Sometimes those lessons help them learn best.
“Children had social skills because they were surrounded by people who they had to talk too. We didn’t fight with our neighbors, we helped them and we spent time with them, just like we spent time with our family. Parents and families attended our children’s events and we made a big deal out of them, but we didn’t go to every little practice and we didn’t make them do things they didn’t love or weren’t interested in. I still don’t understand why parents today waste their time and money making their children do so much ‘stuff’! There’s enough to be done around the home and in the backyard if they would just take them out of all those silly activities where no one wins or loses anymore anyway! We were proud of our children when they did their very best and they won, and we hugged them and tried to cheer them up when they lost...but either way, we let them play their way! We didn’t scream and carry on like apes in front of them, we let their teachers and coaches make the decisions because people who were in authority were respected. We called them Coach or Sir. As a matter of fact, all adults were addressed with respect. We didn’t allow our children to call adults by their first name, they called them Mr. or Mrs. or Sir or Ma’am -and a grown woman understood that to be a term of respect... not an insult to her age! We did not make fun of Police Officers or Teachers or Political Officials, and we never had adult conversations in front of children who were too young to understand. It makes me so sad when I see that today.
“When I was raising my children, we used the words ‘responsibility’ and ‘answers’ when a problem came up. Today all young parents talk about is fighting or blaming or suing someone.
“If the only answer was to give a child a spanking to teach them a hard lesson, then we did it, but we would never use such horrible words like the ones I hear today: ‘Whip a child’s ass!’ That is what they did to slaves! ‘Beat them!’ ‘Bust their asses!’ How horribly violent, crude and criminal that sounds! I feel awful just saying that out loud!
“No wonder children have zero respect these days! And no wonder parents get so mean and angry toward each other. I would be pretty angry too if a stranger suggested the only way to handle my children was to whip on them! If parents today really want to raise respectful children as their grandparents and parents did...maybe they should start remembering and doing all the other things, the good things, the responsible and “right” things that their parents taught them. My goodness! If anyone deserves to have their mouth’s washed out with soap or a spanking, it’s these parents! Children do what they are taught because children are innocent. They don’t know anything about anything until we teach them. And having been a teacher, I know that children learn best by watching and copying the adults around them. If your friends have such naughty children, maybe your friends need to show them better lessons?”
Hmmmm. After listening to my Nana tell it, perhaps the kids aren’t the ones who need a break from technology, who need to learn respect, and who need to get over their entitlement mentality. Maybe the kids aren’t the real bullies and maybe our kids aren’t the poor sports? Maybe… just maybe, kids seem to be out of control because parents taught them to act that way! What if, when it comes to the real problem with kids today, WE AS PARENTS are the ones who have dropped the ball?
My bottom line: If we want to change the direction of our children to a more positive outcome, we need to put down our defenses, step up to the plate, and be the kind of parents our grandparent’s would be proud of.