There is no doubt that today’s child lives in a world of convenience. A world where consequences of their actions are often not felt, where parents and educators have taken on a belief system that everything should be as comfortable and easy for our kids as possible. And sadly, where kids have lost the fine art of appreciation for what they have in their lives replaced by simple expectation and want. The line between wants and needs has been greatly disfigured, and it is the children of this generation who will pay the price.
Every generation of adults wants their children to have it easier, better – than they had it. That is most often the common vision of parents. To raise children in a better world than the one they were raised in. But sadly, this vision of modern parenting has forgotten that at some point these children will become adults. They will have to learn how to build their own lives, so they too – can make a life for their own children one day. It seems in so many instances parents today have moved the bar of success so high, that as these children migrate into the adult world, they will be faced with constant and nagging disappointment.
For instance. Peruse the parking lot of today’s high school and you see that instead of beat up cars that blow exhaust when they start, and ping when they are turned off – the spaces are filled with fancy, new cars that likely cost the parents half a house to purchase. How are these pseudo adults going to feel when they realize that their first job can’t pay the car payment let alone the insurance on the car of their dreams? Will these kids feel like failures?
Today, kids are walking around with $90 North Face backpacks, and $150 jackets. According to some reports, the average grade that children receive cell phones in the United States is fifth grade. And most kids today carry around phones and forms of technology such as laptops and tablets, which cost hundreds of dollars not only to purchase, but to maintain as well. Despite the current recession, families are splurging on cell-phone bills in an effort for their child to be among the norm, regardless of whether they can afford it or not.
A kid today has hundreds of TV channels to suit their needs at any time of day; 2/3rds of all kids have TV’s in their bedrooms, and according to the Department of Highway Safety, around 73% of all vehicles today, owned by parents of toddlers – have TV and media equipment in their vehicles. Years ago, toddlers played with blocks and manipulatives and books. Today, the average 4-year-old knows their way around an I-Pod and gets fidgety if they cannot sit down and watch their favorite pre-school TV show.
In 1994, American families ate out an average of 1 time per week. This was often considered a treat, a welcome meal after a long week at school and work. Today, that average has jumped to 3 times per week. And by the rates that childhood obesity is increasing at, it is evident that the health of our children has been the most affected by this new grab and go lifestyle. Even more disconcerting is that despite all the statistics that show our tendency to eat out, most families still aren’t eating a meal together.
The sad thing is that children today are not learning to appreciate work for reward, or have the need to learn patience. They are becoming used to everything being given to them right away. The information tidal wave that we call the internet – gives our kids instant access to anything that their little hearts may desire. They don’t have to research, or wait for results, or spend their time toiling to find an answer. All they have to do is look on the information highway and be instantly gratified and quickly on to the next thing in their life.
While they are more in contact with friends and family via cell phones and social media, they are less involved with friends and family by true social measures that include interaction. Kids today are not learning how to be empathetic, or compassionate, or how to read human gestures and nuances that give clue to honest communication. Additionally, the words and interactions that they have via cell phones and computers enable them to feel disconnected and not responsible for the consequences that their behavior may have on a fellow human being.
As we march toward the future, it seems that we are setting our children up for a lot of disappointment. We are quickly throwing away the old ideals of working for your future, of buying the starter home, the fixer-upper before the dream house. Today, we go straight to the dream house, and too often, find it very empty. How will the jobs of the future fulfill our children’s needs to have it all? How will their pampered, sheltered, and convenient lives of their pubescent teen years prepare them for the harsh realities of a real life boss, and responsibilities? Will our kids every learn how to wait, or work toward, or build something of their own?
As much as parents want to give and provide for their children, the greatest gift we give them is the ability to provide for themselves. As much as we want to stuff pacifiers in their mouths so they won’t cry, they also have to learn how to work through their emotions and figure out how to self soothe when the instantaneous world they are accustomed to comes to a screeching halt. Our children receive no long-term favors by being let off the hook, by having it easy, or by getting everything that they want in life immediately.
Perhaps Coach Tom Izzo, of the University of Michigan says it best when he states, “It is a little harder to motivate kids today, I guess because they’ve been pampered so much. We’re in the trophy generation, Give ‘em a trophy for 23rd place. Make them feel good. Make mom and dad feel good.”
The question then becomes, what are you doing as a parent to motivate your child?