Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Hometrainin' - Parentunplugged - Stacy Snyder - The Golden Rule
As I encounter more and more kids and teenagers in situations where I am dumbstruck with the lack of respect, accountability, and manners they display, I am acutely aware of myself getting older and older, and how my thoughts and complaints about kids these days must mirror those of my parents 35 years ago when they encountered kids and teenagers in an alien-esque fashion, and their parents before them.  

“Those damn teenagers,” I could imagine another generation of parents lamenting after hearing loud rock n’ roll music wave downstairs into the kitchen from their child’s room above.   

“Well I have never in my life….,” I can guess another mother might have said fifty years ago after seeing her daughter bound out of the house without a bra or proper hairbrushing, and wearing a halo of flowers on her head and a hippie skirt over her unshaven legs.

My current day complaint of kids being disrespectful to me, to their teachers, to their classmates, to their parents, and to society at large, might just be the passing of the torch from my parents to me of their misunderstanding the new crop of young people. 

I think it’s more than that, though.  I think we are failing as parents today to give our kids the proper home trainin’ they deserve, creating a lazy, entitled, unappreciative, and snotty crop of kids, destined to set a precedent for years to come.  

I see it everywhere I go.  Kids shouting at their teachers.  Tweens rolling their eyes at their principal.  Preschoolers smacking their classmates.  Teens lying to their parents.  Grade-schoolers giving the school volunteers ‘the finger’ as they turn their back. 

None of these actions are surprising, but instead expected.  Kids learn to be the people they grow into by testing their boundaries.  It’s human nature.  What’s astounding to me is that I don’t see punishment or ramifications being handed out by anyone for these kids’ actions.  With no consequence, the actions are repeated, become frequent, and become a way of life for some kids and young adults.  From the parents to the schools to the community at large, we’ve all decided complacency is the best medicine…just stand back and watch it all happen with no involvement or action.  By all means, let’s don’t come down hard on the kids, as we may damage them.  Seriously?  What we’re doing instead is destroying our kids’ chance of learning some of life’s difficult lessons as a minor, and instead setting them up with faulty expectations of how the world revolves (erroneously thought, around them).

Think of it, as a parent, if you correctly deal with an overly obvious foul like cheating or stealing when your child is still a minor, you can hope to both address the value at large that you want to teach, like honesty, as well as prepare your child for an adult version of the reaction she will expect from her action of cheating or stealing.  If you don’t properly address this issue when your child is still a child, your child will be shocked when she gets arrested as an adult for cheating or stealing, and have no idea why it’s wrong, since Mom or Dad let her skate by without consequence for cheating as a kid.

Time and time again, I’m flabbergasted at our responses as responsible adults, raised under a different set of standards than today’s kid.  Damage to property that’s not theirs?  No worries, they’re kids and that’s what they do.  No consequences doled out by damaged property owner, so kids have their first taste of getting away with something without a repercussion.  There once was a day when if a kid was blessed enough to avoid a rap sheet instilled by a third party, he still had his parents to reckon with.  Nowadays, parents don’t hand out the punishments either. 

“Just a stupid prank,” they say.  “It’s no big deal.”

How about the kids smoking pot on the school lawn in broad daylight, on a crowded weekend with 50+ kids and parents hanging out on the playground and another 50+ kids and parents walking in and out off the entrance where the kids are smoking?  Did anybody (including me) stop and advise the kids to move on, as there are kids around and it’s a felony to smoke on school property?  Of course not, as it’s not our problem and we don’t want to be confrontational.  Did the police show up when the incident was reported while the kids were still on the school property?  No, they didn’t respond either, as pot’s so low on the totem pole of criminal activity, or maybe they didn’t show up because they know the parents in the area are going to sweep it under the rug anyway.

More and more I see with my own eyes, and hear in open narrative from unashamed parents, kids being allowed to act inappropriately without consequence from their parents.  I don’t think it’s the attitudes of the parents toward the actions themselves, that has changed over the years, i.e. most parents still think that their young kids shouldn’t swear.  It’s more about parents’ lack of structure in setting up expectations of behavior and ramifications for not meeting those ideals that has changed.  While there has always been, and always will be, a wide array of opinions from parents as to what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable behavior for children, the general understanding since I’ve been alive has been that parents’ purpose is to guide and instruct kids, which sometimes (oftentimes) means disciplining them.  I always expected that as a child.  Please keep in mind I did a lot of shitty things as a kid and young adult….I was always in trouble.  However, I was ALWAYS held accountable for my actions.  This taught me how to survive in this world we live in.  My college degree, my academic honors, my impressive resume all mean nothing without the lessons I learned from my parents, my educators, and my elders, about accountability.

I don’t get the sense that many children today are held liable for their actions.  Of course this is a gross generalization.  I know many families both near and far that not only set expectations, model values they want their kids to learn, but also unwaveringly dole out penalties or consequences for the lack of adherence to those ideals.  It feels, however, that as a parent, those folks and I are in the minority.  Is this possible?

Volunteering to help keep the kids corralled at the school musical dress rehearsal this week, I was saddened by the actions of some of the kids and the lack of reaction to such.  I was shocked to see and hear the forwardness in which some of the older kids (7th and 8th graders) responded to parent volunteers, their teachers, and school security guards.  From boldly using profanity in front of parents and younger children, to saying they hated their musical instructors in front of other teachers and parents, to completely disregarding, disrespecting, and name calling parent volunteers, some of these kids were truly beasts!  Entitlement is the only thing that keeps ringing through my head. 

“They won’t get a job in this world,” another mom urgently whispered to me, after shushing two or three of the same unruly kids for the umpteenth time, and getting blank stares, snickering, and drop-dead looks from the teens, before they continued shouting to their friends.  As I nodded in agreement, she asked incredulously, “How can their parents raise them this way and expect them to be fully functional adults?”

Nail.  Head.  They won’t be fully functional adults as we, or maybe I should say I, at this point, since I may have lost many of you already in my rant, may know them.  They’ll be a new hybrid of surly kids from the school of ain’t got no hometrainin’, in which they were not educated in how to be good people, or at the minimum, act like good people!  As parents we’re performing such an injustice to our children by not preparing them for life, where they will get knocked down and dragged in the street for their inability to comprehend consequences for their actions.

The sad thing is they will get jobs, but not the ones they want.  Their parents will then complain that their kids are a product of the weak economy and the mess this country has put them in.  And I’ll be standing here to wholeheartedly disagree.  Your kids won’t flourish because you’re not giving them the tools by which they can own their choices!  Give them some freakin’ hometrainin’!  By that I mean teaching the basics to them of how to be decent people, and then holding them accountable for their actions.  From instilling values such as integrity, honesty, and respect through example, to coaching them in manners, consideration, and cause and effect, each acts as a building blocks toward a responsible, conscientious, human being that can live in reality. 

As I keep rolling the film in my head of the snarky attitudes I encountered  at the musical rehearsal (by and large the group as a whole was great!), I have to remind myself that it’s really not the kids I’m mad at…it’s the parents making excuses for them.  It’s the parents not requiring them to be decent at home, thereby allowing them to be rude at school and in public as well.  It’s the parents not supporting schools, teachers, organizations, and other parents when they try to enforce acceptable behavior in children.  It’s the parents who scoff at the idea of their child having to do anything other than show up to ‘make the grade.’  I’m angry at the teachers who don’t’ demand appropriate behavior, even though I know they don’t get the support from the school they need and the parents don’t take them seriously.  I’m angry at the administrators for being weary of the parents and not enforcing rules, so as not to make waves with the parents.  And most importantly, I’m angry with myself for not speaking up more…to kids to parents to school officials.  I too, have gotten lazy and have taken a huge step down from my soapbox, where I too, don’t always practice what I preach.  I could be more a part of the solution than part of the problem.

As a society, we’ve stopped old-school parenting.  We’ve stopped teaching our kids to do the right thing and live by the Golden Rule.  We’ve stopped demanding respect from our children, much less to those around us.  We’ve given up on teaching them courtesy, manners, and how to be cogs in the wheel.  We’ve instead filled their heads with the bullshit that they can do anything, be anyone they want, if they just will it to be, which we know will not happen if they don’t ‘work the program’ of respect taught in Hometrainin’ 101! I know many an acquaintance that has made it in this world by using manners, hard work, and doing what’s right.  I know just as many acquaintances who never made it anywhere, despite, advanced degrees, prestige, and the best that money can buy.

I often wonder if sometimes parents just decide that it’s easier to let their kids be, as they don’t have to be the bad guys if they don’t discipline them.    

“Kids these days…..” parents laughing say to other parents when their own children refuse to acknowledge them, much less answer their question of “what time will you be home tonight?” before stomping out of the house. 

My gut instinct when I’m standing on the other side of that conversation is to block the despondent teen walking away from her parent without a response nor a goodbye, and force her to address her mother with respect.  My second impulse is to give that mother a slap in the face, or throw a bucket of cold water over her head to get her attention so she can WAKE UP and see the monster she’s creating.  My final intuition, and usually the path most traveled, is to walk away from the situation and the family, and don’t come back.  Sure, every kid is going to act out from time to time, but experience has shown me that when parents allow blatant disrespect without ramification to happen in front of their friends or in public once, it usually happens again and again, which is my cue to exit stage left.  

Look, I know with 100% accuracy that my kids have and will act in ways that are or can be perceived as disrespectful to others.  I am also confident that my children will know when they’re doing it and will not be surprised when their next play date is cancelled or their bottom is walloped because of their actions or behavior.  I want them to have the experience now, so they experience cause and effect without too much discomfort as a child, as once they step over the threshold of adulthood, I can’t lesson the sting of consequence.  Even though it’s uncomfortable and sometimes even difficult to impose retribution for inappropriate actions, I’m comfortable knowing it will help them be better people in the end.  And after all, isn’t fashioning a good person just as important, if not more, than producing a math whiz or a millionaire or a president?