Kids Today… (are no different)

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.
~Chili Davis

I have always disliked the saying “Kids today…”  It always frustrates me when one of my colleagues starts a conversation with, “You know what’s wrong with kids today?”  I am often asked about how kids have changed over time and what we can do to reclaim the way kids “used to be.”  I have a news flash for you.  Kids are no different than they were 10, 100, or 1000 years ago!  What has changed are the influences and experiences our kids have as compared to those of previous generations.

The adolescent brain is just as beautiful and as flawed as it always has been.  Our kids are smart and capable of so much that we often forget that their developing brain is impulsive and prone to risk-taking.  Adolescence is the time when kids should make mistakes and learn from them.  It is for this reason that we can’t be surprised when they make poor choices when we put a cell phone in their hands.  If you think about it, posting something they shouldn’t or sending a nasty text is simply adolescents doing what nature intended.  Now, I am not advocating for poor decisions. I am simply saying it shouldn’t take us by surprise.  Additionally, these situations are an opportunity for kids to learn valuable lessons.  As parents, we can’t control what our kids do; we can only react to it.  We need to take every opportunity to turn our kids’ mistakes into lessons.  That may mean that our kids have to experience  social and/or school consequences.  Helping kids to see that they can rebound from a poor choice is the key to helping them to become resilient adults.  Remember, our goal is to raise successful 35-year-olds,  not necessarily successful 12-year-olds.

In their drive for acceptance, adolescents are more susceptible to peer suggestions; hence the question, “If Cheryl jumped off a bridge, would you follow?” (Honestly, odds are 50/50 that my daughter would follow Cheryl off that bridge.)  Because adolescence is a time of identity definition, our kids are making choices that make us cringe (admit it, we’ve all been there).  This is a time when children very often stop taking advice from you and turn to their peers for guidance.  As parents, this can be a very difficult time.  What complicates matters is that due to increased digital connectivity, we may not know our kids’ friends like we used to.  These may be kids that go to a different school or live in a different state.  Nonetheless, these relationships have a powerful impact on our kids’ behavior.  It is our job to help set limits and continue to offer advice in a respectful manner.  The best thing we can do for our kids is to remain steadfast in our advice and stick to family values.  For example, one rule we have in my house is that if you don’t know someone in the real world, you can’t be friends with them in the virtual world.  Often, the rules and advice may not stick at first, but whether they admit it or not, your children do respect your opinion and crave the structure a parent can provide.

While kids today are just as wonderful as they were when we were kids, adolescence is much harder.  This is mainly due to 24/7 connectivity and a world that prizes instant gratification.  While we often think our kids can effectively manage distractions, multitask, and navigate complicated relationships, they can’t.  They are essentially working with the same set of skills and the same brain that adolescents have had since the dawn of time.  As parents we must offer structures and communicate values clearly.  Now, they won’t always be willing to let us help, but that doesn’t mean we stop.  By setting expectations, allowing kids to stumble, and being available when they seek us out, we can counteract many of the influences by which “kids today” are impacted.

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One comment on “Kids Today… (are no different)
  1. Jackie says:

    Thanks!!! I totally agree with you!!

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