I was recently privy to a conversation about “Kids these days…” and I found myself frozen and unable to sort my thoughts into that fine line between sounding judgmental and being a good advocate for little people. So instead I said nothing and felt rather crappy afterwards.
It’s something we’ve heard a million times, right? That admonishing of “Kids these days!” Maybe some of you have even said it yourself. The implication is, of course, that parents these days are too permissive and too lenient and now we have these disrespectful, rude, uncontrollable little brats bound for a life of crime.
Let’s bench that last bit and go back to “It’s something we’ve heard a million times…” and think about that for a second.
You know why?
Because every generation before us has said it about the generation or generations after them!
Permissive parenting has been shunned throughout history and rightly so. Our job is to guide and nurture our children on the path to being empathic, capable, affable, strong and decent adults. Sometimes this means setting loving limits where permissive parenting means allowing children to do whatever they want. Even when it is unhealthy or dangerous. That can actually make it hard for children to develop a good sense of right and wrong and can also feel like there’s no one who can help them when they need guidance or assistance.
On the flip side of this is authoritarian parenting, which is only now starting to be seen for what it is. It is fear-based control and whilst some kids do appear to respond to it in childhood, there are numerous undesirable outcomes in adulthood but the most likely scenario is children only appear to respond to it in childhood and actually just become sneakier in their approaches. The fear-based nature also damages the bond between parent and child. I actually suspect these kids who shun authority and lash out outside of the home are more likely to be parented that second way.
My parenting style is a culmination of peaceful/positive/gentle/respectful parenting and playful parenting which I put under the umbrella of empathic child-rearing and I mostly use the Hand In Hand Parenting By Connection tools these days. However, I am a flawed and imperfect human so I can sometimes find myself in the permissive area or the authoritative area (particularly depending on which kid I’m parenting).
I don’t know any full-time permissive parents. I think permissive parenting is usually born from love and these days you know that to love your kids does mean providing guidance and setting safe and healthy boundaries. Permissive parenting without love is just neglect and yes, I’m sure some of those neglected children are giving their generation a bad name.
I think the era where permissive parenting would have been most prevalent would be the 60’s and 70’s so the generations with parents in their 20s, 30s and 40s during those periods are probably the ones most deserving of the “kids these days!” disapproval!
What I do know is that all misbehaviour is a signal that a child is off-track and that they need help. I also know that as a parent, you could do a surprise inspection in my home and find an uncontrollable, disrespectful brat or you could find an emotionally intelligent, wise-beyond-their-years poster-child for “good parenting”… in the same child! You can’t take one scenario and think you have a child and parent pegged. There is a whole history that goes into one off-track moment and if it’s a repeated behaviour, then there’s a reason behind it and that’s what needs to be addressed. Sometimes it’s the result of an off-track parent who hasn’t found the right way to parent that child and they need help too!
Here’s what I do know and wish I had found the right way to say.
In my experience:
Kids these days… are being taught empathy and are often found displaying it in ways that bring me to tears!
Kids these days… are doing weekly yoga, mindfulness and/or meditation making them better emotional regulators.
Kids these days… can look adults in the eye and conduct an articulate conversation (this is a big deal for my generation suffering from social anxiety).
Kids these days… will advocate for underdogs and call out bullying and relational aggression.
Kids these days… care for the environment and know more about sustainability than any generation before them.
Kids these days… will go out of their way to help a stranger.
Kids these days… embody the respect that has been modeled to them.
Kids these days… stand up for what is right (even if it’s an adult who is wrong).
Sure, there are some kids who are struggling. Sure, there are kids who can’t do any of the above at all or just not every time.
Then there are kids who do deplorable things.
But in my experience (and I do have a LOT) the kids I describe above are the ones representing “kids these days”. They are the game-changers and the peace-makers, they are the ones giving me hope when the world starts to feel like a bleak place to be in. I am backing them and I am behind them. The world will be a better place one day and I reckon it’s all because of kids these days!