‘Children have changed so much today. They are impossible. They have no respect for anyone. Not like in my day’ was what I heard recently. Another person said ‘Children have changed from generation to generation and will continue to do so.’
This is the general idea isn’t it though? That children have changed and yet I beg to differ. I don’t think that children have changed at all. But society has. Society has changed over time with its expectations on how people are supposed to behave.
Let’s look at a child. No matter where you look in history. Children are first of all born. Even Jesus was born as a child. When children are born the only need they have is ‘Feed me, change me and hold me.’ They don’t care what’s happening in the world, it’s all about them and so it should be, seeing as they can’t feed themselves or change themselves.
A child has no preconceived ideas about people or biases when they are born, They are born innocent and vulnerable. They have no trust issues or hatred in their heart. That has not changed at all throughout history.
It is only as they grow that they learn from those around them. They learn their parents likes, dislikes and biases and when they go to school, they learn from other kids who have learnt from their home lives the likes, dislikes and biases of their parents. So when a child makes comments about another person they had to learn that from somewhere. It is from parents and family that a child first learns to hate or to love their fellow man.
What has changed is society’s expectations. There used to be a time when a child was punished for violating the house rules. Sometimes that punishment was too extreme but today, parents are not allowed to hit their kids, and if they punish the child by grounding them, or taking away their mobile, then the parents run the risk of being sued by the child.
It is the foundational start that the child has, that sets up his or her belief system, that then guides or misguides them as they try to navigate through life. That belief system comes first from their parents, then family, then school and later life.
What has changed is parents want their children to have the best of everything so that they are not alienated by their friends but what that teaches them is – I want, I get – but unfortunately, that doesn’t work in the real world.
Schools give all the children participation ribbons on sports day so that they feel inclusive and everyone feels equal, everyone is a winner. But that doesn’t teach them that the world is not equal. That sometimes in the game of life, they are going to lose a few rounds, but they haven’t been taught how to deal with losing.
Schools make sure they’re food friendly for those with nut and other food allergies. Creating a safe environment. Commendable but doesn’t teach the child how to deal with the work place when the boss doesn’t care about allergies.
The same with schools having a ‘Friend’ chair so that if a student is lonely they sit on it and the other children are encouraged to include them in their group. It doesn’t teach children that there is no ‘Friend’ chair in the real world. Some people just aren’t going to like you.
And no more clapping because some children have sensitive hearing. The world is a noisy place it’s better to deal with that at school because the world isn’t going to quieten down just because someone has sensitive hearing.
Teachers now want the children to call them by their first name so that the children feel closer to them, that they are their friend. That doesn’t teach them respect. Teachers are not supposed to be their friend, they’re supposed to teach.
Have children changed? Yes
Are they more aggressive, demanding and spoilt? Yes, some are.
Are they ruder and disrespectful? Yes, some are.
And there in is the answer. Some are, but some are not. How can that be so, if it is children, that have changed?
The answer is that it isn’t children that have changed. It is society. Society is very good at telling children what their rights are but not very good at telling them what their responsibilities are.
Society’s lowering of standards in regard to respect for their elders and their parents and other figures in authority. Society has lowed its expectations of politeness. Society needs to take some responsibility for setting children up to unrealistic expectations without helping to give them coping skills for when it doesn’t work out.
Throughout history it has been, and is a balancing act that keeps swinging from one extreme to the other. The pendulum is swinging back again as society tries to reinstate some values. Children don’t change, they don’t come with a manual when they are born but they are raised by the parents values and beliefs.
Children need to be valued, loved and have their self esteem built up as this is what helps them to become productive members of society. But that needs to be balanced with rights and responsibilities so that they learn coping skills when things don’t go according to plans.