Parenting Then; Parenting Now

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As a few of the team gathered over early coffee after the holidays, there was the typical discussion. ‘Carla’ wondered about adolescents of distant family members who ate little but candy for 2 days straight- chocolate, gummy bears, sour treats, stayed up most of the night, and opened gifts nearly non- stop, pausing only to do Face-Time, text, or SnapChat with friends between opening an excessive amount of presents from mostly absent parents. A neighbor child’s parents popped in, drank heavily, and made crude comments about a questionable television show showing cartoon characters engaged in behavior that no one seemed to care to change.

She said, ‘Things are really different now. My parents would’ve flipped. It wasn’t like this growing up.’  Another staffer, ‘Lauren’ agreed. She said,  ‘There was the big family meal and no electronic devices. You had to enjoy quality food first before goodies, and those were measured amounts. Gifts were discussed or demonstrated a day or days later on the playground or in the neighborhood, not during family time.  Each person received a fixed # of presents and everyone shared in the opening of said gifts during a specific window of time.  The family attended church together and you minded your ‘p’s’ and ‘ques’. If the TV was on, it was a shared family show or sporting event. Kids didn’t even have their own TVs or computers in their bedroom. You never had a kid say to his/her mom, ‘Ah, Ruth, text me when dinner is ready.  That kid was helping get the table ready.’

So what’s changed?  The American Psychological Association reports,Texting has become teenagers’ preferred method of communication, with adolescents sending and receiving an average of 167 texts per day, according to a Pew Internet and American Life Project study by Lenhart in 2012. Lenhart demonstrated that 63 percent of teens report texting on a daily basis, while only 39 percent use their mobile phones for voice calls.”

Truly conversing, meaningfully, making eye contact, interacting respectfully with a range of ages, having shared family interaction sans electronics is one major difference.  Another significant difference is boundaries. Boundary setting is important between adults, between adults and children, within families and where a range of things are included such as diet, meal times, sleep times, consumption of alcohol, age appropriate television, and use of electronic devices. Boundaries include guidelines for apparel, treatment of loved ones, and ‘kind’, emotionally intelligent behavior.  Is it pre-modern to ‘put a lid on it’ and ‘grow up’, or have a higher number of parents forgotten parenting in favor of friending their kids? Where does the decision-making lie?  In many TV sitcoms, the parents are fools and the kids, manipulative, shrewd and downright disrespectful.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal featured an article on parenting, titled ‘Parenting in the Age of Awfulness’. [12/17/2015]  “America’s children are immersed in a culture of disrespect: for parents, teachers, and one another. They learn it from television, even on the Disney Channel, where parents are portrayed as clueless, out-of-touch or absent. They learn it from celebrities or the Internet. They learn it from social media. They teach it to one another. They wear T-shirts emblazoned with slogans like “I’m not shy. I just don’t like you.”  

Author Leonard Sax continues, “The challenge of raising children in America today is different from 30 or 50 years ago. Back then popular culture supported the authority of parents, whether it was the “Andy Griffith Show” in the 1960s or “Family Ties” in the 1980s. Kids are not born knowing how to be respectful. They have to be taught.”    There are personal, mental/behavioral health and societal implications to children and teens without filters, emotional regulation or ability to cope successfully with daily life.

A doctor of 29 years, Sax adds, ‘Multiple lines of evidence, including cohort studies such as the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, now demonstrate that disrespectful children are more likely to grow up to be anxious and depressed, three times more likely to be overweight, more likely to be fragile, less healthy and less creative, compared with respectful children.”  Parents are not the ‘enemy’ but the ally in raising better kids.  Children can be taught, helped and healed and family life can improve dramatically.  There is no better time to start than now.


The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 17, 2015 7:04 p.m. ET

….“Kyle was absorbed in a videogame on his cellphone, so I asked his mom, “How long has Kyle had a stomach ache?” Mom said, “I’m thinking it’s been about two days.” Then Kyle replied, “Shut up, mom. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” And he gave a snorty laugh, without looking up from his videogame. Kyle is 10 years old.”

From Healthyplace Blogs:

Parenting Resource on PsychCentral :

…”When children do become flooded with outside influences, Payne writes, two major problems arise: kids can suffer from overexposure (too much grown-up stuff), and they are highly vulnerable and easily impressionable.  A few sad effects of all this marketing, Payne tells us, is the eighty percent of kids who value being rich (over any other life aims, such as helping others), and the fourteen percent of eighth graders who have had at least one drink at a party in the last thirty days. The role of the gardener then is not just to “root out invasive species,” but to fertilize good ideas. This includes things like asking your tween, “Who are you being true to?” “…


[photo credit: texting teen boy by Andrea Demarco/Dreamstime]


About Communications

Communications and Social Media @ Sequel-Pomegranate Health Systems
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