How many times have you heard a statement like, “that is just the way kids are” or “teenagers are just like that”? It is usually in response to parents talking about some behavior or attitude that a child has demonstrated recently. I regularly hear parents spout this type of irrational thinking in my office as a way of either avoiding the fact that their child is not being appropriate or that they truly believe that what used to be described as poor behavior is in some way “normal” for their children. Now, if what we mean by “normal” is that it is common place today, then that is correct. If however, what we mean by “normal” is that this behavior is how a child should act or what behavior should be acceptable today, then we are way off. What is defined as “normal” today is nowhere close to healthy. We have come a long way in what we have accepted as OK behavior from our children and that decay has shifted in concert with what we have accepted as OK in our culture and entertainment community.
How many times have you thought …” I would never have talked to my parents like that” or “My parents would never have put up with that when I was a kid”? If you are over 40, you know exactly what I am talking about. When I was growing up I was not allowed to say things like shut-up, fool, or stupid. Forget about ever cussing. The average parent today can identify several behaviors in their children that they never could have gotten away with or would have even tried when they were growing up. The truth is; we were afraid of our parents. No, this does not mean that we thought they would abuse us. We did however know that something significant would happen and we were not willing to take that risk. The “normal” child today is not afraid of their parents.
Here is another example of the different view of the “normal” kid. How many kids did you know when you were in school that were suicidal? How many did you know that had gotten pregnant or that cut themselves? I ask this question all the time of parents and the answer is always the same, either no one or very few. Ask this question of the “normal” teenager today and they will give you a list. Is it really true that so many more kids are stricken with mental disorders today …….. or have we just stopped preparing our children for the rigors of life? There has never been a time in our lives in which our children have feared their parents less, or in which our children have been more fragile …… the two are related.
I heard a comedian recently say that “children do what they are allowed or taught”. What a brilliant statement. The difficulty we have today is that we often allow without teaching. Why is that? In my office the most common reason I see is that parents are scared. It is kind of ironic. Instead of children being afraid of the parents, the parents of today are afraid of their kids. Actually, they are afraid of losing a relationship with their kids. We are often so concerned with maintaining a relationship with our children, that we do not parent them. We have confused the end goal. Our role as parents is not to build relationships with our children; it is to prepare them for life…..the two are not the same.
Take a look at what “poor” behavior you are putting up with from your “normal” children today. Is it in line with what you know is right …… because most of us do know what is right.