Parenting Then And Now. . . Is It Really All That Different?

When I look at this image I see 4 people who are older or younger than each other but I can’t tell what they are thinking or how they see the world they live in. I wonder if any of them stop to think about how our world has arrived at it’s present state. What has changed? Why is it so much different from the way it was say 50 years ago. One answer would be how we each parent or parented our children. Now the youngest one pictured in this image hasn’t had any parenting experience and very little life experience but it is what it is and so she has little to compare her present life situation with. Her life is ‘normal’ for what she knows.

Technology has certainly changed many things in terms of how we spend our time. We encourage and expect our kids to grow up much quicker now than before because progress has sped up our living experience. But we need to understand that the brain is a much slower developing organ these days than the human body. Don’t get left behind is the panicked message that most parents send their kids. The pressure to grow up fast and assume responsibility creates a great deal of stress that kids aren’t equipped to handle partially because they have never been taught how to do that. Parents aren’t equipped to do that work because THEY were never taught. It wasn’t necessary during their childhood or at least never acknowledged or spoken of and schools wouldn’t dream of touching that topic in school (check out my web site at jimcloughley.com for more information on what our kids should be learning at school). Over the last two generations thoughts and actions have changed from teaching our children about how to be good citizens to striving to get all they could  and to take care of themselves first. Compassion is not a word that is familiar to a great number of kids today. Bullying, gang violence and mass murders are a visual symptom of this.

As often happens the pendulum of common sense swings so far to one side or the other and does so very quickly. Consequently human beings find it difficult to keep up with the pace of change. Rather than seek a balance between rapid change and thoughtful consideration of facts and experience we jump on the first idea that makes a modicum of sense and go with that forgetting or passing by all the wonderful lessons and ideals from our pasts. These are things that worked for us and helped us navigate the world we lived in when we were growing up. We were guided by the concepts of respect for others and especially our elders, generosity of spirit, accountability for our decisions, hard work and the idea that we were not entitled to anything. If you wanted something you worked for it. Not every kid gets a trophy just for showing up. His/her self esteem will survive such a tragic event.

Today, many parents are at a loss to figure out how to parent their children successfully. I suggest we consider applying the lessons we learned that made a critical impact on the quality of our lives as we grew up and combine them with some of the great messages and some of the new ideas that are based in solid successes of the day. Instead, this generations’ ideas about how to parent have come from reading books and listening to the so called experts. We depend more on what others tell us we should be doing to parent our kids responsibly and not from what we believe, intrinsically, to be true for us.

True that life has changed and we need to change with it. That is not in question. The question is HOW will we do that? Consider how we create and nurture relationships. This simple act has changed dramatically. There are many more common law relationships and many more single parented homes directed mostly by women (exceptional growth of father-less homes) then there were a generation ago. Many parents struggle with just saying “no” believing in the “democratic” parenting method of kids making their own choices. There are times when there should be no options. Instead we, as parents, might need to remove any options until we feel the kid is capable of understanding and accepting the responsibility of making a poor decision. That is called accountability. A weak judicial system needs to be more responsive and creative when dealing with juvenile delinquency. Many children don’t seem to respect others property and physical welfare. They, not their parents, need to pay for the damage they create to society. On and on we go.

As parents we don’t want to risk damaging our kids self-esteem or dent their precious little egos. Yet the incidence of teen suicide creeps higher every year. There is growing evidence of depression at much younger ages and very mixed views on the roles that are presented by women and men.

Our “modern day” parenting approaches and ideas don’t seem to be working well. Perhaps we need to consider what we are NOT doing to parent our children responsibly and return to a time when we held our kids responsible for their behavior. A good place to start I think. There were consequences but also lessons learned that were often the difference between trouble and learning experimentally–a powerful and long lasting way of learning. Just a thought.

Anyways, that’s how I see things today.

All the best, Jim

Comments will find me at:    jim.lifechoice@gmail.com. Please pass this article along to friends and family.

This image (considerable.com) was used for education, research or criticism purposes only. I derive no financial benefit from the use of this image.

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