Herald Journal Columns
April 17, 2006, Herald Journal

When will ‘these days’ end?

By LIZ HELLMANN
Kids, these days.

Ever run into one of these delightful little bundles and wonder, “what is the world coming to?”

Of course, the ones who are actually little bundles haven’t changed much from a hundred years ago.

It’s pretty much eat, sleep, and bodily functions for that crowd.

But the older kids, the ones who can talk? If they are our future leaders, I beg the present ones not to retire.

I am not very old, but teenagers, and even toddlers, seem to be becoming more and more self-centered and disrespectful.

It’s like adolescent behavior has not only been declining the last few decades, but is on the fast track to destructive social conduct.

Think of it as our nation’s children sliding down a giant slip-and-slide into a puddle of sludge. Wherever their behavior is taking them, it’s not good – but they are going to get there fast, and have fun doing it.

I’m not talking about teenagers being teenagers, whatever that means. (I never found validity in defending actions by defining a word with the same word – like “boys will be boys.”)

But children, students, and even pre-schoolers are afflicted with a growing problem of disrespect.

If you don’t believe me, watch an episode of “The Nanny.” Bring ear plugs, as the little buggers’ sole communication tool is screaming at the top of their lungs.

So, why do children find it so easy to disobey and question authority?

I hate to blame the parents, but I also hate that they aren’t doing their job.

I worked one summer at a day camp, teaching elementary through junior high students soccer, softball, basketball, and volleyball.

It was a lot of fun. But, in every group, there were at least two or three children who did not want to listen.

When you have to keep the attention of 10 five-year-olds, and teach them how to kick a soccer ball, you don’t have time for misbehaving.

You play the bad guy and discipline them a few times, whether that be making them sit out, or go and talk to the camp director.

Generally, the behavior gets better as the week progresses because the kids get sick of getting in trouble.

However, I still had trouble understanding why there were so many kids with behavior and listening issues.

I refuse to believe it is because they all have learning disabilities and incurable short attention spans.

It all became clear to me one muddy afternoon when a mom came to pick up her son from soccer camp.

It had been raining earlier in the morning and all the children were muddy, especially her son.

He was a cute little guy, with some not-so-cute muddy shoes.

As she drove up in her shiny, newly washed Lincoln Navigator, she yelled at him to take off his shoes before he got in.

The little mud demon just smirked as he climbed up on the hood of his mom’s car, straight up and over the windshield, and dropped down into the car through the open sunroof.

What followed was disbelief, anger, and thoughts of what his punishment should be.

At least that’s what I was thinking, as the mom simply laughed off her son’s one-man demolition show.

As she drove off, I thought maybe she should have opted out of the fully loaded package for her SUV and bought some parenting lessons.

But that’s the way it seems to be with “kids, these days.”

This is not a new phrase – and I’m curious to know when “these days” will be over. Judging by the number of people who have uttered these words in their maturity, “these days” span for generations.

That’s not to say that all children are bad and disrespectful, and if they are, that it’s completely their parents’ faults.

But that situation is certainly not a rarity these days (there it is again).

Who of us can’t think of a time when a child was being disobedient, disrespectful, and even making us feel uncomfortable in a public situation – all because their parents couldn’t control them?

Whether it is a 5-year-old knocking toys off a shelf in a store, or a teenager mouthing off to a teacher, these incidents happen more frequently than Disney can come out with another animated movie.

These things are a public nuisance, but they are more than that.

Parents, if you aren’t properly teaching your children respect, it’s not just affecting people like me who have to wrangle with them in summer camp.

Discipline isn’t about shouting at them, because if you are shouting, who do you think is in control?

Discipline is about teaching your kids what is appropriate and what isn’t. Then, enforcing your words with consequences if they do what is unacceptable.

It gets me every time I see a parent or guardian telling a child to “stop, or we’re going home.”

The kid will keep on doing it, and the parent will start taking them to the car. A few quick tears and a promise to behave, and they’re back. It’s not long before the whole cycle starts again.

Consequences don’t mean anything if they are never followed up on.

It’s when I see those situations that I understand why kids don’t listen to camp coaches or teachers.

Obviously, not all children are like this. Parents have busy, stressful lives, and many of them do a good job of raising their children.

But for each parent who doesn’t discipline their child, don’t think you are doing them a favor by being the nice parent.

You are crippling them for life, because even though you think they are cute, I guarantee their bosses, spouses, and colleagues are not going to dismiss their poor attitudes, selfish reactions, and disrespectful conduct as cute.

Discipline isn’t about being the bad guy, it’s about making sure that your kid doesn’t turn into one.


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