Mostly whimsical reflections on life
In our parenting quest to affirm the worth of our children, we have created “Me, Me, Me Monsters.”
Amy McCready, author of “The Me, Me, Me Epidemic,” says, “Kids are feeling entitled to have parents do things for them, and they feel like they’re the center of the universe.”
“We’ve come to believe that it’s our job to make sure our kids aren’t bored,” McCready adds. “During the summer, that leads to a nonstop lineup of Pinterest-perfect activities, but it just leaves everybody feeling exhausted and it doesn’t give our kids the downtime they need for their development.”
The result is a generation of young people with inflated expectations and deflated motivation. This can produce a rude awakening when young people get their first job with a non-affirming, bottom-line, butt-kicking boss.
McCready pins much of the blame for over-indulged children on their coupling at the thumb with digital devices. It doesn’t help, she adds, that parents are clueless how to “navigate this terrain.” Kids mistake selfies for self-importance. Parents feel inadequate by comparing themselves with perfect-parent posts on social media.
As an antidote, McCready encourages parents to assign children routine chores, force them to look beyond themselves and allow them to occupy themselves during free time. Easier said than done.
We have so many conveniences today, thinking up chores is harder than performing them. One of my childhood chores was washing or drying the dishes. Now we have dishwashers for that. Another was ironing my own shirts. Now, shirts are wrinkle-free or go to the laundry. It takes a posse to find the ironing board.
Many schools require students to perform community service activities. They provide a modicum of exposure to the outside world, but as often as not, it is a window that kids close as soon as the service is done. They are exceptions that make a real impact on young people, but those exceptions turn on specific circumstances that may not be replicable or scalable.
Free time for young people seems like an oxymoron. They are never free from their phones or other digital devices. Even when they “hang out,” you can witness a group of young people sitting next to each other texting, possibly to each other.
A simpler cure may be regular family dinners that feature conversation along with pizza. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, a lot more gets passed around the family dinner table than green beans and mashed potatoes. When you kid goes away to college, they may actually miss the kitchen table roundtable.
Another cure is showing by example. You want your kid to get off the sofa, never hop on the sofa. You want your kid to sacrifice, sacrifice that weekend golf game. Expect your kind to be considerate, go the extra mile when you don’t have to.
The real difference in the digital age is the end of hypocrisy. Talking a great game without walking you talk will be exposed. Hypocrisy always was hard to hide. Nowadays, it is impossible to disguise. If you want your kids to go in a direction, be the trailblazer, not the wind sock.
As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, I have to admit my life was a whole lot easier than my parents’. They lived through the Great Depression and World War II. I lived through the suburbanization of America, introduction of McDonald’s and Culture Wars.
We can argue about which generation has faced the greatest challenges. But what is unarguable is that every generation faces challenges, many of them newly minted and without instructions in the box.
If we want to point out Me, Me, Me Monsters, look no further than the mirror. It is a human affliction. The entire discipline of economics is based on the self-interest of Me-ism.
We can cluck at Instagrams, mullets and tattoos. Or we can celebrate a new generation that must learn the hard lessons of life through the school of hard knocks.
The role of the coot class isn’t to cluck; it is to coach. Forget planning your kid’s summer agenda and invest time in how you can influence them to grow up into the people they can be.