I have posted about this general theme before, but I have had more reminders about the topic recently. I was definitely resistant to this belief when I was a young parent, but there really is quite a bit of evidence that adults are responsible (at least partly) for the behavior problems of children.
I often hear teachers complain that children are disrespectful in the classroom. They talk when the teacher is trying to lecture. Every week I am exposed to adults that continue to talk while the pastor is leading the congregation in prayer, when the choir director is giving instructions, and when my boss is trying to lead a staff meeting. My first thought is “how rude”. My second thought is “it is no wonder that our kids behave the way they do.”
I’m not coming to this topic from a position of sainthood. I can be rude, thoughtless, and careless too. My parenting practices have not always been stellar. I’ve talked negatively about my children’s teachers, gossiped about people, talked down to others, and failed to take action when I probably should have. I’ve also done all of those things under the close scrutiny of my children. This is a fact that I am certainly not proud of. Hopefully they didn’t see this as my primary mode of dealing with the world.
In our media-driven society they also had quite a few other unsavory models for adult behavior. On television children who are sassy, rude, and break rules are everywhere and that behavior appears to be acceptable. With that sort of modeling, I have to say that it isn’t the kids’ fault that they are exhibiting so many behavior issues.
While I firmly believe in therapy and medication for children with psychological and behavioral problems, I also believe that such measures are not likely to ever be enough if the adults that children are exposed to can’t learn to control themselves. If we want caring children, we must be caring adults. If we want respectful children, we must be respectful adults. This is more than superficial respect. Children are smart enough to know the difference. It is not enough to act, we must be smart, respectful, caring, or whatever we desire for them to be.
I am fully aware that some children have problems that are not the direct result of parenting practices. Some children have brain abnormalities that also contribute. As I mentioned earlier, our children have many role models other than parents. As children get older they also have an increased share of responsibility for their own choices. However, on a societal level I stand by my assertion that the adults are responsible for much of the state of our youth today and we must do something about it.
Over the next few months I hope to offer some suggestions about how to turn this around in your own home, church, neighborhood, or more globally? Any suggestions?