Recently I ran across this comment on a friend's wall:
"Technology is making this generation of children SUPER BRATS!"
Ironically, this statement was posted on a status update that was lamenting the frustrations of working with adults, not kids. This juxtaposition caused me to think about some of the other possible reasons for the potentially troubling behavior of kids and teens. My thoughts wandered around until they arrived at the possibility that the problem with kids is the adults in their lives. That thought didn't pop up out of the blue. My kids have previously had some experiences with adults that have caused me to consider how adults influence the behavior of children.
One of my kids suffers from anxiety and occasionally has panic attacks. Since she is a teenager, and out and about in the world, I am not always around when it happens. She has friends who have been very understanding and who have supported her through panic attacks.
Some of the adults she interacts with have not been as kind. An adult I don't know once told my daughter she was no longer allowed to have anxiety in the building where she takes classes. The adult went on to say that she thought my daughter was having anxiety attacks to get attention and it was a distraction for the other kids.
A few days previously a fellow student's mother told her that if my daughter said she was having a panic attack, or struggling with her anxiety, this girl should say she was busy or ignore my daughter.
Several parents, it seems, had been discussing my daughter and decided that her behavior needed to be dealt with. These parents did not talked with me, they did not expressed any concern over my daughter's struggles with anxiety, they never bothered to find out the facts. Instead, they took it upon themselves to undermine her friendships, discourage other teens from offering her support or comfort, and went so far as to cancel planned outings so their children wouldn't be with mine. One of them went onto her kids' facebook accounts and blocked and unfriended my kid, as well as blocking her number on their phones.
All this because my child struggles with anxiety and instead of taking the time to understand the issue, instead of seeing that anxiety is a problem for her, the adults decided she was the problem.
After that experience I got to thinking about kids, particularly teens. Those much maligned members of society who are theoretically thoughtless and bratty. Those teens who had been supportive, compassionate, and kind to my daughter.
I mean really, what is wrong with kids these days? And I came to the conclusion that what is wrong with kids these days is the adults in their lives.
Most adults don't take the time do find out what is going on in the lives of the children they know. Adults fail to develop meaningful relationships with teens, the up and coming members of their community who will soon be working, voting, and paying taxes. When parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, and any members of society who regularly come into contact with children and teens, fail to invest their time, energy, talents, and knowledge in the lives of these young people the whole community loses out. When adults fail to interact with children and teens in a compassionate, kind, thoughtful, and respectful manner they shouldn't be all that surprised when children and teens fail to exhibit those very behaviors.
Granted, many adults didn't have those behaviors modeled for them when they were kids. And when adults were bullied when they were growing up perhaps we shouldn't be surprised when they start to bully the children in their lives, having the advantage of size and power. I touched on this reality in my post Bulling Begins at Home.
But we adults need to do the work to overcome our own issues so that we can express compassion toward children. In order to give more time and energy to the children in our lives and communities we need to step away from our computers, put down our cell phones, and stop focusing on ourselves quite so much. We need to be there for the kids in our lives, supporting them in following their dreams, listening to them and really hearing what they have to say, loving them for who they are, and modeling positive ways to interact with other people.
The next time you start to say something negative about a kid or teen, or kids and teens in general, stop for a moment and think: What do you gain by being negative? Where are your feelings really coming from? What is the root of the behavior you are finding so deplorable? The behavior of kids doesn't happen in a vacuum, it happens for a reason. Generally that reason is in some way connected to adults.