First off, let’s start with a clarification. I’m not a parent. I can’t even begin to imagine how HUGELY difficult your job is. You are responsible for the care, nurturing, education, well-being, health, and upbringing of another human being. For the next 20 years or so… you will not stop. You will barely sleep. You will never get to do what you want to do. You will oftentimes be forced to give up your happiness, your interests, and basically, your life, for this little tiny human that you are now tasked with raising. I can’t even begin to imagine the enormity of that responsibility. I mean… I have a cat… and there are days I can’t even remember to feed him. So, I get it. I do. I get to help with your child’s education for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, and I’ve seen you in the halls… harried, bleary-eyed, and oh-so-tired. I get it. I can’t fully grasp what you’re dealing with, but I appreciate it and respect you oh-so-much for what you are doing.
That being said… I’m seeing a troubling trend from where I stand as an educator. Granted, I’m not in the trenches with you… I’m simply on the sidelines. But as I reflect on this past school year… there were 4 areas that genuinely concerned me with regards to most children today.
- Coping Skills: So few kiddos today have coping skills. They literally fall apart when they’re told no. They will beg, barter, and negotiate until they’re blue in the face rather than be forced to accept a simple, “no”. And when those negotiations fail, they will fall apart. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen kiddos throw themselves prostrate on the floor, kicking and screaming, completely unable to deal with the fact that they did not get their way. They will cry, and scream, and throw things, and hurl insults, and quit the game, and blame others. Why? Because they didn’t get their way. Please. In the name of all that is holy… teach your kiddos to deal with disappointment. PLEASE. Teach them that they won’t always get their way. PLEASE. Teach them that disappointment is a part of every day life. PLEASE. Arm them with the coping mechanisms they need to be able to deal with life’s ups and downs. PLEASE.
- Empathy: Once your kiddo has mastered that life skill, maybe… in between soccer practice, scouts, homework, bath time and bed, you can teach them some empathy. So few kids today know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. I have never met so many students confused by the concept of, “How would that make YOU feel if someone were to do that to YOU?” Have you ever asked a child this question? Usually, you’re met with blank stares or looks of complete and utter consternation. “Wait… what? How should I know how the other person feels?! I’m not them!” It’s a foreign concept. Understanding that their actions have consequences and that their words and decisions affect others? Whew! That’s a doozy to teach kiddos. But, if I could feel empathy for the last Cheerio left over in my cereal bowl when I was 8 years old (Okay, maybe I felt a little TOO much…) is it really asking so much that children these days at least consider how other people feel before rushing headlong into a decision that will affect not only them, but those around them? I mean… is it?
- Do Unto Others: And then… you know… if it’s not too much to ask… because I get it… you’re busy… You missed an important deadline, your boss is breathing down your neck, and you’re THIS close to getting that promotion, but… IF you can squeeze it in… can you maybe also teach them the whole, “Do unto others” thing? I mean, really… it should go hand-in-hand with the empathy lesson. You can kill two birds with one stone. I mean… the Golden Rule. This should be pretty basic. I mean… do they want to be screamed at, hit, kicked, spit on, mocked, ridiculed, and sworn at? Because… if they don’t… then maybe that will make them stop and think before they do it to someone else. Because they’re doing it to everyone. People they don’t like, people they DO like, their best friends, even their teachers and coaches… and yes… shamefully enough… even you. It’s not okay. They’ve had an off day? That’s where those coping mechanisms come in. They can’t treat people with utter disrespect and expect to get away with it. They need to treat others as they wish to be treated. It’s that simple. Just… BE NICE. It’s not rocket science.
- Thankfulness: Lastly, and if it’s at all possible… maybe in between getting them up, showered, dressed, their hair combed, their mouths fed, and their backpacks loaded… can you maybe squeeze in a lesson about how FORTUNATE they are? To maybe stop and think before they throw that perfectly good peanut butter sandwich away because the peanut butter is TOO gooey? Because there are kids even in their own school that don’t have enough food to eat… who will go to bed hungry… who could have really used that peanut butter sandwich. Instead of throwing out their toys, maybe they can donate them. Maybe you can take a Saturday and visit the local Salvation Army, or pack a meal for Feed My Starving Children. And if that’s not possible… teach them that they are HUGELY blessed… just by having a roof over their head and a warm place to call home and a safe place to go to school. Have them list off all the ways in which they are blessed. American children are so used to having whatever they want whenever they want it. This is not the norm in the rest of the world, and it makes the rest of us look like greedy, out of touch, jerks. Which too many of us are. Teach them not to be wasteful. Teach them to be thankful. Teach them that money isn’t everything. And teach them that wants are different than needs. If their needs are met, than that’s enough to be thankful for all by itself.
Listen, I get it. Who am I to give advice to parents on how to parent? I’m no one. Again, I haven’t a clue as to how difficult your job is. But I’m one of the few people responsible for educating your child, and I’m seeing major red flags. This next generation isn’t going to do so well if we don’t get our ducks in a row. I can only do so much. I can teach them these skills, and build on these skills… but if there isn’t reinforcement at home, what’s the point? And I get it… there ISN’T ENOUGH TIME. I know. There’s not.
But there’s time in the car when you drive to the store. And right before bed. And while they’re brushing their teeth. And when you’re tying their shoes. Squeeze in these conversations where ever you can. Your children need them oh-so-much… and they’re depending on you to teach them.