Parents have always been giving it their best shot as there’s really no perfect way to raise kids. However, there’s a huge gap in behavior standards between kids of nowadays and the older generations. The entitled attitude is at an all-time high, loneliness is a real problem, depression is more alarming than ever before, and discipline is almost non-existent.
The most obvious answer is the change in time and era, but it’s a lot more complex than that.
Is it fair to blame it all on the different methods of indulgent upbringing or the dynamics of modern society? What’s really out there for kids these days? What are the things that hold their attention and fill their days? The answers to these questions could lead to a better understanding of why many children may have so much and yet they act as though they have nothing. This generation is being fuelled by a “world against me” mentality and it’s a scary reality for most parents who just want the best for their kids.
According to renowned occupational therapist, Victoria Prooday, author of YourOT.com, a sharp decline in emotional availability has been widely observed in children these days . A major cause of this norm is over-parenting. Many parents are so consumed with keeping their kids happy that they tend to let the kids raise themselves. The children are practically making all the big decisions and there’s barely ever any adult opinion worth considering. In fact, nobody even offers it because it’s always assumed the kids won’t be happy with it.
“What good are we doing them by giving them what they WANT when we know that it is not GOOD for them?” Prooday wrote in her viral article. “Without proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep, our kids come to school irritable, anxious, and inattentive. In addition, we send them the wrong message. They learn they can do what they want and not do what they don’t want. The concept of “need to do” is absent. Unfortunately, in order to achieve our goals in our lives, we have to do what’s necessary, which may not always be what we want to do.”
Case study – 10-year-old Timmy
Most often, a sense of entitlement is stoked in people when they believe they deserve better treatment from others without merit. Entitled people make demands in an annoyingly arrogant way, especially to people who owe them nothing.
In this case, you owe your children care, love, provision, and support, but an entitled child will always believe they are being mistreated because they are not getting what they are “convinced” is the best. Raising entitled children is tough because there’s no on/off switch for this behavior. Wherever they go, with whomever they deal, entitled children are never satisfied and will always expect more than is permissible .
This kind of behavior comes with a significant dose of loneliness, and in truth, our children deserve to experience life in a better light.
Think of Timmy, a 10-year-old with an unhealthy video game addiction. Timmy spends an average of 10-12 hours a day on the screen and this has badly affected his interpersonal and academic skills. When Timmy is supposed to be asleep at night, he’s under the sheets playing a loudly violent and brightly blinding game on his iPad. When his mother tries to confiscate the gadget, the boy would act out so badly that she’d be left with no choice than to return his toy.
Timmy will spiral into a video game withdrawal whenever his parents try any meaningful form of discipline. The boy has no real friends because he’s so accustomed to the virtual world that he cannot function properly in the real world. He is lonely, but he doesn’t realize it.
In Timmy’s mind, his mother treats him unfairly by taking away his play gadgets. His heart rate is often higher than is normal for a kid because he spends so much time witnessing extreme violence on his screen. One day, while Timmy plays mindlessly on the TV, sweating profusely despite the AC blasting normally, his little sister accidentally steps on a wire and the screen goes dark. Angry and pumped full of adrenaline, Timmy angrily yells, strikes his sister, and storms off to his room with his gadgets. This is the only way he knows to express his anger at her mistake.
His mother later storms in and after a good “pep talk”, which never makes a dent in his resolve, she confiscates his gadgets. Timmy’s world crashes down in a second as the only source of joy and company he knows has been taken away. His heart physically clenches from his pain, and his sense of entitlement kicks in when he feels his mother should have apologized to him for his sister’s mistake. His hands are shaking with rage as he wonders why he is so unfortunate all the time. His video game is gone and now there’s nothing to do other than to do manage his terrifying emotions in a sad, lonely world.
Timmy is a representative for millions of kids out there today, dealing with the same unfathomable emotional dynamics fuelled by over-indulgence from parents.
What can we do to raise better, well-adjusted children?
Reduce their use of technology – it’s okay to be bored sometimes
Parents who use technology as free babysitting are inadvertently setting their kids up to be dangerously addicted in the future . We’ve all seen kids cry uncontrollably and throw major tantrums whenever their gadgets are removed from their hands, even at the dining table. Parents are often worried their kids may get into trouble when they are bored and since technology is such a solid distraction, it’s easy to let them play and surf to their hearts’ content.
In reality, there’s nothing wrong with being bored. Busy parents tend to run themselves haggard while trying to keep their kids constantly occupied. Sometimes, let them be bored. Boredom actually paves the way for productivity and may encourage them to find useful things to do for themselves. Passion is often ignited by boredom, as long as the kids are still supervised. This way, you can get more things done while allowing your child to productively engage their imagination.
“Families [overly] centered on children create anxious, exhausted parents and demanding, entitled children. We parents today are too quick to sacrifice our lives for our kids. Most of us have created child-centered families, where our children hold priority over our time, energy, and attention.” ~ American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Encourage physical and real-life play
The advent of social media, countless virtual communities, and dozens of messenger apps has made it imperatively difficult for kids to get together physically and relate with one another. Older generations may fare better emotionally because our brains were wired in the real world. Kids these days communicate over virtual chat rooms and see each other through video calls. Who still bothers to send their kids out to play hopscotch or Double-Dutch? Do parents still set their toddlers up for playdates? How often do you hear the sound of children screaming happily outside and playing tag?
Children only get their playtime on screens these days, and while it’s inevitable with the change in era, it’s destructive and excessive. Teens are addicted to Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and TikTok, applications that promote low self-esteem and a sense of entitlement in kids. They are often convinced their looks and lives are not up to some imaginary standards. Countless children would eventually develop a distorted sense of self-worth when they see people living purportedly luxurious and glamorous lives.
Kids need real social skills to thrive and survive in a competitive world. Being able to relate effectively with other people paves the way for a successful future. Encourage your kids to spend time outdoors and with real people.
“Leadership requires you to be socially adept. In fact, your social skills may be just as important as your intelligence when it comes to achieving success,” ~ American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Responsibility builds better individuals
It’s never too early to teach a child the concept of responsibility. Many parents are convinced that responsibility defeats the whole idea of childhood. However, children are more impressionable at this stage and it’s the best time to inculcate them into helpful values for adult life.
Responsibilities do not always have to be chores. Telling a four-year-old to do something as simple as pouring a cup of water on the tiny window plant every day is a responsibility. Asking your teenage to lock up the house every night is a great responsibility. These children would grow to understand what it feels like to have an obligation, and instead of being terrified of responsibility, they’d be eager to prove themselves. It also helps children to develop a sense of purpose and high self-esteem.
Make time for your kids
Busy parents can’t spend every hour of the day looking after their kids. However, it’s important to make sure you connect with your children daily. Set out intervals to talk with them and converse honestly whenever you can. Perhaps at rising time in the morning, at the meal times you can share together as a family, right after you return from work, and before bedtime. Ten minutes of reading to your toddler or discussing with your teens and pre-teens actively contribute to raising well-adjusted individuals. It also builds a solid foundation of trust between you and your kids. They’d grow up knowing that they can always share anything with you at any time.
Insist on specific bedtimes
Irregular bedtimes have been severally linked to behavioral problems in children. Children who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be badly-behaved than children who sleep at specific bedtimes every day . The young mind needs 8-10 hours of sleep daily (excluding occasional naps) to grow and function properly.
Parents would have to effectively supervise their kids if they are not already used to sleeping at exact bedtimes. Ensure that your child is not under the sheets playing a video game or reading a novel when they are supposed to be sleeping. They need adequate sleep to function properly the next day and for all-round growth. Over time, they’d fall into the schedule and would require minimal supervision at night.
Limit your technology usage as a parent
You can’t spend two-thirds of your day hooked on your device and expect to raise well-adjusted individuals. A survey of over 6,000 children by AVG Technology reports that 32 percent of kids feel unimportant due to their parent’s excessive use of their phones . The children were all aged between 8 and 13 and were selected from a wide range of countries and regions.
These online distractions prevent healthy interactions with your kid and limit the amount of time you have with them in a day. Also, kids learn by example and would eventually learn to squander all their time on their phones as well.
You can set a technology use schedule for yourself and your children. Limit your screen time to 2 hours a day at most, against the 6 to 7 hours most of us already spend on our devices. Set up schedules for your kids as well, at least 1 or 2 hours daily, and let everyone know they have a responsibility to stick to the routine.
Teach by example and always be there for your kids
If you want your children to be hardworking individuals in the future, let them see you or the same now. If you want them to be great spouses, treat your spouse with love and kindness even in the children’s absence. If you want your kids to take care of you in your old age, take care of your aged parents now. If you want them to be decent, kind, and caring people, let them see you channel the same qualities toward others. Be who you want your kids to grow into.
Finally, always remind your children that no matter how huge or insignificant a problem might be, you’re always there to listen to them and help them work things out. Always tell them how much you love them. Normalize conversing openly with your kids. Give them a chance to talk and make conscious efforts to be a great listener. Let them share their opinions no matter how inaccurate these ideas may be. Your conversations will change their minds over time.
- Victoria Prooday. Why are our children so bored at school, cannot wait, get easily frustrated and have no real friends? Your OT. https://yourot.com/parenting-club/2016/5/16/why-our-children-are-so-bored-at-school-cant-wait-and-get-so-easily-frustrated Retrieved 18-08-2020
- Kelsey Borresen. 7 Signs You’ve Raised A Spoiled Child (And What To Do About It). Huff Post. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/signs-raised-spoiled-brat_l_5defe128e4b0a59848d172c6 Retrieved 18-08-2020
- UCL. Go to bed: Irregular bedtimes linked to behavioral problems in children. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131014093859.htm#:~:text=Summary%3A,ability%20to%20regulate%20certain%20behaviors. Retrieved 18-08-2020
- AVG Now. https://now.avg.com/digital-diaries-kids-competing-with-mobile-phones-for-parents-attention Retrieved 18-08-2020
- Becky Mansfield. Why do kids seem to be more entitled & lonelier than generations before them? Your Modern Family. https://www.yourmodernfamily.com/less-patient-more-lonely/ Retrieved 18-08-2020
- Michael Vlessides. Alarming Rate of Suicidal Thoughts in 9- and 10-Year-Olds. Medscape. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/926878 Retrieved 18-08-2020