I’m sitting here watching a re-run of “the Chew” while I feed the baby, and the hosts are all talking about when they were growing up regarding a certain subject–food. Of course. It’s the Chew, after all. Specifically chocolate milk (it’s the chocolate episode). The hosts are all talking about how when they were kids they drank water and how sugary drinks were an occasional treat, and not served every day in the school cafeteria.
Every now and then, that post gets passed around Facebook about what childhood was like when we were kids. It talks about how we played outside until the street lights came on and how our toys were simpler than they are today and yada, yada. I think that post comes from my generation. I graduated high school in 1998. I had a video game console, but we played with other things more often. I would get on my bicycle in the morning and be gone for hours. I didn’t have a cell phone to check in with. Kids got in fights at school and weren’t charged by the police. I shared a bedroom and for a while, a bed with my younger sister. And we didn’t have to practice active shooter scenarios in school, ever.
Adults are always telling their kids about “when I was a kid.” Heck, my husband and I do it, too. A few days ago, I was telling TJ that I didn’t get to pick the radio station in the car until I was the driver. He had been asking us to change the station to a “good station” instead of the 90s station that Rob and I like to listen to sometimes. I told him how when my mom was home, I didn’t get to pick what we watched on television. We had one television and it was hers, and I don’t remember harassing her about it, either. It was just the way it was. (We didn’t change the station for him despite his complaints.)
But my point is this. Yes, things were different when we were kids. My mother told me how her childhood was different from mine. I’m sure her mother told the same thing to her.
What good is complaining about it, though? These are YOUR kids. If they play all day on the game console, what good does it do to tell them, “When I was a kid, I didn’t have a game console. I played outside all day.” If your kids are drinking soda at school, what good does it do to tell them that you didn’t have that option when you were in school, you had to drink milk or water? If your kids are talking back, what good does it do to tell them that you got slapped across the face if you got fresh to your parents? If your kids are playing inside on game consoles, if they’re drinking soda or chocolate milk every day, if they’re talking back to you, or any other undesirable behavior–whose fault is that? Someone is providing them with those things or allowing the behavior.
If you don’t like something about your kid’s attitude, don’t tell them about how it was when you were a kid. Just like when we were kids, we didn’t care that mom and dad walked uphill both ways to school in the snow wearing socks. It meant nothing to us as we were waiting for the school bus. It didn’t affect us. We didn’t have to walk to school in the snow. And my kids don’t even have to walk to the bus stop! They can’t take the bus because we’re taking them to a school that’s out of our district, but when they complain about the amount of time it takes to clean the snow off the car, I remind them they’re lucky they get a ride at all rather than having to walk to school in the snow. But why bother telling them? They don’t care. Just like the kids before them didn’t care, and just how their kids will not care as they’re Face-timing into their classrooms from home 15 years from now.
If you don’t like the behavior, don’t write paragraph after paragraph about what it was like for you. Your kids aren’t going to read it. They certainly aren’t going to have an attitude adjustment if they did.
“OMG, mom. I didn’t know you only had a house phone when you were a kid… I feel much more grateful for my smartphone now.”
You might feel good about being able to buy your kid their first car. But telling them about the beater you had to purchase yourself and how well you loved it doesn’t make them appreciate what you did for them or encourage them to take better care of it.
You might feel proud that you can take your kids on vacation every year. But will they appreciate the vacation more because you tell them you never went on vacations growing up?
It might feel good buying your kid brand-name clothing from the mall, but does your child appreciate it more because you told them you wore hand-me-downs and did back to school shopping at discount stores?
You might feel like a good parent as you usher your kids to music or to sports practices. Do your kids appreciate it any more because you tell them you weren’t allowed these activities? You had to help care for family members or the home during that time.
Hey, the only people reading that stuff posted online about our childhood is us, and we’re all just nodding in recognition of all the similarities in how we were raised. So if you don’t like it–do something different. Take the console controllers away. Don’t buy them Grand Theft Auto. Get your kids a bicycle and let them ride it. Pack their lunch for school with white milk or water. Leave the cupcakes in the grocery store until it’s their birthday. Let them buy their own car. Don’t give them a choice of what to watch on tv. When they talk back, punish them for it. Don’t tell them how you were disciplined–discipline them! Learn to say “no.”
There is a difference between discipline and abuse. Even though junior is hating his punishment and is screaming like you’re smashing him in the face with a hammer, threatening to call child protective services on you when in fact all you did was take their game away or not take them to their friend’s party–you know you’re not abusing him. You’re giving your child value and discipline, which they’re going to need–just like we did–to grow into healthy adults who can manage their own lives effectively. Be a confident parent. Be decisive. Just because you got smacked with kitchen implements doesn’t mean it was right, but it doesn’t mean now you should avoid disciplining your kid altogether because of it. Commiserating on the Internet or on t.v. about how much different our childhoods were isn’t helping anything. It’s not adding any value to our children’s lives or our society.
I challenge you to make a change. Stop complaining. Stop doing nothing. If you don’t like something–change it.