Kids today

May 22, 2015

I don’t really know for sure the answer to the following questions but they are interesting to mull over. Have young people always thought that they know better than older people? Have they always been immature? Have they always been more radical? Have they always thought that youth would never leave them? Have they never known that becoming “old” is right around the corner?

I’m ashamed to say that I remember some of the confrontations between myself and my father when I was in my mid teens. I’m embarrassed because of the naiveté of youth and the fact that I was part of that just like most young people are. I vividly recall a few arguments I had with my dad over whether the U.S. should have dropped the Atomic Bomb on Japan. Imagine a 15 year old who wasn’t even shaving yet trying to tell an adult who lived through the horrors of WW 2 what should or should not have happened. I should add that this has no bearing on what you may or may not think about Hiroshima or Nagasaki and the events of 1945, it has everything to do with the thoughtlessness and frankly egocentrism of youth. I mean I’m pretty sure that when I was 15, I was right about everything. Mark Twain said something like, “When a boy turns 12, seal him in a barrel and feed him through the hole in the side. When he turns 16… close up the hole.” I’m sure there were occasions when my dad was ready to get out the barrel.

Is the “independence” of youth in our day “different,” or “worse,” or “better”… or what? Do you know what I mean? Some say that “things are no different than they have always been. Kids are kids.” Does something in your gut say to you that that might not be quite right? Mine does. Not that the basic principle is different, but the destructive tendencies of young people seem to have grown out of control. Does a week go by now without some report of a young person killing another person? And I don’t think saying there is more news coverage now, really addresses the issue. I do think that things related to youth are “worse” than they have ever been in human history. I know that I am painting with a broad brush but…

I don’t know how to speak about this without using the phrase that I grew weary of as a kid: “When I was young…” Seriously, when I was young we were certainly disrespectful of adults on occasion, but there were actual consequences for that disrespect. I absolutely was all about myself too often, but I would have been told in no uncertain terms about my “attitude.” It was pretty clear to me as a young person that the world for sure did not revolve around me. Without question I spoke to my parents in ways that I should not have… well only on those occasions when I was looking for a slap across the face. (Whoops did I just say that? Oh my! Corporal punishment… how old fashioned can I be! Let me clarify and say I am not an advocate of “everything can be corrected by ‘beating’ kids more.” My problem is not so much with methods of discipline. My problem is more with NO DISCIPLINE.)

The truth is, the mess we find ourselves in as a culture with our kids has taken decades to develop. It will not go away easily… if ever. And maybe the biggest problem is this; we adults are just plain selfish. And our kids are selfish. And their kids will be selfish. When the Bible talks about “loving others” it means a “self sacrificial” kind of love, i.e., “not selfish.” We’re not good at that. And we don’t want to be good at it. Discipline of our kids is hard. It takes effort. We don’t have the energy or the inclination. So we allow ourselves and our kids to be enslaved by the culture. If you’re saying, “No I don’t,” how naïve you are! If your kids leave the house, or watch television in your house, they are subject to the whims of billion dollar industries that are designed to influence them… and they do.

So what do we do? Frankly I’m not really sure. But I would suggest this. If you are a parent I would encourage you (with your spouse if applicable) to sit down this evening and make a list of the values you want to develop in your children. They will not adopt your values and certainly not Godly values on their own. Nor will they just “pick them up” from you. Some intentionality is required. After struggling through your list, begin to ask this question: What needs to happen in order for them to adopt these values? It could be that radical changes are necessary. See, this is where the difficult part comes in that we just don’t want to know about. Might it mean doing things that you just don’t want to have to deal with? Maybe.

This is all very distressing isn’t it? Sorry. How about I leave you with a funny story from the Bible? It’s a story found in 2 Kings 2 and it’s about the prophet Elisha. He was traveling from one town to another and a group of kids begin to tease and heckle him and basically act in a disrespectful way. Well, how about you read it…

Elisha Is Jeered
23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.

Oh my gosh… what a knee slapper! 42 kids mauled by bears because of their disrespect. Oh wait… maybe that isn’t so funny.


3 thoughts on “Kids today

  1. Hi Bill,
    Here’s my take: kids are about as rebellious as they have been in my lifetime. But this is largely an American cultural issue. I don’t see it in other countries, where family and age are prioritized far more highly than in America, which celebrates individual achievement. One of the biggest differences that I see is that so many of the young are putting off marriage and children for more years. The biggest problem I see as a whole is the declining lack of equal opportunity for all.

    My kids are all good, now that they are in their 20s, and I am sure your kids and the children of most of your friends have turned into responsible, good and productive people, just like their parents. The few kids I know who went off track are those who had essentially no parents and those who fell into drug addictions in their teens.

    On the larger society – the phenomenon of young people killing young people – there are segments of the people who are no longer in the social compact of agreeing to govern and be governed. This is the fault of every American – those who dropped out of governance and those who permitted and abetted in the withdrawal from authority. When there is no social compact, power is taken by the strongest / those with the most guns and the least conscience. Men form into groups that attack each other, and every killing must be avenged by a retaliatory killing, because the people do not agree to submit punishment to a recognized judicial system. Look at gangs in America, tribes in Papua New Guinea, the former Yugoslavia, the Rwanda genocide, and on and on. That is what happens when there is no governance.

    And in my mind, much does start with the family. Parents must be present. Violence as habitual response needs to be rooted out, starting with violence within the family (husbands on wives, parents on children). And I am not talking about a slap on the face. Think what Adrian Peterson did to his 4 year old. He thought that was normal, because that is how he was beaten as a small child.

    OK, sorry it’s so long. Most of my job involves these issues so I have strong opinions.


  2. Thanks, Bill. Good ruminations. I have heard it said, “When I was fifteen I was amazed how little my parents knew. At age 35, I was amazed how much they had learned.”

    I gave a lot of grief to my parents, too. I think I stayed a know-it-all until well into my thirties. Ever since, I’ve been a “know-a-little”.

    Christopher Fay
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    Homestretch has earned many honors including the Governor’s Best Housing Program in Virginia Award, the Blue Diamond Award from the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce for Outstanding NonProfit, and awards from Leadership Fairfax, Volunteer Fairfax, and the Washington Post; and Homestretch has been selected three times for inclusion in the Catalogue for Philanthropy. Homestretch is a member of the United Way and Combined Federal Campaign.

  3. I help coach Josh’s baseball team and I am still amazed at the attitude of many of the kids toward each other as well as the adults, especially the lack of respect toward the adults. As you said, when we were young, we never would have dared to speak that way to someone. Our parents would have been told about and we would have been lectured about it. Now, if one were to say something to the child, one could almost be certain to get a lecture from the angry parent about how WE spoke to THEIR child. For many, it’s no longer about “right”; it’s about “me” and my feelings. The standards, attitudes, and morals of the baby boomer parents and earlier generations is definitely ancient history. And the problem continues and gets worse …….

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