Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Span of Time

Ever notice how much today's generation of children expect? I mean really expect?
Let me explain:

1)When my brother and I were growing up, a meal at McDonalds was seldom. And we did not ask for it, we were offered the opportunity (and of course happliy agreed!) The happy meal toy was a little plastic trinket and it certainly did not make noise or light up, but we were thrilled with it anyway as I remember. Today, if my children are given something similar, they don't appreciate it at all and expect something different. It is a challenge for parents these days to drive past a fast food joint and not have the kids yelling for something. (little tip, watch the movies 'Fast Food Nation' and 'Supersize Me' and I guarantee that it will be a long time before fast food places get any more of your money!)

2) Almost all baby toys are tricked out and juiced-up to perform for the child/infant while he/she stares in amazement. And then becomes more enraptured with the box it came in. The toys light up, they are programmed to sing all kinds of songs, they play all by themselves, without the assistance (or imagination for that matter) of the baby/infant. Supposedly this is supposed to enhance intelligence at an early age. IS it possible that the growing number of children who have difficulty focusing could be connected to the fact that even as babies they were constantly entertained thereby handicapping their abilities to think. If toys don't beep, chirp, sing, light-up, or require at the very least a battery, it is by many childrens' definition not a toy worth having. In essence--not a toy at all.

3)Children expect and demand the most expensive, name-brand clothing and shoes. They feel entitled to these items as if it is their right as children to simply have them. We as adults are quickly sucked into this because first of all the clothes are miniature replicas of adult clothes and that is just plain cute, and second of all, we want our children to 'fit in'. What does that really teach them though? How does this not perpetuate the media-infatuation with perfect body, perfect everything equals success and acceptance.

4)Children these days think that they need phones. Cell phones. Children as young as 5 and 6 are walking around with phones. I find this appalling in most circumstances. (I realize that I am indeed in the minority with this opinion as well). I really don't think that any child or pre-adolescent needs a cell phone. I can possibly be convinced if the child reaches the age or situation where he/she is going to be walking home from school and staying alone, but even that is a stretch for me to say it is a necessity.
I have a friend whose children have phones and have had their phones for awhile now. They have broken and lost them repeatedly. Yet there seems to be no consequence for it and the phones are replaced, with newer, more sophisticated ones within days at no expence to the kids at all. My 9 year old asked me the other day if he could have a phone. After I recovered from my hysterics and could once again speak, I explained to him that first, he would not be getting a phone while he was still throwing fits in my kitchen on a regular basis, and secondly a certain level of responsibility is required in my opinion for something as costly as a cell-phone. Not to mention that he is only 9. What does a nine year old need a phone for? Food for thought--Why do we think drugs are permeating our schools at an elementary level now? Children are easily contacted by texting, IMing, and cell-phones.

5) Chores/Allowance. When I was younger we did chores because we were told by our parents to do them. Occassionally we received a bit of cash at the end of the week if we had been extra-cooperative or had completed some hard task without complaining. But, we did not expect an allowance until we were old enough to actually realize and appreciate the importance of money. And buddy, we earned every penny of that allowance too. Nowdays children think (and I saw this happen in the store today) that all they need to do is demand that either their parent buys them the item they want right then and there, or the parent hands the money over just because they have asked for it.
Once again, that little sense of entitlement rears it's selfish head. I see parents all the time who feel guilty asking their child to do some work around the house to earn the money, or demanding that their child save some money toard a desired item. Why? When did things change?
I feel that by establishing a work ethic as early as possible that perhaps, by the time our children are grown individuals, they will actually be able to suport themselves and retain employment; essentially become productive members of society. My kids have chores and they don't earn very much money right now. I actually pay them more for good grades than for participating with household chores because I feel that they need to realize that it takes all of us to run a home. We all contribute to the daily mess of living, so why shouldn't we all pitch in and clean up together?

6) Priveledges.The difference in activities for children's free-time. My brother and I played outside. We did not expect to be allowed to sit inside on a beautiful day and play the computer (we did not have one) or play a video game. My computer, the only one in the home, is in my bedroom. The kids only have access to it while I am in there and I navigate them around to the sites where they play games. There are also stringent time limits to comuter gaming and when it is over, it is over. Same for video games. We don't have the newest X Box, Nintendo Wii, or Playstation 3...but the boys do have a Playstation2 and each has a Gameboy. These items are quickly confiscated without hesitation on my part when behavior is inappropriate.

I guess I was just wondering when parents became convinced that we should give our children everything and do everything for them. I feel like I was raised with respect but a lot was demanded from me as achild. I appreciate that and am trying to recreate that environment for my children as much as I can. I do realize that we are in the Age of Technology and children need to learn at an early age the use of a computer...but other than that I think everything else is and should remain icing on the cake--priveleges earned, not expected.
Kids don't need anymore than they did twenty...thirty...forty....fifty years ago. A loving home environment, expectations by which they can challenge themselves to become better people, a parent or parents who are available --emotionally and physically.
They need parents who set boundaries and establish limits. They need to be taught the value systems they will need in the Big World. They do not need mall clothes or a $100.00 pair of Nike' Shoes.

I would love your feedback and any other examples you may have to add.


bubandpie said...

I think people have been making this complaint for awhile. My parents used to tell me that when they were growing up, they had two outfits: one for Sunday, and the other for the rest of the week. (They also had to go to school, uphill in both directions.)

slouching mom said...

Amen. Here's one: Xmas presents. I buy the kids (umm, Santa buys the kids) seven or eight presents TOPS. A few others come from relatives.

We have friends and acquaintances who regularly buy 25 or more gifts for their kids at Xmas.

To that I say, WTF!

painted maypole said...

i think parents are a big part of this... they want more, they want their kid to have more, and then it just escalates. We are trying very hard to not give in to that culture. If you don't buy your kid the thing he begs for at the store, he will realize that begging at the store gets him no where, and will stop begging. At least, that's my theory. It's working pretty well for us so far.

thirtysomething said...

SM--Oh! Yes, I forgot that one...great point! I do hte same thing, sometimes not even that many. I mean hell..they all are broken by the following week anyway, and if they aren't broken, the kids are "tired" of them already.
WTF indeed!

Joy, of course said...

You know what bothers me, (and this may be unpopular) the fact that we as parents are now expected to give up any free time we have toting frantically children to every activity under the sun in the name of their enrichment. Their social calendars are supposed to take priorty over ours. It seems to me that this is just teaching children that the entire world stops to revolve around them. When I was a child, I went with my parents to their social activites all weekend long, no the other way around. Isn't there a balance?

ZEROCOOL said...

Those were the days and growing up in today's society is much more stressful that our times. I have told you how I grew up in the rural town in Malaysia in my blog. Those days McDonald's was never heard of and McD never came to the town where I was raised. It still is a quaint little town but development is slowly catching up.

mitzh said...

I love those times when everything is so much simple. When giving and receiving and being fair were valued.

What you wrote is all TRUE and I agree.

NotSoSage said...

It's hard. We are staying away from battery-operated toys. My daughter doesn't even know what McDonald's is yet (though she's not yet 3) and we have a pact that we will only buy one gift at Christmas (to mark the occasion, rather than turn it into a feeding frenzy). I have doubts that I'll be able to keep her from having a cell phone once she's making her own way around the city, though -it could be a safety issue - but if that's the case, I'm making it a pay-as-you-go plan unless she's calling her parents...

It's tough, though. I think there are people who don't necessarily buy (pun intended) into all this stuff, but there's pressure from other parents and society at large to give your children "the best" (even if you disagree that those things are 'best'). I think it's similar to the way that we intend to be very open and honest about some issues with our daughter, even though I know it will be frowned upon by other parents. As much as we think of parenting in this society as an isolated task, it's still a village. A big, loud, voyeuristic village.

Interesting post, by the way! :)

thirtysomething said...

joy of course--also a very interesting point. It could be said that we join our children's existence instead of the other way around--always rearranging and sacrificing everything for their sakes. There should be a happy medium in there somewhere.

blooming desertpea said...

I fully agree with you - they don't need all the stuff they think they need. In my opinion, if kids get everything they want, how on earth are they supposed to have dreams? We can compare this situation with the one of animals being fed by humans - those animals lose their survival instinct. I am convinced that it is the same with kids.

We make the same efforts as you
- our kids need to help in the household, both of them have chores, and both have to do it for free - the reason is the one you stated: we are a community, we all contribute to make a mess, we all have to help to clean up, as simple as that.
- our daughter received a cell phone on her 12th birthday due to the fact that she had to travel to the city to go to school. My soon to be 10 yr old will have to wait for that privilege until he's 12 as well.
- both kids have an allowance. If they want extravagant stuff, they have to pay it from that. If they can't afford it, they have to save money until they can. By then, a lot of times the wish to buy that particular item has subsides and it showes them that obviously it wasn't as important as they initially thought.