Monday, January 17, 2011

The Next Generation -- The Old Lady Post

Last week on the news there was a report about college-aged kids and their desire for praise and compliments being stronger than the desire for sex, drugs, or alcohol.   I thought that was so crazy that they craved positive attention so much that it was a driving force in their lives.  It got me thinking about what possibly led up to that.

I've had some interesting conversations lately with a friend about this and related subjects.  These are some of my thoughts, and I may show my age quite a bit in this post, but I think it's important to have this dialogue in our homes.  Do we want to raise our children to be adults that are driven by the outward praise of others to feel good about themselves? 

First, when I was a kid, I wasn't really involved in sports.  I did ski and I played clarinet.  I was a cheerleader in 5th grade.  I got good grades, at least until high school.  I do not ever remember an awards ceremony for anything.  I don't remember my sister getting trophies for sports.  We just participated in different things.  We either excelled or we sucked.  That pretty much determined what we went on to do later.  We learned how to fail and how to get over it and move on.

My kids have all played soccer and even when they didn't score a single goal all season, the kids on the team all got a trophy, especially when they were little.  I think this is the most ridiculous statement to our children -- "Thanks for participating, and just for doing so, we are giving you a trophy."  What does that say to the teams or children that truly excel, the ones that really earned the trophy? 

At the risk of sounding like an old person, I see so much laziness in many young people today.  My younger kids all have awards ceremonies at the end of the school year.  They are very long, as the parents listen to all the awards of all the kids.  Some of these awards are truly praiseworthy, and others, frankly, are unbelievably stupid.  It's the participation awards that get me.  Why are we praising these kids for having the opportunity to participate in an activity?

Right about now is a great time to mention that my children are so far from perfect, and half the time I have no idea what I'm doing as their parent.  But I look at so many young people and know that I don't want my children to take what they have for granted.  I don't want them to feel like their value or self esteem comes from what other people think of them.

So this leads me to the question, is it a good thing that we are praising them for every little thing they do?  Will they ever learn how to deal with criticism?  Will they learn how to fail and how to succeed -- both with grace?

This friend I was talking with this week was telling me about a guy that her husband had hired to help him with a project.  He was 22 and insisted that he couldn't work at certain times (his girlfriend didn't like it), along with a number of stipulations for his boss!  Can you imagine telling your boss all the things you require in order to work for him?  He obviously felt "equal" to his boss, even superior.

This leads me to a side discussion concerning informality in our American culture.  Children being treated as "little adults."   They are not adults.  And children calling adults by their first name, in my opinion, is wrong.  It does not encourage respect and has a very negative effect on the respect children have for adults, or the lack thereof.   I could never have imagined calling my friends' mothers by their first names as a child.   That would have been incredibly disrespectful.  Even this migration to adding "Miss" in front of a first name, it just shows that we are more lax than we used to be.  It puts children and adults on the same level.  I understand with close family friends, but I believe it should not extend outside of that.  Before we moved to Texas, the schools my children were attending in NM were beginning to start using the "Miss" in front of their names instead of the formal "Mrs." and their last name.  I am relieved that our school district is "old-fashioned" and the children are even encouraged to use "ma'am" and "sir." 

Since I'm on a roll... 

Men don't wear suits to work anymore (OK, my husband does, but many are not required to anymore).  My dad would never have allowed his employees to not wear suits to work.  He was bothered by the shift to business casual and felt it was a huge mistake.  I think he was right.  He was a CPA and so is my husband. 

People wear jeans to church, like they are going to a BBQ or to the movies.  Dressing up shows respect.  Respect for our ourselves, our work and for our Lord.  Why do we have to be so relaxed about everything in our lives?  It spills over into disrespect for the things that really matter.

I also worry about this next generation not being able to communicate.  The texting and Facebooking is the main way my 14-year-old son communicates with nearly everyone.  We have many conversations about it, but it's hard for him to put it down.  I worry about addiction to these devices.  It's rude and disrespectful to answer a phone call or text while talking to someone else, and yet, we all do it. 

We all have so many distractions demanding our attention all the time.  We become consumed with me, me, me.  Not just the next generation, but all of us.  Fortunately, the older we are, the more we remember how it used to be.  This generation doesn't know how it was.  It's up to us, the ones who believe that more formality in our culture was a good thing.  Respect.  Dignity.  Thinking outside ourselves. Who's with me? Or is this what turning 40 does to you?


Robin said...

Haha oh man! I am glad to not be worried about all the things that are on your mind. I am already stressed enough just trying to be a mom , wife, daughter and friend. whew!

Mai said...

Very interesting! I am 10 years older than my sister and and she seems to have this 'the world owes me something' attitude. It really annoys me that she doesn't think I worked hard for what I have achieved. She thinks she'deserves' the same without working for it!
Thought provoking post thank you for sharing :) x

Diana J. said...

Good post, and I agree!!

An example from my life: I was valedictorian of my high school. So were 15 other kids. It was totally meaningless, and I was furious about it, because I felt that the honor had been degraded into nothing by giving it to so many instead of the one (whoever it was) who really deserved it. Since I graduated, it has truly turned into a joke, with 30-50 "valedictorians" per class.

Preach it! :)

Mama Sticks said...

You might find the books "Nation of Wimps" and "Nurture Shock" interesting. I found them fascinating because they both covered what you're talking about: the next generations dependency on praise. There's even some evidence that this need for praise is leading to higher levels of depression and suicide in teenagers/young adults.

What the authors recommended is not praising our kids as much, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. And praising them for things they can control i.e. congratulating them for trying hard, not for being smart.

Joe said...

I had a father recently tell me he felt horrible that he and his wife didn't give their now 22-year-old daughter more praise when she was 18. That was the age they found out she was ADD. I thought to myself, "More praise and self-worth? Has he seen the myspace and facebook pages of teenagers today?" That's the last thing they need is self-worth and confidence-they have tons of it. If I see one more picture on facebook of a teenage girl taking a picture of herself in the mirror with a cell phone camera, while in a baby Gap t-shirt that's two sizes too small, I'm going to throw up. What kids need are parents who parent and not parents who are friends. They also need parents who give them names spelled correctly...the way it's been for the last 150 years. It's absolutely pathetic that we'll have a generation of kids spending more time spelling their names to teachers, than the time it takes to write it down. Jennifer is not Jennipher and Madison is not Madisyn and when you take parts of two names and make something that sounds like it came from a Teletubby episode, you look illiterate. Quit trying to be cool and act like a parent. My wife and I aren't cool, that's why we have good kids. Join us!

Krista Eger said...

My husband and I have done a lot of discussing on this topic.
In New Jersey where he grew up (I don't know if this exists anywhere else) they had this thing called the gifted and talented program and he was in it. He was told over and over that he was smart and he learned that he didn't have to work in school because he was born smart. Then when he got to middle school where homework started to count for your grade, his grades started to drop and he thought it was because he wasn't smart anymore. This of course was completely untrue. He has always been great at test taking, but terrible at doing homework. That is just one example of how praising has been a huge problem. It's definitely still a huge problem because even though he does great whenever he takes a college class, he still struggles with the fear of failure. We have decided that we are going to direct our praise to our kids with compliments on what they DO not how the ARE.
My husband has been doing a lot of reading about the lasting effects of child abuse and really the things you mention here go hand in hand with that. The fact is that less people are abusing their kids these days this causes that disrespect for authority that you talk about because it's not beaten into them. Although, the proper respect for authority should be taught, the fact that this occurs is a good sign that these kids haven't been abused and are able to think and act for themselves. I believe that good behavior should be taught, not beaten into. When people haven't been abused, they also have more sensitivity toward others and are less likely to support war. I wish I knew the book my husband read on this because it's all about the way to end war in this world is to stop child abuse in any form.
I'm 24 so I would be in this group of people you're talking about. I never thought about awards ceremonies like that before. I was in a dance class for several years and I received my share of participation awards. They didn't make me feel special, I just thought they were stupid. They had no value at all whatsoever. I don't think participation awards really give kids a sense of accomplishment.
In my opinion, I think that it's all about how parents raise their kids. Posts like these are great because it gets you to look at what you are teaching your kids. Parents are much more important to the way people view the world than anything else. The way the parent's react to the awards ceremonies and praise is more important than the awards themselves. Because of what my husband went through, to be honest, he needs praise so much that he can't even do things sometimes because he is so afraid he won't get that praise. I've never thought of it like that before. He is just so afraid of failure because of the praise he got as a kid. It's so hard to raise children the absolute right way. Every generation has something wrong with them. It is easy for me to look at other generations and point out all of the things they do wrong too. You just have to do your best to learn from every generation and try not to make the same mistakes.

Krista Eger said...

Also, the depression talked about in Mama Sticks' comment is SOOOOOOOO TRUE! It really sucks. The worst part is that my husband recognizes it, but the effects from the praise directed at the WRONG thing last forever. I think the thing I struggle with the most is having so much anger towards my mother-in-law for doing that. She didn't know she was doing it so I can't really be mad at her for it, but I just wish she wouldn't have! My husband even knows that's why he has depression, but it's not something you can just flip a switch for and magically it disappears. It's absolutely awful!

Laura said...

I must be unique. I'm 24 years old, and I don't think I truly experienced the "awards for everyone" phenomenon until my later years in high school. It was in orchestra--my orchestra director started giving everyone some kind of award (who attended the banquet of course). It was so stupid.

I do have something to say about calling adults by their first name. I lived in a west Houston suburb for most of my childhood, and we called my friends' moms Miss proceeded by their first name. I never saw it as disrespectful, but the moms still had almost a parent-child relationship with us. But I do agree with you for the most part. It seemed normal for the girls in YWs in one of the wards I lived in to call our leaders by their first names. I was shocked.

My husband has a sister who is almost thirteen, and oh my word. She has an iPod touch and plays games on it all the time, and she's always playing on my mother-in-law's laptop. It worries me. She's also in a gifted talented program, and she lets it go to her head. She *is* smart, but she takes the whole thing too seriously. But then again, I have issues with GT programs anyway.

slw7920 said...

I agree with most of the article; only thing I don't agree with is the "men don't wear suits to work anymore". You dress for the job. If you're a mechanic, it would be moronic to wear a suit to work. If you're a computer programmer, you don't wear a suit to work. If you work in IT help desk, you don't wear a suit to work. If you're a cook or a busboy at a restaurant, you don't wear a suit to work. You dress for the job.

T said...
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T said...
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T said...

I am only 27 years old and I agree with most of your post.

I do think that kids these days are being rewarded for doing things that they SHOULD be doing anyway. Why should I buy you a toy for minding your manners, when you should be doing it anyway? To me it is spoiling them to think that they will be rewarded for mediocrity. Then they grow up and live in the real world and realize that they are going to be just like everybody else if they are just being mediocre. Mediocre is not rewarded when you are older so why should it be now?

Another thing I don't agree with these days is the automatic acceptance onto sports teams. Not that long ago when I was TRYING OUT for swim team, I had to actually have potential to make the team, and I didn't just get put on relay teams until I was actually worth something to my team. I don't get this everybody plays concept that has been invading our kids' schools and teams.

I do believe that you can get more results out of praise than you can get out of criticism, but that does not mean that a child's life will be devoid of criticism. Just make sure you tell them what they are doing right more than and as well as what they could do better. Otherwise what are we coaching them to do if we don't tell them, "I'm sorry you didn't get the award this time. You _____ really well, but _______ was a better choice because_________ ... Next time work on ... and you may get it." Maybe then we might instill some work ethic in our kids.

Recently we were at my husband's Christmas party, and sitting next to this table of people. One of them kept yelling out "BONUS". Last year there were no Christmas bonuses and this year there had not been any mention of a bonus, YET the table of AIAO (Adults in Age Only) felt entitled to one. This is a gift, don't count on it. They don't have to share squat with you but you are willing to ruin everybody elses' good time in order to demand your bonus. How ungrateful can you be?

Now as an adult that went to private school most of her life, I can say that I do not agree with the how we dress thing. We were forced to wear uniforms every day of the week and it did not make us anymore respectful. Same concept as a suit. Now I work in a field where most of my guys are covered in pipe dope and mud, and I am expected to crawl under their desks and in their Skoal covered floorboards to fix their computers, sorry not doin that in a dress or a pants suit. I agree with slw7920 about dress your job. Also I while I don't condone going to church in PJs, I don't think that God cares much how you look when you worship, just that you ARE worshiping. I have been guilty of a nice pair of jeans and shirt myself.

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Mrs. Obie said...

This is a great post. I praise my 4 year old for things that she does fantastic, like for instance, when we're doing practice math problems and she gets it right. I think it's great, and praise-worthy, since math isn't something that most kids to until at least kindergarten, maybe not even 1st grade.
What I don't praise her for is things like doing her chores. She's expected to do those things, and she doesn't get praised for it. She gets a "thank you for doing what you were told" or "your room looks much better than before, isn't it nice to have a clean room?".
Like another commenter said, kids are walking around with a "this world owes me something" attitude, and it's got to go.

Great post and you're so right!

Carol said...

I am 22. I see the results of this praise to death cycle in myself. I have even felt like my parents love has hinged on the praise they gave me. (Which I am sure would break their heart if they knew that.) If I didn't get praise then I didn't do well and there for I must have failed.

We do not praise my daughter. (She's only 2.) That's not to say we don't encourage her or tell her when she does well.. but.. for example the other day I was at the play place at the mall and I heard a mom say "Good job sliding." Well.. its gravity. All the child had to do was not fall off the 2 ft slide. We lived with my parents for a time and my mom would say Good job _____ or Good ______ after a time it was very apparent my daughter was doing these things for the praise. Not because she wanted to do it.

I cant help but feel that others of my generation feel the same way I did. (Although I will admit to being a sensitive person.)I think my generation may be more afraid to fail than anything else. We have been praised and been put high up on a pedestal and can do no wrong.. I mean we got trophies for not scoring a goal all season. We need validation. Those bonuses tell us we are doing well. Ever since we were young we had someone tell us we were doing well even if we were doing bad. Now suddenly we exit high school and nothing. I imagine in others as well as myself that created a bit of insecurity. So we then make ourselves equals to others. At least that's my take on the situation. From my very limited standpoint.

BN said...

I have a few thoughts on this post. Actually, it touches on topics that are dear to me and often come up in conversation with me - so I have a lot of thoughts on it. I'll share only a few though.

First, I think we would all would do well to remember, as we complain about the younger generations, the parts that we played, and continue to play, in raising them. We reap what we sew.

On the subject of praise and the havoc it wreaks upon a developing child's psyche and future as a healthy, well-(enough)-adjusted member of a functioning society, I suggest you read the works of Alfie Kohn, "The Continuum Concept" by Jean Leidloff, and Jane Nelson's writings on praise vs. encouragement.

On formality, I was raised calling my parents, aunts and uncles by by their first names. Now titles like Auntie, Uncle, Grandma, Grandpa, and Cousin are terms of endearment, not mandated "respect."
However, we were also taught that different people had different opinions on that subject. As an adolescent and teen, I would ask my friends parents what they preferred to be called, and most of them did not choose Mrs/Mr. (to show my affection and respect for them, I called multiple sets of friends parents by "mom" and "dad.")I think that is far more respectful than assuming they desire old formalities. It takes alot more than ordering a child to call someone by a title to instill feelings of respect for others.

While I absolutely agree that children are not little adults, I also believe that they do inherently deserve the same level of respect we show adults. This includes showing respect for their opinions and preferences, and compassion when we aren't able to reasonably allow those preferences. It also includes, in my opinion, not pandering to them, not being patronizing or condescending, not manipulating them through bribes(praise) or threats. It means truly treating them the way we would want to be treated - with respect.

Becky and the Boys said...

You are right on target and I am often the only mother who does or doesn't do what every other mother seems to be doing, but the funny thing is that my kids rarely even question what I do. I would never have even thought of this stuff if it wasn't for John Rosemond, the author (particularly his book Raising a Nonviolent Child). In the 50s, no one thought anything of the majority of pickup trucks parked at high schools having loaded rifles visible in the window during hunting season, and there sure weren't school shootings. With modern parenting there is school violence all the time.

All the other parenting "authorities" preach about "building self esteem" in children and all that garbage that leads to the self-absorbed, lazy, sometimes-violent, demanding, dependent boobs of today - so many of whom are still living "at home", because they are too sorry to go out on their own and struggle and be poor like their parents did for years before they were around or remember.

Christina Pond said...

I agree completely! I hate those 'participation awards'. In life everything has ups and downs. I hate all this PC stuff. Sometimes we lose, and getting over that makes us stronger creatures!

traveling mom said...
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traveling mom said...
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Coastkids said...

well said! I am in your 40 'something' demographic, have 5 kids ranging from 11 to 27 and the older kids see what you describe all the time.They hate it and have to fight it with their peers a lot. We have taken to calling it the "attitude of entitlement" and it is endemic, and pervasive. Totally bizarre. I do think the next generation will reap the sad results, perhaps they already are. Starting from the home up is the only way to work a change that I can see, so, much appreciated this post.

Kimberellie said...

I can't say I agree with you on most points here. Well, getting an award for everything IS ridiculous and DOES make less of those who have truly excelled.

But I don't think using first names puts children and adults on equal footing. Nor do I think dressing up equals respect. You can be equal respectful (or reverent in terms of church) in a suit as you can in jeans.

I think that these outward signs, though they may be indicators of declining respect in our culture, are not the cause of this decline.

Have you read "Hold onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More More than Peers"? The author (a child psychologist) traces the decline in respect (among other things) to the increasingly "peer attached society". In other words, teenagers and children have stopped respecting adults because they are no longer "attaching" to them but instead are "attaching" to one another. Essentially a case of the blind leading the blind. Anyway, I think you would find it fascinating.

As for texting, FB, etc: oh yes. Couldn't agree more. I don't find anything more rude or irritating than this! Esp. when it is adults doing it!

much respect, and love your blog: Kim

Rita said...

I wanted to point out that in the South, it is the common and respectful term to call someone Miss and their first name. Mrs is always accompanied by last names. It is important to ask which title is preferred because lots of folks are here from areas other than the South. Dad was from the North and we were required to say Mrs. last name.
Otherwise, I agree with the post!

Andy said...

Ma'am you need to get over yourself and adapt.I'm not saying lose the old stuff, simply teach it but don't force it. It's good to have it handy in case of a 2012 or some other year but right now handling a computer and technology is vital. The apocalypse isn't going to come in your lifetime so you shouldn't worry about it. And how about putting you in a business suit all day? You might as well be Amish. I like Amish people because I'm into the whole Native American/Wild West thing. And as for church: you wear a nice blouse with jeans that's perfectly appropriate. What about the people who like western clothing? That's also proper dress. Tucked in with boots. Respectful.

beccalouise said...

I am 31 and I agree with everything you said. My parents, grandparents, and youngest brother are all addicted to texting and apps on their phones though, so it does seep into the older generations! My phone is a piece of crap that doesn't support apps and is usually behind the couch where my toddler has thrown it.

beccalouise said...

I also want to respond to Joe's comment. I had to laugh out loud when you talk about the girls taking pictures of themselves in the mirrors. But I want to add that is really not a result of confidence of self esteem. I think that is an outward show of something that is really lacking. Girls with true self esteem don't post those ridiculous pictures and try to look sexy on the internet. I noticed when my younger sister started posting pictures of herself like that, it was just the first red flag of some big problems and going down the wrong road.