This title is a general statement that is used to express the overall problem with our culture (at least in the GTA), and not meant to insult anyone specifically… minus one person; you know who you are (that’s my attempt at being funny and not actually being accusatory). In fact, I have met some excellent modern-day parents; they’re mostly immigrants or farm people, but there are still some great parents out there. If you didn’t know, I am a parent who is not an immigrant or live on a farm, so I’m happy to accept that I’m part of the generation of wussy parents that I refer to as “The Servant Generation.” This group comprises of the Post-Baby Boomers until somewhere in the early Millennials (born late 80s) who have a serving problem. Having a servant heart is often considered a blessing, but in this case, it’s a bad thing – a very bad thing. Wanting to help people is great, but it becomes a problem when you become a doormat, which is what a lot of parents have become to their kids. After the Boomers there became this “I need to do everything for my kids even if it means I’m their servant” kind of parenting that saw discipline as evil and correction as ruining children when not doing it has actually done the opposite – it’s increased anxiety, laziness, and entitlement.
Looking at my parent’s generation, the Baby Boomers, they respected their parents. When Boomers became parents, they were able to transition to being respected as parents themselves. Looking at the Post Boomer to early Millennial generation, overall, we respected our parents, but then we missed the transition to being respected as parents ourselves. Instead, a lot of new parents continued being in a serving role. We serve our kids like we served our parents; it’s as if we’re addicted to serving and/or trying to earn love. We’re constantly walking on eggshells afraid of allowing our kids to struggle in any way and/or being judged by other parents. It’s like not giving your kids everything and letting them be upset is bad parenting when it is, in fact, the opposite. The result? Entitled kids and burnt out parents who often end up divorced or miserable because they’ve prioritized their kids’ comfort over a healthy marriage and family. And it all goes back to being a parent is a serious responsibility; it is a role we shouldn’t take lightly, and it is a role that others, especially our kids, should respect – it’s not easy.
It’s like Post Boomers have lost the idea of becoming a grownup and seeing ourselves as being on a different level than kids where we are called Mr. or Mrs. Last Name. If you want to argue grownups and kids are on the same level, have a forty year old ask out a sixteen year old and see how that goes (such a gross idea). If the forty year old asks out a twenty year old it’ll be legal, but it’s still gross because as someone in their forties, I look back at things I did when I was thirty and wonder what the heck was I thinking because I didn’t have the life experience and wisdom yet. As humans, grownups and kids are equals, but we’re not developmentally anywhere close… and if we are, that’s a serious issue.
This same lack of respect for our differences is rampant in the schools. Today I heard my daughter’s kindergarten teacher say, “Let’s line up, friends.” Friends? Are you kidding me? You’re the teacher. There should be no suggestion of equality there. As a teacher, you should be intimidating. Unless you’re a kid’s performer singing songs with them, calling kids “friends” confuses the term friend. A teacher using it suggests a “friend” gets to boss others around and give grades. No, keep authority as authority. We need respect. Teachers, parents, and kids are equal in their humanity, but we’re not equal in our roles. Don’t believe me? Why do you have to be 18 to vote? We used to recognize that kids are kids and they have a lot of basics to learn and it’s our role to help them get there. And tip: Learning is not meant to be easy or “fun.” Learning is supposed to be a challenge. It’s good to get frustrated once in awhile because it means we’re invested and it makes overcoming the challenge that much more meaningful.
My opening section about respect could’ve been written as “Looking at my parent’s generation, the Baby Boomers, they feared their parents. When Boomers became parents, they were able to transition to being feared as parents. Looking at the Post Boomer to early Millennial generation, overall, we feared our parents, but then we missed the transition to being feared as parents.” What many Post-Boomer parents have missed is you can’t have respect without healthy fear even if it’s the fear of disappointing your parents. Kids should be worried about disappointing their parents just like they should be worried about getting in trouble for doing something stupid. People often use the word “anxiety” like it’s a curse, but healthy anxiety (aka fear) is necessary to be emotionally healthy.
Maybe the problem is we’ve gotten too quick to say things like “They’re only young once,” and “They grow up so fast,” which causes this extra pressure on parents to “enjoy” it rather than just being a parent. A parent’s role is to help their kids become contributing members of society, which involves correcting, disciplining, and role modeling being a contributing member of society. A kid’s job is to be open to learning and to strive to make their parent’s proud. If a parent has it too easy for the kids to make them proud, the kids aren’t going to try very hard, which will hurt the kids in the long run. We need expectations that encourage our kids to try, but not crush them, which changes for every kid.
Here’s a simple truth: Parents shouldn’t walk on eggshells for their kids; walking on eggshells is what the kids should be doing for their parents just like their parents walked on eggshells with their own parents growing up. Now, I’m not saying the floor should be littered with eggshells, but there should be some. When we’re kids, we shouldn’t talk with our parents the way we talk to our friends – we’re on different levels. When the parent is upset, a child should care, especially if the child did something wrong; they should be scared because doing something bad should be met with a repercussion. Kids need to be taught there are consequences for their actions because the world is going to teach them that and it won’t be with love.
This week may you consider whether you’ve been stuck in the serving too much mentality.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)