A few years ago I was talking with a child therapist who had been in practice for twenty five years, but she didn’t have her own kids until she had been in it for fifteen years. What she said confirmed what I had long expected: “Everything I taught was from the books I was given at school, and after having kids of my own I realized that it was all wrong.” That’s fun isn’t it? For fifteen years she had been teaching things wrong because she had been taught by so-called professionals who had taught who knows how many other child therapists. That’s a lot of bad advice being shared. Like so many others, she was teaching the material that has raised the millennial generation. From my experience with those born after the early 90s (being raised with the internet), there are a handful who are harder on themselves than even I was at their age (which is crazy when I’m a recovering workaholic), but the vast majority struggle to have drive and commitment. This is a problem I keep hearing from employers who have those under thirty regularly calling in sick and/or not showing up to work at an alarming rate. Toyota in Cambridge is even giving incentives for long time employees not to leave because the younger generation can’t be trusted. In fact, a few years ago I was asked by someone to pray for his friend who needed to find a job to support his wife and baby, and when I mentioned Toyota was hiring, this person told me the friend worked there, but quit after a month because he didn’t like it. What? How can you pray for a job when you had one and let it go? How can you quit a job because it’s too hard without a replacement, especially when you have a family? I know I’m “old school,” but the current trend is leading the few good workers to be overworked and burning out as they compensate for the slackers.
Considering the therapists, educators, and social workers of the last thirty or so years have taught parents how to raise a weak and spoiled generation, I think it’s time we stopped listening to them (unless they’re like the therapist I met who’s completely changed her approach after realizing how wrong she was), and get back to looking at what the parents did to raise those who are thirty to fifty years old. Our generation was way better. Sure there are differences with cell phones and technology, but some of the basic principles are very transferable. After all, it was these parents who first encountered video games, increased TV options, and video recording, while dealing with a number of recessions.
My parents weren’t perfect, but they were ultimately pretty great. Looking at what they did, here’s what I can learn:
- Family time: My parents made sure we had regular family meals together and the occasional family vacation that connected us and created memories we could reminisce about as adults.
- They had clear rules: My parents had some pretty lame rules like I couldn’t say “dork” or “fart”; I wasn’t even allowed to say “pregnant” until I was in high school, but their rules were clear, which made them easy to follow and, to be honest, it was fun to try to break them and use “naughty” language when they weren’t around. Yea, I’m a dork, and I may or may not have just farted.
- They disciplined: My dad’s rule was fantastic: Three strikes. We got three warnings and then a bigger punishment. We learned quickly not to get to three, and there was no question who was in charge.
- We had chores: As far back as I can remember I was dusting furniture and pulling weeds. My parents had three kids and we all had to help no matter how old we were or how much we protested. Partly because of this, all three of us kids developed fantastic work ethics.
- They said no: I used to beg my parents for an allowance, but they always said no, which led me to getting a job cutting my neighbors lawn at eleven. They hated saying no – like all parents – but they couldn’t afford it and knew a spoiled child is rotten.
- They sacrificed: For the first chunk of my life my mom was a stay-at-home mom, which was amazing. There’s something truly wonderful about coming home to freshly baked cookies and a mom who wants to hear about your day. We were always tight for money and my parents never had the nicest clothes or cars, but we had a lot of love.
- They made sure their relationship was healthy: My parents had a great relationship. They never fought in front of us and never yelled at each other… which was impressive when my dad wasn’t afraid to yell at us kids.
- They were parents first: My sister is currently best friends with my mom like my mom was best friends with her own mom. When we were kids, however, that was very different. A parent isn’t supposed to be a best friend until the kids have grown up and developed more of a sense of independence and equality. Too many parents today worry about being a friend first, but a young person needs an authority figure who’s in control and can protect them, which helps reduce anxiety for both parties. This also meant my parents kept some things to the grownups as they didn’t use us as their venting board.
- They let us fail: I failed my first level swimming lessons. Yup, I failed the easiest level possible because I was afraid of getting my head wet. I was a bit of a princess, but after that I became the top swimmer in my class and soon got bumped up to be with my brother again. My mom didn’t fight for me to be with my brother; she let me fail and work through it, which made me stronger.
- They had community: My parents collected good people as friends between neighbors, work, and church, which reinforced their ability to be good parents and have more good role models for us.
- We belonged to a community: Being part of the church was the best thing for us growing up because it taught us how to sing, gave us morals and sense of belonging, got us doing community work, helped us make friends outside of school, and gave us good role models like our youth pastors.
- They gave rewards: As little kids my parents often took us twice to church every Sunday (I don’t know how they had the energy or time for that). After the morning service we went to my Nana’s for waffles (amazing), and after the night service, they bought us donuts, which was the highlight of the week (yes, I was a fat kid)
This week may you consider the great things your parents did that helped you become as good as you are.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people