Did We Spare The Rod & Spoil A Generation?
Whether you are talking to educators, Human Resource specialists or just parents of teenagers and young adults, the view is that this generation of youngsters is the most spoiled, entitled, anti-authority cohort in human cultural memory. Given that this is the first generation that has been largely free of the threat of corporal punishment, it is rather inviting to suggest that we have spoiled the children by sparing the rod.
As seductive as believing in that causal relationship might be, the impact of the anti-spanking movement is likely to be far more nuanced than appearances might dictate. There are other factors at play that have never been experienced by any other generation, beyond just the absence of physical punishment.
For example, this is the first generation that has grown up with 24/7 interconnectivity. Prior to this layer of humanity’s ascendance, the telephone, like the television, was a group object; shared by the whole family. It was centrally located and few conversations were private. Now, however, this generation sees their phones as a necessity. Being able to connect with their peers, privately and constantly, has made peer groups far more powerful than family units in shaping behavior and attitudes. It’s tough to teach morals, when getting a young person’s undivided attention is practically impossible. The lure of an incoming text is too tantalizing for young folks to delay responding to and whatever conversation was in progress is immediately halted.
Another factor that likely impacts on the entitled attitude of so many of our youth, is the change in public schools that stopped rewarding excellence and began focusing on kids’ self image. Praise was doled out so abundantly to these children, it’s no wonder they figure they are all that and a bag of cheezies, too. No one, not their parents, not their teachers nor even their friends ever told them that they had to work to be special. They already were. Isn’t that precious?
I recall, for example, when my wife was teaching T-ball to a team of yard-apes. She ended up in a heated discussion with another parent when she called a player “out” who had failed to get to first before the base-kid touched the bag with the ball in his glove. “How can we teach these kids the basic rules of the game when no one is allowed to be “out”?” she asked. However, rather than having a shouting match in front of the kids, she went with the majority of parents and the children dutifully scored nine runs per team per inning, every inning and the game ended in a tie.
Where is the life lesson in that? The adult human experience is a series of contests and competitions that pit people against others for better jobs, better mates and better lifestyles. There are winners and losers and the first lesson we all need to learn is that losing a game doesn’t make you a loser. The point of losing is to understand your mistakes so you can do better next time. If you have done nothing but win fixed games throughout your childhood, how can you know how to succeed when faced with the brutal honesty of the real game of life?
Those that adhere to the belief that the lack of spanking is the reason for this generation’s poor work ethic, general lack of respect for elders and other perceived attitudinal ills, rarely acknowledge the positive impact of the strap-free paradigm. Surely teaching young people that violence is not a reasonable response to any life situation is a good idea. Experts all agree that physical abuse of children is a vicious cycle perpetuated by abusive parents. The abused kids see violence as a viable method of correcting behavior in others and become abusers when they have children. Taking spanking out of the equation means these kids are growing up to find alternatives to physical persuasion to make their point.
It could be argued that the spank-free paradigm is already yielding positive results, even as the older generation rues the negative ones. For example, it appears this new generation is more caring toward one another. Hugging is acceptable as a greeting no matter what genders are involved and acceptance of previously shunned minorities, such as the gay community is becoming much more commonplace.
Whether or not the “no spank” rule is at fault for creating the over-weaned generation, it will be interesting to see how this singular group will manage the world we have left them. Societal observers have even made the case that it will take a generation who distrusts authority and resists conformity to break the hold of the corruption and greed that seems rampant in the current corridors of money and power. Maybe this generation of young people who expect more for their effort than the filthy rich wish to share, will be the ones to find the Holy Grail of a just society. This “Grail” being a more balanced and fair system of sharing the wealth that feeds a hungry world but doesn’t take away personal responsibility or fail to reward hard work, effort and excellence.
As much as the older generation has concerns for their surly, opinionated progeny, the inescapable fact is they are here and there is little we can do about it now. Even if we could now muster the intestinal fortitude to provide our children with tougher love than they received, it is far too late. Given that we could never say no to them in the first place, it’s unlikely we could stomach being that kind of parent now, even knowing the outcome.
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