So many mean kids: why parents need to go back to basics

Why are some kids showing disregard for others, society and the laws? What is it that we are doing differently that allows children to think they are beyond reproach? Have kids always behaved this way, or is it really getting worse as professed by many older generation teachers and law enforcers.  Or is it just a by-product of this new environment within which we live?

There have been some mutterings in mainstream media yet again about the role that the policy makers need to play in helping raise our children. Recent studies have indicated that almost 75% of Year 9 students have inflicted some form of harassment on another student. So now we are expected to wait whilst we yet again discuss, argue and employ people to spend hundreds of hours of time formulating what we as a society need to do to stop the kids that are out of control, stop them committing acts of violence, disrespecting teachers and authority, being self absorbed, ungrateful and downright mean.

If we are to continue to bring respected and respectful, compassionate and independent young adults into the world, I believe we need to parent based on these 2 basic elements:

1. Clear, concise boundaries with consequences that enable them to respect you, others and authority, and allows them in turn to respect themselves.

2. Do this in an environment of unconditional love and security.

If we get these things right we give our kids a far greater chance to be the best they can be without having to disregard the laws of society and those laws of compassion and human decency.

It sounds simple and certainly nothing new. Implementing those boundaries and creating that notion of respect can however be one of the most challenging aspects to raising a child and why so many of us seek out help, strategies and others for guidance and empathy. And ensuring each child is raised in a loving, nurturing and secure environment is also not something that will probably ever be universally achieved.

But there are a whole range of other reasons as to why our kids struggle to transition from childhood, to teenager to adult. We are now recognizing some of our more politically correct endeavours may in fact be having a negative impact on our youth.  We praised too much so that reward became so achievable with little or no effort. We have protected our kids from the disappointments of life and encouraged a notion of ‘everyones a winner’ regardless of performance. We have prevented our kids from taking risks, accepted mediocrity and tried to give them full control when their developing brains would suggest otherwise. We have given them privacy, rights and a notion of power that has often left them feeling untouchable from laws that govern.

After I interviewed Dylan last week, I started thinking about what it is that these kids must be lacking in order for them to inflict such cruelty upon a fellow human being.  I could only come to the conclusion that they lacked either or all of those basic principals. They lack boundaries and hence are unable to respect others or themselves, or they are denied an environment of unconditional love and security.

I hope we can go back to basics. Despite all that we have to deal with in terms of a world that is a changing almost daily, we need to remember to apply those basic principles of boundaries and love to whatever challenges we are facing as parents.

There you have it. But of course we already all knew that, we just get confused at times by all the latest policies, strategies and ideals on how we need to raise our kids.

Lets not wait for the next conference to tell the next policy makers to tell the next teachers to tell the next new parents on what they need to do.

Lets get back to insisting on respect, encouraging real effort, igniting compassion and empathy for others and parent with instinct and common sense based purely and simply on boundaries, love and respect.

Do you think kids are meaner today? Do they struggle with respect? Or are we just more aware?



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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Debbie @ Aspiring Mum

    I definitely believe children are meaner and a lot more disrespectful today. Society has changed dramatically in just a couple of generations and it worries me what it will be like in a couple more. I totally agree that society has made it very easy for children today – virtually taking away the rights of parents and teachers with all the political-correctness so that children are now the centre of the universe instead of learning to respect those in authority.

    My husband and I are doing our best to raise kind, compassionate and respectful children through establishing boundaries that are based on unconditional love.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Debbie, and I am sure just being aware of these things helps us raise more kind, compassionate and respectful kids

  2. Catherine

    I also agree that children are much more disrespectful these days. Even toddlers have less respect for authority than they did 10 – 15 years ago, with ignoring directions just the beginning. (I work in an Early Childhood setting.) Primary and high school teachers have to put up with a lot.

    1. Martine

      Thanks Catherine, interesting that you have found a change even in the early childhood setting. I know there are lots of gorgeous kids and teens out there but it does seem to be a general consensus that they are more disrespectful than years gone by.

  3. I am not sure, because I think my teen’s friends are all pretty nice. She says her school has very low bullying, so that’s also good news. But sometimes I hear her being “mean” about celebrities, or groups in society (ie affluent), and she sounds like her dad, whose idea of humour is sarcasm and being negative. I think, as always, we need to watch our own behaviour and words because they model themselves so much on what we do and say.

    1. Martine

      Thats great Rachel that your daughters school and friends are that way, and I am sure there are many that are and many schools that are doing a great job at stamping out bullying. But yes we definitely need to be aware that our kids follow what we do much more than what we preach.

  4. Shane

    I agree with you, with all the developments in child development , we tend to forget the basic things they need. After all, those are the ones they need to grow up as good individuals.

    1. Martine

      Absolutely, its important to remember the fundamentals.

  5. Lee Anne

    I have only just woken up to see there are some mean kids around.
    Recently, we moved interstate and I have been keen for the kids to foster new friendships. I was astonished how many times I said would you like a playdate with such and such and the response back was no way he/ she is mean. I think the apple not falling far from the tree is pretty spot on so we as parents need to take a good look at ourselves before we try and “fix” our kids. Sadly the parents who need to do this the most don’t think there is anything wrong.

    1. Martine

      Thats very unfortunate Lee Anne, and you are right that we as parents have the most influence on how our children treat each other, not just by what we are willing to accept, but by how they see us act.

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