Children These Days

Stop me if you’ve heard this rant before:

“Ugh…children these days are so spoiled!  They have no respect for their elders and spend too much time on their smartphones and iPads.  They’re getting pregnant and doing drugs.  They lack discipline, and it’s all those participation trophies and weak parenting that’s to blame.  These kids need a good spanking!  Back in my day, if I stepped out of line, my dad would give me an ass whuppin’!  And I turned out better for it!”

Sound familiar?  I’ve heard this quite a few times, or at least some version of it.  The basic gist of it is that everything was so much better “back in the day”.  You’ve probably heard this mentality before.  Maybe you’re even one of those people who have this mentality.  If that’s the case, then I have some unfortunate news for you.

The facts don’t support it…

One of the biggest components of this mindset is, of course, a perceived epidemic of rebellious behavior.  And while yes, the purpose of the teen years is to push the envelope in a sense, most of the time what people are talking about are drugs, alcohol, and sex.  But the thing is, kids these days are far less likely to do any of these things than they were back in the “good ol’ days”.  According to an article by the New York Times these types of behaviors have been declining for decades.

Some interesting numbers for you:

  • In 1980, about 60 percent of high-school seniors had tried marijuana and roughly 9 percent smoked it daily.  Today, only about 45.5 have tried it and only 6.6 percent smoke it daily.
  • 72 percent of high-school seniors in 1980 said they had recently consumed alcohol, whereas in 2011 that number had dropped to a historic low of only 40 percent.
  • In 1988, half of boys aged 15 to 17 had experienced sex.  By 2010, that number fell to 28 percent.  Same goes for teenage girls, dropping from 37.2 percent to 27 percent.

In the end, what this all means is that the story of an out-of-control generation of kids just isn’t accurate.  In fact, according to the research, today’s kids are better behaved then their parents were at the same age.  But the real question is why?  Why are kids these days so different?  What shaped the changes in their behavior?

Well…there’s no easy answer.  Like everything in life, the reality is that it’s a complicated issue.  The New York Times article points to some helpful possibilities:

“The last three decades have included a rise in the drinking age to 21; a widespread fear of H.I.V.; and legal challenges that stymied tobacco marketing. And while cellphones and Facebook have created new ways for teenagers to stir up trouble, they may also help parents monitor their children.”

The article also points out that today’s teens still found ways to rebel with things like sexting, but still reasons that every generation is subject to harsh scrutiny by the previous one.  And I think that’s the important lesson here, that every generation thinks they know what’s best and that the generations after theirs obviously don’t know what they’re doing.  In all this fear about smartphones and iPads, we forget the fact that the science simply isn’t there yet.  We dismiss the fact that some of the science even says that these things have beneficial effects on kids.  Because, clearly, we know what we’re doing.  Our way is the best, and damn every other way.

But, if I may, I would like to point to a possibility not raised in the New York Times article.  I would like to suggest that maybe part of the reason children are better behaved and generally more responsible may have to do with moving away from one simple thing: the idea of corporal punishment.

I can hear the protesting now.  “But I was spanked and I turned out just fine!”  Maybe you did.  Maybe you’re a perfectly fine, functional human being.  Or maybe it affected you in ways you can’t really see or understand.  I talked a long time ago about corporal punishment, and I’m going to link you to the same article I used back then.  As it turns out, spanking your kid may have detrimental effects on their brain development.  As the article says, “the sad irony is that the more you physically punish your kids for their lack of self-control, the less they have.”  Most people assumed that spanking led to compliance in children.  But that’s not necessarily true.

“What is spanking associated with? Aggression. Delinquency. Mental health problems. And something called “hostile attribution bias,” which causes children, essentially, to expect people to be mean to them.  This bias makes the world feel especially hostile. In turn, children are on edge and ready to be hostile back, ” the article says.

I’ve felt for a long time that spanking was more for the parent than it was for the child.  Think about it for a second.  What’s easier?  Getting to the root of why your child is misbehaving?  Or simply trying to beat it out of them?  Parents are human beings too, and sometimes they don’t have the time or the patience to deal with a child that’s acting out.  In such situations, it’s very easy to turn to the physical approach because it seems like it has immediate beneficial effects.  But, as the science says, there may be a lot more going on underneath the surface that we can’t see or understand until it’s too late.

Let me be clear, I’m not doing this to crap all over the previous generations.  My generation is old enough that I’ve noticed people my age donning the same mindset.  I’ve even caught myself doing it every once in a while.  Like I said before, every generation thinks they know what’s best and are afraid when things start to change.  I think it’s worth understanding that every generation sees the world a little differently.  And I think it’s worth remembering that it’s not necessarily a bad thing…just a different thing.

No one is perfect.  Children are going to act out in some way or another.  But that’s just part of growing up.

 

Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

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It’s the Way We’ve Always Done it: The Dark Side of Tradition

If you took a poll of people around the world on what they think of tradition, I think more often than not they would say it’s a good thing.  Thanksgiving dinners, church ceremonies, Christmas…it’s all a way to bring people together and strengthen ties between family and friends.

Or it’s a way to slaughter over eight hundred pilot whales every single year.

But wait…I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s start at the beginning.

Google defines tradition as “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.”  And these traditions don’t have to be on a cultural scale or a city-wide scale.  They can just be the little things you and your family do every year: getting together for the holidays, going on an annual vacation, or even just celebrating birthdays.  And this is a good thing.  It keeps you in touch with the people in your family or community.  It gives you a tether, a way of remembering that you are a part of something.  Because no matter how far away in the world you are, these things stay with you.  They in part define who you are.

But there are times when traditions become outdated, or even harmful, but people cling to them for the sake of tradition itself.  And that’s not a good thing.

Back to that comment on pilot whales.  Have you ever heard of something called “the grind”?  Well basically, it’s a tradition in the Faroe Islands.  During the months of July and August the islanders use small boats to herd dolphins and pilot whales into a shallow lagoon.  And then they proceed to stab them to death.  No joke.  And this occurs every single year, and has for the past three centuries.  According to Cracked.com supporters of this act argue that it strengthens community relations and provides them with food.  But the article goes on to state that almost a thousand whales are being killed every single time this takes place.  And even this pales in comparison to the coastal Japanese town of Taiji, where local fishermen are allowed to hunt nearly two thousand dolphins every year.

Thankfully, pilot whales and dolphins as a whole are not endangered species.  But I have to wonder, would that even stop tradition?  Or would tradition only stop once there’s nothing left?

The bad side of tradition is not limited exclusively to how we deal with animals.  Tradition impacts how we deal with other humans as well.  Take India for example.

Anyone who has studied the religion of Hinduism has heard of the caste system.  In broad strokes the caste system is a hierarchy that determines an individual’s placement in society.  It starts with the “Brahmins”, priests and teachers, and ends with the “Outcasts” or “Untouchables”, people who were relegated to cleaning latrines and other such dirty jobs.  The caste system is intertwined with the Hindu concept of reincarnation, where the spirit of someone who died will be reborn as another human being or animal.  What this means is that your place in the caste system was due to how you did in your past life?  Did you stick within your caste and not fight the system?  Well good, you’ve likely moved up in the world with this new life.  But if you disobeyed and tried to take more than your share, then you are placed lower in the caste system on your next life.

It’s essentially the Hindu way of saying “if you’re poor, you deserve it.”  And you would think that the caste system being outlawed in 1950 would do away with it completely, but no.  Tradition never dies easily.

Now, I have a sneaking suspicion some of you out there are probably soothing yourselves right now by saying “well thank god I live in an enlightened and progressive country.  These kinds of things would never happen here.”  And then you laugh to yourself, saying “Ha ha these places are so behind the times ha ha ha nothing so heinous or backwards would ever happen here ha ha ha ha ha ha-”

It’s legal to drug and sexually assault your spouse in the state of Ohio.

Let that sink in for a moment…yes, it’s true.  If the victim is married to the perpetrator, sexual assault can be legal under the law.  It’s something known as “marital rape”, and Ohio isn’t the only state with strange, backwards laws separating marital rape and other kinds of rape.  South Carolina even goes so far as to require the threat of a weapon or aggravated violence before it can prosecute cases of marital rape.  To top it off, you only have thirty days to report the rape.  And even then the person who raped you will only face up to ten years in prison at the max.

And if you think this kind of thing is only endemic to the United States, hold on a second there.  According to that same Cracked.com article from earlier, Germany has basically no laws preventing sexual assault.  That is, as long as it doesn’t pose immediate danger to “life and limb”.  And in Norway, a poll found that around nine percent of Norwegian women in Norwegian relationships were the victims of sexual assault, but approximately sixty percent of them never pressed charges.

But we’re not done yet.  For our last topic of the day, let’s turn to corporal punishment.

I’ve heard a lot of people over the years say “I was spanked and I turned out just fine.”  Well great!  That obviously means spanking has no harmful effects whatsoever and is a great method for teaching kids discipline.  I’m glad we cleared this up.  Now we can all go and-

Wait, what’s that science?  You say that’s not true?  Oh science, always ruining everything for everybody…

It’s true, studies have shown that spanking can have a harmful impact on a child’s brain development and affect how they react to certain situations.  Now, to be fair, statistics and correlations only go so far.  But this isn’t just one or two studies.  There are over hundreds of studies on the effects of corporal punishment and as far as I can tell none of them have found a positive to its effects.  This is where people tend to get dismissive and say “whatever…I turned out just fine…people are just too sensitive these days.”  Well you know what?  I wasn’t spanked and I turned out just fine.

But here’s the problem: my experience and their experiences are merely anecdotal.  They are but droplets of water in the ocean of humanity.  We cannot assume that our own childhood experiences would be perfect for everyone.

Besides, spanking always struck me as an almost lazy tactic.  It always seemed like something people resort to when the child misbehaves either because they don’t want to take the time to punish the child some other way or because they’re stressed out and their child becomes an easy way to vent that frustration.  It’s not a popular opinion (often people against spanking get raked over the coals by those who support it…which ironically adds more credence to the idea that spanking increases aggressive behavior in children), but it is my opinion.  Perhaps that’s a little unfair, but that’s just how I see it.

And simply holding on to the idea of spanking because it worked “back then” is not the way to do things.  That kind of thinking is why it took until 2014 for a school in Wilcox County, Georgia to host a racially integrated prom.

Whether or not you subscribe to or even like Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution you have to accept that the world changes over time.  And clinging to outdated ideas of how things should function is not a healthy way to live.  Sure, sometimes the older way of doing things might be better, but in a world that is constantly innovating and evolving, we have to acknowledge that things are going to be different in the future.

Tradition or not, sometimes they just have to go.

 

Well that’s all I have for you this time.  Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.