From Dr. Jane's Notebook
How to Understand Kids Today!
With the random acts of violence erupting in
American high schools, parents scratch their heads wondering just how well they know their
In the early 1960's, one of the classic songs from the hit play "Bye
Bye Birdie" exclaimed, "Kids... I dont know whats wrong with these
kids today". Within a few years of its release, this song became even more prophetic
as parents scratched their heads over the clothing, philosophies, and politics of
Today, many parents express a similar dismay and lack of understanding of
their children. With a sense of helplessness, we scratch our heads over horrific incidents
such as that which occurred at Columbine High School. But just as we all claim some of
the pride when our local kids excel, we must also recognize the responsibility we bear for
our children who "go wrong". So what have we learned about raising children?
Here are a few thoughts on the matter.
- Children learn their basic sense of trust in their families. Children are born in a condition of helplessness. Unable to feed themselves, control their bodily functions, unable to walk or talk, children are literally at the mercy of those who care for them. In most cases, children who are treated with love and respect display a similar sensitivity and good will toward others; while children who are taunted and teased learn to be cruel.
- We can no longer pretend that divorce does no harm to children. Early research regarding the effects of divorce upon children minimized the negative impact on child development. But as most who have experienced parental divorce can tell you, divorce deprives children of access to both of their parents, and greatly disturbs their sense of emotional, physical, and economic security. Whats worse, divorce becomes a substitute for learning how to get along, compromise, and work together. So while it is obviously not healthy for children to observe their parents fighting, it is healthy for children to learn that even their parents must work hard to resolve interpersonal problems and improve relationships.
- We can not expect children to forget incidents of childhood abuse. Even when children are seemingly too young to remember, each of us retains our painful memories deep within our bodies and unconscious minds. Like time bombs, early insults to ones sexual development and self-esteem, have long-range effects which may not become evident for several years. Early traumatic memories may remain dormant for years, only to resurface later on in ones life.
- Children should be treated with verbal and physical respect. Many adults complain that kids are disrespectful, and use this assessment as a reason to maintain negative stereotypes about teens. We have never been known as a society which highly values its children. Rather, there is a thin line between age restrictions (which are designed to protect children), and age discrimination (which imposes limits on children for the purpose of maintaining dominance over them). The bottom line is that if we truly want to raise a more respectful generation of humans, we must begin to treat our children with greater respect, from the time they are born.
Unfortunately, children and teenagers represent an underclass in our
society. Lets face it... Kids have no voting rights, no economic viability, and they
have fewer privileges than members of most other age groups. While there is no excuse for
the criminal actions of those who wish to harm others, regardless of their age group, we
must resist the urge to treat all young people like potential criminals. Otherwise, in
the effort to exercise more control over our youth, we risk abusing that power by
imposing rules which are oppressive. We must remember than any repressed people may
eventually rebel against its oppressors.
ęCopyright, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated June 5, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.