It never fails.
I post something against spanking – or against punishment in general – and within the first couple of comments is the first of many arguments that sounds something like this:
“That’s the problem with kids today! No one disciplines anymore! That’s why this generation of kids are such entitled brats.” Without asking any questions, without getting any clarification, without having any sort of discussion. Every time. Every time. Sometimes the retort is complete with F words, and often it’s accompanied with words like “liberal” (or its ugly, derogatory derivative), or “snowflake.” Sometimes people point to the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality. Someone inevitably brings religion – or the lack thereof – into the mix. But no matter what variation it takes, the message is still clear in its lament:
These damn kids these days! And their damn parents who don’t DISCIPLINE them!
I’d be downright bored with its predictably if it wasn’t so frustrating.
First, let’s be clear. When people say “discipline” in this context, they don’t actually mean “discipline” (which means to teach). They mean spanking. Spanking and discipline are not synonymous. But let’s just say for the sake of argument that they’re the same thing.
So fine: no one spanks anymore, and therefore we have whole generation of mostly entitled, spoiled, disrespectful brats.
Please hear me when I say this: The above statement is false. Untrue. Erroneous. Fallacious. It starts with a completely flawed premise. The majority of parents do (unfortunately) still admit to spanking. Hard numbers are obviously hard to come by, but many articles and studies, including this one, cite it as high as 70 to 90%.
70 to 90%!
Most parents still spank. So if kids these days really are extra entitled or spoiled, you’re gonna have to blame it on something other than a lack of spanking. And that’s not just me spouting stuff. It’s fact. Simple math. The argument is invalid.
The question remains though: Is this generation exceptionally spoiled? Entitled? Disrespectful? I’m going to let Alfie Kohn answer that, because he addresses the issue so thoroughly and eloquently:
That’s why no generation of teens and young adults has ever been as self-centered as this one. Take it from journalist Peter Wyden, the cover of whose book on the subject depicts a child lounging on a divan eating grapes while Mom fans him and Dad holds an umbrella to protect him from the sun: It’s become “tougher and tougher to say ‘no’ [to children] and make it stick,” he insists.
Or listen to the lament of a parent who blames progressive child development experts for the fact that her kids now seem to believe “they have priority over everything and everybody.”
Or consider a pointed polemic published in The Atlantic. Sure, the author concedes, kids have always been pleasure seekers, but longtime teachers report that what we’re currently witnessing “is different from anything we have ever seen in the young before.” Parents teach “nothing wholeheartedly” and things come so easily to children nowadays that they fail to develop any self-discipline. Forget about traditional values: Today, it’s just a “culte du moi.”
Pretty telling, right? He concludes with this:
Powerful stuff. Except now that I think about it, those three indictments may not offer the best argument against today’s parents and their offspring. That’s because they were published in 1962, 1944, and 1911, respectively. (~all quotes take from his article, Spoiled Rotten – A Timeless Complaint.)
People have been lamenting “kids these days” since forever. This is not something new. This indictment of the current generation of kids and young adults is no different than the one that occurred when I was a kid… and when my parents were kids… and when my parents’ parents were kids…
People just historically like to blame kids (and by extension, those kids’ terrible parents) for all of society’s ills.
But you know what? I don’t buy it. I don’t. I see this generation of kids and young adults and I see kids who are smart and creative and selfless. I see kids who put others’ needs before their own. Kids who care about their peers, about their families, about the issues facing the people and the world around them. I see kids who are strong. Resilient. Confident. I see kids who are quite literally changing the world with their ingenuity and with their enthusiasm.
I see kids and I hold them in high regard…. not for who they’ll potentially be in the future, but for who they are right now.
There’s nothing wrong with today’s kids. In fact, the real problem with kids today? Adults. Adults who pre-judge them based on their own biases, and never even give them a chance.