Parenting: Are We Getting a Raw Deal?

12711307_10206480078338131_5829653117437408897_oSummer 1974. I’m 9 years old. By 7:30 am, I’m up and out of the house, or if it’s Saturday I’m up and doing exactly what my father, Big Jerry, has told me to do. Might be raking, mowing, digging holes, or washing cars.

Summer 2016. I’m tiptoeing out of the house, on my way to work, in an effort not to wake my children who will undoubtedly sleep until 11 am. They may complete a couple of the chores I’ve left in a list on the kitchen counter for them, or they may eat stale Cheez-its that were left in their rooms 3 days ago, in order to avoid the kitchen at all costs and “not see” the list.

If you haven’t noticed, we’re getting a raw deal where this parenting gig is concerned. When did adults start caring whether or not their kids were safe, happy, or popular? I can assure you that Ginny and Big Jerry were not wiling away the hours wondering if my brother and I were fulfilled. Big Jerry was stoking the fires of his retirement savings and working, and working some more. Ginny was double bolting the door in order to keep us out of the house, and talking on the phone while she smoked a Kent. Meanwhile, we were three neighborhoods away, playing with some kids we’d never met, and we had crossed 2 major highways on bicycles with semi-flat tires to get there. Odds are, one of us had crashed at some point and was bleeding pretty impressively. No one cared. We were kids and if we weren’t acting as free labor, we were supposed to be out of the house and out of the way.

My personal belief is that the same “woman with too little to do”, that decided it was necessary to give 4- year old guests a gift for coming to a birthday party, is the same loon who decided we were here to serve our kids and not the other way around. Think about it. As a kid, what was your costume for Halloween? If you were really lucky, your mom jabbed a pair of scissors in an old sheet, cut two eye holes, and you were a ghost. If her friend was coming over to frost her hair and showed up early, you got one eye hole cut and spent the next 45 minutes using a sharp stick to jab a second hole that was about two inches lower than its partner. I watched my cousin run directly into a parked car due to this very costume one year. He was still yelling, “Trick or Treat” as he slid down the rear quarter panel of a Buick, mildly concussed. When my son was 3 years old, we had a clown costume made by a seamstress, complete with pointy clown hat, and grease makeup. His grandmother spent more having that costume made than she did on my prom dress.

At some point in the last 25 years, the tide shifted and the parents started getting the marginal cars and the cheap clothes while the kids live like rock stars. We spend enormous amounts of money on private instruction, the best sports gear money can buy, and adhere to psycho competition schedules. I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve bought the $300 baseball bats with money that should have been invested in a retirement account, traveled from many an AAU basketball game, or travel baseball game, to a dance competition in the course of one day, and failed to even consider why. Remember Hank Aaron? He didn’t need a $300 bat to be great. Your kid isn’t going pro and neither is mine, but you are going to retire one day and dumpster diving isn’t for the elderly. My brother and I still laugh about how, when he played high school baseball, there was one good bat and the entire team used it.

Remember your clothes in the 70’s? Despite my best efforts to block it out, I can still remember my desperate need to have a pair of authentic Converse shoes. Did I get them? Negative. Oh, was it a punch in the gut when my mother presented me with the Archdale knock-offs she found somewhere between my hometown and Greensboro. Trust me. They weren’t even close. Did I complain? Hell, no. I’m still alive, aren’t I? We’ve got an entire generation of kids spitting up on outfits that cost more than my monthly electric bill. There were no designer baby clothes when we were kids. Why? Because our parents weren’t crazy enough to spend $60 on an outfit for us to have explosive diarrhea in or vomit on. Our parents were focused on saving for their retirement and paying their house off. The real beauty of it is that none of these kids are going to score a job straight out of college that will allow them to pay for the necessities of life, brand new cars, and $150 jeans, so guess who’s going to be getting the phone call when they can’t make rent? Yep, we are.

Think back; way, way back. Who cleaned the house and did the yard work when you were a kid? You did. In fact, that’s why some people had children. We were free labor. My mother served as supervisor for the indoor chores, and the house damn well better be spotless when my father came through the door at 5:35. The battle cry went something like this, “Oh, no! Your father will be home in 15 minutes! Get those toys put away nooooow!” The rest of our evening was spent getting up to turn the television on demand, and only to what Dad wanted to watch.

On weekends Dad was in charge of outdoor work and if you were thirsty you drank out of the hose, because 2 minutes of air conditioning and a glass of water from the faucet might make you soft. Who does the housework and yardwork now? The cleaning lady that comes on Thursday, and the landscaping crew that comes every other Tuesday. Most teenage boys have never touched a mower, and if you asked my daughter to clean a toilet, she would come back with a four page paper on the various kinds of deadly bacteria present on toilet seats. Everyone is too busy doing stuff to take care of the stuff they already have. But don’t get confused, they aren’t working or anything crazy like that. Juggling school assignments, extracurricular activities, and spending our money could become stressful if they had to work.

I don’t recall anyone being worried about my workload being stressful, or my mental health in general. Jerry and Ginny had grownup stuff to worry about. As teenagers, we managed our own social lives and school affairs. If Karen, while executing a hair flip, told me my new Rave perm made me look like shit and there was no way Kevin would ever go out with my scrawny ass, my mother wasn’t even going to know about it; much less call Karen’s mother and arrange a meeting where we could iron out our misunderstanding and take a selfie together. Additionally, no phone calls were ever made to any of my teachers or coaches. Ever. If we sat the bench, we sat the bench. Our dads were at work anyway. They only knew what we told them. I can’t even conceive of my dad leaving work to come watch a ballgame. If I made a 92.999 and got a B, I got a B. No thinly veiled threats were made and no money changed hands to get me that A. Ok, full disclosure, in my case we would be looking at an 84.9999. I was the poster child for underachievement.

Back in our day, high school was a testing ground for life. We were learning to be adults under the semi-vigilant supervision of our parents. We had jobs because we wanted cars, and we wanted to be able to put gas in our cars, and wear Jordache jeans and Candies. Without jobs, we had Archdale sneakers and Wranglers, and borrowed our mother’s Chevrolet Caprice, affectionately known as the “land yacht”, on Friday night. No one, I mean, no one, got a new car. I was considered fairly lucky because my parents bought me a car at all. I use the term “car” loosely. If I tell you it was a red convertible and stop right here, you might think me special. I wasn’t. My car was a red MG Midget, possibly a ’74 and certainly a death trap.

Look at your coffee table. Now imagine it having a steering wheel and driving it. I promise you, it’s bigger than my car was. The starter was bad, so after school I had the pleasure of popping the hood and using two screwdrivers to cross the solenoids or waiting for the football players to come out of the dressing room headed to practice. Those guys pushing my car while I popped the clutch, is a memory no 16-year old girl around here will ever have, and it’s a great one. Had I driven that car in high winds, it’s likely I would have ended up airborne, and there were probably some serious safety infractions committed the night I took 6 people in togas to a convenience store, but I wouldn’t go back and trade it out for a new 280Z, even if I had the chance. I was a challenging teenager, and in retrospect the fact that it was pretty impressive every time I made it home alive, may not have been an accident on the part of my parents. Go to the high school now. These kids are driving cars that grown men working 55 hours a week can’t afford, and they aren’t paying for them with their jobs.

And those new cars don’t do a thing for telling a good story. I tell my kids all the time, the very best stories from my teen and college years involve Ann’s yellow Plymouth Duster with the “swirling dust” graphic, Randy’s Valiant with the broken gas gauge, and Carla’s burgundy Nissan that may or may not have had a complete floorboard. A story that starts, “Remember that time we were heading to the beach in Carla’s Nissan and your wallet fell through the floorboard onto the highway?” is so much more interesting than, “Remember that time we were going to the beach in your brand new SUV, filled up with gas that your parents paid for, and the…well, no, never mind. Nothing happened. We just drove down there.” To top it all off, most of them head off to college without a clue what it’s like to look for a job, apply for it, interview, and show up on time, as scheduled. If they have a job, it’s because someone owed their dad a favor…and then they work when it “fits their schedule”.

We all love our kids, and we want to see them happy and fulfilled, but I fear we’re robbing them of the experiences that make life memorable and make them capable, responsible, confident adults. For the majority of us, the very nice things we had as teenagers, we purchased with money we earned after saving for some ungodly amount of time. Our children are given most everything, and sometimes I wonder whether it’s for them or to make us feel like good parents. The bottom line is that you never value something you were given, as much as something you worked for. There were lessons in our experiences, even though we didn’t know it at the time. All those high school cat fights, and battles with teachers we clashed with, were an opportunity for us to learn how to negotiate and how to compromise. It also taught us that the world isn’t fair. Sometimes people just don’t like you, and sometimes you’ll work your ass off and still get screwed. We left high school, problem solvers. I’m afraid our kids are leaving high school with mommy and daddy on speed dial.

We just don’t have the cojones our parents had. We aren’t prepared to tell our kids that they won’t have it if they don’t work for it, because we can’t bear to see them go without and we can’t bear to see them fail. We’ve given them a whole lot of stuff; stuff that will break down, wear out, get lost, go out of style, and lose value. As parents, I suppose some of us feel pretty proud about how we’ve contributed in a material way to our kid’s popularity and paved an easy street for them. I don’t, and I know there are many of you that are just as frustrated by it as I am. I worry about what we’ve robbed them of, which I’ve listed below, in the process of giving them everything.

  • Delayed gratification is a really good thing. It teaches you perseverance and how to determine the true value of something. Our kids don’t know a damn thing about delayed gratification. To them, delayed gratification is waiting for their phone to charge.
  • Problem-solving skills and the ability to manage emotion are crucial life skills. Kids now have every problem solved for them. Good luck calling their college professor to argue about how they should have another shot at that final because they had two other finals to study for and were stressed. Don’t laugh, parents have tried it.
  • Independence allows you to discover who you really are, instead of being what someone else expects you to be. It was something I craved. These kids have traded independence for new cars and Citizen jeans. They will live under someone’s thumb forever, if it means cool stuff. I would have lived in borderline condemned housing, and survived off of crackers and popsicles to maintain my independence. Oh wait, I actually did that. It pisses me off. You’re supposed to WANT to grow up and forge your way in the world; not live on someone else’s dime, under someone else’s rule, and too often these days, under someone else’s roof.
  • Common sense is that little something extra that allows you to figure out which direction is north, how to put air in your tires, or the best route to take at a certain time of day to avoid traffic. You develop common sense by making mistakes and learning from them. It’s a skill best acquired in a setting where it’s safe to fail, and is only mastered by actually doing things for yourself. By micromanaging our kids all the time, we’re setting them up for a lifetime of cluelessness and ineptitude. At a certain age, that cluelessness becomes dangerous. I’ve seen women marry to avoid thinking for themselves, and for some it was the wisest course of action.
  • Mental toughness is what allows a person to keep going despite everything going wrong. People with mental toughness are the ones who come out on top. They battle through job losses, difficult relationships, illness, and failure. It is a quality born from adversity. Adversity is a GOOD thing. It teaches you what you’re made of. It puts into practice the old saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. It’s life’s teacher. Our bubble-wrapped kids are so sheltered from adversity, I wonder how the mental health professionals will handle them all after the world chews them up and spits them out a few times.

I know you are calling me names right now, and mentally listing all the reasons this doesn’t apply to you and your kid, but remember I’m including myself in this. My kids aren’t as bad as some, because I’m too poor and too lazy to indulge them beyond a certain point. And I’m certainly not saying that our parents did everything right. God knows all that second hand smoke I was exposed to, and those Sunday afternoon drives where Dad was drinking a Schlitz and I was standing on the front seat like a human projectile, were less than ideal; but I do think parents in the 70’s defined their roles in a way we never have.I worry that our kids are leaving home with more intellectual ability than we did, but without the life skills that will give them the success and independence that we’ve enjoyed.

Then again, maybe it’s not parents that are getting the raw end of this deal after all.

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1,475 thoughts on “Parenting: Are We Getting a Raw Deal?

  1. This brings back so many memories! I graduated high school in 1976 and owned cars, wore clothes and worked in jobs like those you described! I teach middle school now in an affluent district…the kids are wonderful and the parents so involved…..many just like those you used as a contrast! Thanks! This was a fun read.

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    1. Thank you, James! I actually love the “connectedness” that this generation of parents has with their kids. I have two in high school and they don’t hesitate to come to me for advice about anything. The know I won’t solve their problems for them, but they also know I won’t freak out on them. Middle school is a tough age, my hat’s off to you. Your role is a vital one. I’m such a fan of how willing people have been to see the humor in the contrast and discuss what is working for them as parents and what’s not working. After all, doesn’t collaboration benefit us no matter what we’re doing? Thanks again!

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      1. Great article! I had a white Ford Escort that I had to blow dry the wires every time it rained, Lol. I spent many days as a kid riding my bike…taking off for hours. We had so much fresh air and freedom. I worry about this generation that is stuck to screens for…EVERYTHING! Homework, reading, games, communication. When my kids were small I had them outside playing all the time in any weather and they loved it. Now…I can’t get my daughter out of the house. Many of my friends are struggling with sons in particular who don’t have any ambition. Are not moving out, going to school or working. Your last line is too right! It’s the kids that are losing… 😦

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      2. Jo, my favorite thing is that we’re talking about how to do better. Technology is a challenge for everyone, I think. You’re right about the fact that everything in our lives is centered around a screen! In some ways, growing up in a single mom house has made mine focused on their future. They know that there’s no safety net…just me, working multiple jobs to make ends meet.In the end, every parent has to do what they believe is best in their unique situation, but with the overindulgence in “stuff”, the lack of responsibility, the parental involvement in every little problem, and lack of interest in independence, I absolutely do think it’s our kids who are losing. I’ve heard from so many people who feel the same way and are actively taking steps to improve their own situations. Thrills me to see the efforts to share and improve!

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    2. Excellent and truthful. Also, appreciation is lacking. Kids today have zero gratitude. Interesting to see where this generation will be in 20 years, still living at home???

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      1. Shannon, I hope not! I’ve heard from so many parents who say they’re actively making changes in an effort to do right by their kids. Absolutely love the fact that so many are willing to say, “Ok, I’m guilty. How can I do better?” In the end, I think even the ones whose parents can’t help themselves will figure it out. Thanks so much for reading!

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      1. I’m sure everyone has a theory. Mine is that the parenting style of our parents was a result of the majority of them marrying young and having children young; before they were professionally or financially stable. They really were trying to get their feet under them at the same time they were raising us. Today, most of us don’t have children until we’re established. We have resources; financial and emotional, that our parents didn’t have. Thank you for reading!

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    3. I totally love and relate to this article 100%. I grew up in rural Indiana where I was related to half the town and couldn’t get away with anything because if I did something questionable someone was gonna yell at me or just call my mother. I definitely had the fear of God mentality that my parents would kill me if I was a bad kid so I was very respectful to all I came into contact with. I remember leaving my house at 9am on Saturday mornings and riding my bike to pick up my best friend, Jason, who lived about 2 miles diwn a busy 2 lane road and we’d take a few dollars to ‘the little store’ and load up on candy and soda before we’d start a 15 mile trek on our bikes around the countryside and through town. We’d stop at my aunt and uncle’s house and watch the bison, play in the creek, get an ice cream at the Dairy Boat in town, and then head back home. Our parents had absolutely no clue where we were and what we were doing but they knew and trusted we’d be okay. And we did this every weekend. No cell phones. No selfies. Nothing. And we survived.

      Now I’m the parent of 5 children (24 down to 10yo) and I must say that I have tried to make my children be self-sufficient and play alone outside but I wouldn’t any more trust my 3 youngest kids to go to the lake which is across the street from our subdivision than I would let them cook something alone. One, the world is not the same and there are crazy people after crazy people after crazy people out there. Neighbors don’t even pay attention to their neighbors and most people aren’t apt to help someone if something happens. I believe in free range parenting but it’s hard to do when you’re worried about strangers constantly.

      I just feel like my kids are so immature at their ages than I was and I struggle to understand why. I make them do things. I’m the mean mom. The pusher. And yet still they are oblivious to life for some reason. It’s frustrating.

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      1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Christina. I think there are many parents who feel exactly like you do. Despite our best efforts to encourage our kids to be more independent and self-sufficient, they just seem less able. Is it technology in some weird way? I don’t know. The simple fact that you’re raising 5 is amazing!! I’ve got my hands full with 2! I definitely worry more about mine than my parents did. I think part of that is that we, as parents, know about every single bad thing that happens in he U.S. and beyond. Our parents only knew what happened locally. I don’t think there was less danger in the 70’s, I just think we didn’t have the resources to know about all of it. I’m the mean mom, too! I tell them that my job is to prepare them to be self-sufficient and that NOT doing that is what would be mean. In the end, I believe that the fact that we’re sharing information and trying to do the right thing will have as big an impact on their development as anything. With failure there is always an opportunity for learning…and I’m learning all the time ;-).

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  2. Excellent post!! It was a really good read. You put into words how I’ve been feeling about parenting the last few years, especially now that I have a teenager. And I love your sense of humor! We are raising a generation of entitled, spoiled, unprepared, lazy kids with no work ethic. I have a friend in her 40’s who’s mother catered to her as a child and now as an adult she EXPECTS her mother to take care of her. Pay her bills, bail her out of the consequences of poor decisions etc. Her mother is in her 70’s. What is she going to do when her mother is no longer around? I personally don’t want my children to be in that position, where they won’t know how to live without me bailing them out or paving the way. Cause when I’m dead and gone it will be too late to teach them how to do for themselves! With the start of this new year I’m really working on teaching my kids life skills, the meaning of respect, the value of a dollar earned, surprisingly the world does NOT revolve around them, you win some and you lose some, how to interact with people face to face and not just from an electronic device, the best things are not “things”, pulling a little more weight around the house, and “don’t wish for it, work for it”. And my favorite…there is life after Highschool! I had a 1981 chevy luv pickup in highschool, handed down from my step dad. 5 speed. (do kids even learn how to drive a stick anymore?) complete with grateful dead teddy bear stickers in the back window. I had to pay for my own gas and when I got in trouble it got parked! Lots of great stories in that truck. Had my first job at 15 at a pizza place and worked ever since. If I didn’t know how to fix something I learned. If I wanted something, I saved up for it. Problem solving skills you wouldn’t believe! (my mom liked tough love, so MY choices were MY consequences, good or bad) Thanks for this article, I’m a single mom of 4 and I feel even more empowered to make some changes in my parenting. Besides….it’s free labor and I’m too poor for a housekeeper or landscaper. 🙂

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    1. Tina, I’m a single mom too! I’m so impressed that you’re raising four on your own. I just have two and some days I think I’m going to collapse. Finding that balance of loving them so much I want to see them happy all of the time, and allowing them to screw up and fail is tough. Fortunately, I’m in the same boat as you. Too poor to pay someone else to do anything and too tired to do it all myself. Forces me to require more of them. I do think we single moms have a big gift. Our relationship with our kids is close in a way that I don’t see happen very often in two parent homes. We function as a little team and I never take that for granted. I’m betting that our six turn out just fine! Thanks so much for writing. I love hearing from my single mom people. We have our own little blessings and challenges. Have a great year!

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    2. Thank you for pointing out that every generation has entitled people! I’m just about 40 as well, and consider myself Generation X. Sounds like the woman you know is going to have a really interesting time when her mother is no longer able to support her!

      I vividly remember the day in early college that my dad used the child support money that finally came from my mom to pay for a set of tires on my car. It was so unusual to not have to save myself, or make do myself that it sticks out to me and I remember feeling, this is what it must be like to have parents with money who are willing to spend it on their kids. Then I went back to my real life.

      The young generation gets a bad rap in the media but i have yet to see anything that proves to me that they are any more entitled than prior generations. More young adults living at home is not proof, there are a combination of employment, housing, economic and social factors (not getting married as young for example) at play there.

      Also so many of these types of “kids these days” posts completely ignore financial factors, like if you grew up in a blue collar 1 income family and now you are in a 2 parent working professionals household of course you childhood is going to be distinctly different than your kids. I grew up in an apartment complex, not a neighborhood. We had a range we were allowed to wander, a park, a stream, and an adjacent neighborhood. But when my parents divorced we moved and I was then limited to 1 street. So WHERE you live matters too.

      Good luck to us all!

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  3. I grew up in the 70’s – 80’s and was never treated like a slave nor were we ever locked out, didn’t have many chores and all 5 of my siblings and I are responsible adults. As for my children they have never had chores or curfews. My oldest is 20 works 30 hours a week and goes to school full time and bought his on vehicle’s. So my point is you can raise responsible kids without treating them like your personal servants. I give a lot of credit to being a stay at home mom and being there anytime they needed me or wanted to talk about anything. To many parents these days leave them to raise themselves so they can go to work to bring home the holy $$$.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I love hearing different perspectives! There is a bit of humor and hyperbole in this piece that I think you may have overlooked. My brother and I were never treated like slaves either. We grew up in a very loving home, but we were expected to take on age appropriate responsibilities and problem solve. There’s no one right way to raise children. What works in one circumstance, may not in another. I think the key is parents caring enough to share ideas and discuss what’s working for them. In the end we all want the same things…healthy, independent, productive, compassionate adults. Caring is half the battle.

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    2. Slaves?? How is contributing to your home being slaves?? Every member of the family needs to have their roles and responsibilities. If they don’t, them I’m afraid neondaisy, you in fact are the slave.

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      1. I agree, if you are old enough to contribute, you should work at it. Some children think that when their parents ask them to do something it is like slavery. I believe that is what the author was going for, a perspective of now and then. When she was growing up she had lots of time to play and grow but also responsibilities around the home in which she lived. That’s how it is supposed to be.

        My teenage son has mentioned before that he is not my slave…and that was when I asked him to clean up his room or something he left untidy. That is the world we live in where children have all the rights and parents are just the caretakers expected to cater to their every want. We as parents are supposed to slave away working to provide them with everything as well as come home and slave away cleaning up their messes while they mindlessly play video games. It is just not right and I don’t know where the world went wrong or why, but it makes me sad and worried that children could have such a lack of compassion for their parents who have so much on their plates.

        I saw it coming when children’s shows started consisting of dumb but manipulative children who lived rockstar lives with very little interaction with their “parents” on the tv show. When the parents were interacting with those children, they were cast as dumb simple people who the kids made fun of. So there’s my 10 cents worth. I enjoyed the article.

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      2. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment, Kristin. While I don’t think the parenting strategies of the 70’s would translate to our society today, I agree with you that something (maybe technology, maybe material over-indulgence?) has resulted in a lack of respect for lots of kids. Not too terribly long ago, a friend of mine’s son developed a bit of an entitled attitude. She very calmly went in his room and removed everything but the bed and a few outfits. She nicely reminded him that every single creature comfort he had was a result of her hard work and generosity. It only took about 48 hours for him to see the light. I’m happy to report that it had a lasting effect!

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      3. Thank you!
        I also think having you child do no chores does them a disservice. I had way too many roommates that were unprepared for life because they didn’t know how to cook their own meals, do their own laundry, or even clean a bathroom properly.

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  4. Fabulous article and absolutely true. My perfectionist mother didn’t want us to ruin the lawn, so we had to play in the street. Surprise surprise. No one ever got his by a car. I shared 15 year old cars with my father, so I could go out at night. We had to start one with a pencil in the catalytic converter. We kept a piece of linoleum in another to scrape the inside of the windshield when it would freeze over. My children are wimps.

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    1. You with your pencil and me with my screwdrivers! I’m shooting for a happy medium between playing in traffic and paying their rent when they’re 25. I just love that there’s a dialogue and we’re all looking for ways to successfully raise our children to be competent adults. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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  5. That’s was great. I’ve been complaining about this for a long time but most of the parents around me look at me like I’m nuts . You are a lot more charitable than I am . I find myself furious with other parents. I parent the way you describe I make my kids buy stuff I make my kids get jobs I make my kids mobile lawn and empty the dishwasher and because we have a huge family they all have regular chores. However, One of my kids get to be in sports anymore because all the other parents put their children into elite teams in kindergarten . I chose to stay married and I let my kids play even though there’s no one in the neighborhood to play with since all the other kids are on a tight schedule. I feel pretty acutely this last summer. My poor little boys rode their bikes through the entire neighborhood and there were no children around. Two weeks before school started all of the kids lessons and sports were over and they were in the neighborhood for the first time all summer. My boys went out in the morning and didn’t want to come back in until the sun was going down which pissed me off because that’s how it should’ve been all summer but because these parents were trying to make their kids perfect at everything and over schedule them my children had nobody to play with. Because these kids are all given personal coaches and traveling teams starting in elementary school my kids don’t ever even get a position on any of the school teams because they can’t play as well. When I was growing up you didn’t start playing basketball till middle school and it was the same for all the kids and when the season was over you switched sports you didn’t keep playing the same thing all summer all winter with private lessons. That’s not how it works anymore. I had two kids that are really good at basketball volleyball and soccer and if we went to a small school or if it was an even playing field they’d actually would’ve gotten to play but because all the other kids on the team had been playing since they were toddlers and were given special coaching lessons, my kids just couldn’t compete. It breaks my heart because it’s good to be a part of the team and because of how everything’s changed and what parents now pay and drive their kids to my own children don’t have a chance to even participate. This last summer I paid somewhere around $280 for my daughter to be a part of one of those special of the programs but because I had been doing this for the last five years like all the other parents there’s just no way she could even catch up so I was a seventh-grade girl she can’t even play volleyball. Most all the high school students drive brand-new cars to school, The cars are better than my own. My daughter that’s in college right now works 30 hours a week to pay her housing bill well her roommate goes out and gets drunk almost every single night comes home and throws up in the dorm room making my daughter have to get up and help her even though she has to be to work by seven in the morning. I have so much discussed in anger towards how parents are raising their kids in the way they are forcing my own kids to feel inadequate. I’m not as charitable as you are.

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    1. Christina, I completely appreciate where you’re coming from. It’s almost impossible to find recreational sports for kids anymore. Sadly, only a very few kids become professional athletes so the rest of these kids are spending their childhoods with lots of pressure related to athletics and no free time to just BE KIDS. I predict that yours grow up to be exactly what parents hope for: kind, responsible, self-sufficient, productive adults. I got a message from a 15 year old girl the other day. She was being raised like your kids. She was thanking me for writing it because she totally gets how her parents are preparing her for the future and she appreciates it. I’m sure yours do too. Thanks for reading and sharing!

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  6. Your article is perfectly on point! I had to laugh about your car. My first car was a VW Baja with no back seat and bad wiring. Every time I used the turn signal, the headlights would go out. My second car, a ’65 Mustang, had a slipping transmission and no brakes.

    I can’t believe we survived our childhood!

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    1. We could have been siblings! I have to believe there’s a happy medium between then and now. Somewhere between keeping them alive and not tying their shoes until they’re 20. Right? Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I love the turn signal/headlight thing. Would have been great in this piece!

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  7. Rhonda,
    Mere words cannot convey how much I enjoyed and agreed with your article! You have a wonderful way of describing and explaining the time when we were kids, contrasted with the world of our spoiled kids of today. I was 18 in 1974 graduating from High School. You perfectly described my home life and my world at the time…I came from a family where both my parents were Alcoholics and of course broke, so if I wanted anything, I had to get it myself.
    As soon as I could get my working papers, I started working at McDonalds at age 15 and as a younger boy, in order to have some money, I went to the local Golf course searching for lost golf balls to cleanup and sell to the local golfers.
    I’m not complaining even one little bit…these adventures made me the man I am today, who is very quickly becoming a “Dinosaur” because of my “Old World” work ethic and ideals.
    I will be sharing your enlightening words and recommending this article to everyone…I wish it would be required reading from Grade 4 -12 every year in every school system in our country…maybe then our kids would have a clue…
    Thanks—Ken

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    1. Hi Ken! As a single mom, I’m thankful every day for the way my parent’s raised me. I can tell you that I wouldn’t have been adequately prepared for this role otherwise. While I don’t think duplicating the 70’s would work in today’s society, there has to be a happy medium where these kids are leaving home prepared to stand on their own instead of prepared to call home the instant something goes wrong. Let me reassure you that you won’t be a lonely dinosaur, as I’m one myself! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I learn so much this way.

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  8. I definitely do not think my 70s into 80s childhood was one I would want to repeat for my own child – even by standards back then 10 year olds were not dropped off to do all the grocery shopping. That said, teaching your children no life skills by doing everything for them leaves them not equipped to deal with life without you. My daughter started doing her own laundry at 8 because I bought a machine that did everything, but pick soap for you and I also taught her how to make healthy lunches for school. When I cleaned the house, she helped. When I cooked, she helped. My daughter today is not only liked favourably at jobs she has had, but valued. She cleans the house and cooks. She wants something or to do something, she saves up for it because yes, I taught her those skills too. I think both scenarios many parents have dropped the ball – the issue is teaching your children how to be in this world without you in a way that is meaningful for them without being a burden on society.

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    1. You’re so right, Trish! The piece is really a humorous look at the differences in parenting then vs. now. What worked in he 70’s wouldn’t necessarily translate today, but I do think there are elements of responsibility, hard work, and problem solving that we could use more of today. The ideal, I feel sure, is somewhere in the middle. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!

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  9. Well written and spot on, I was born in 1960, and had 2 younger brother’s, with both parents who worked. In the 70’s while my friends were at the mall I was home straight after school. I started dinner took care of my brothers, did the dishes and then my homework. My parents took good care of us, but you pulled your weight, you ate what was in front of you and you helped take care of chores. There are a lot of good kids out there, but too many will not be able to take care of themselves, not really their fault, they were never shown how. I have a 30 year old daughter who has been on her own since about the age of 20. Can take care of herself & she knows we are here if she needs us. Make sure your children are capable of looking after themselves, it’s the best thing you can do for them.

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    1. Thank you, Rina! I agree. There’s no substitute for being capable and independent. As parents, it’s our responsibility to prepare our kids for the real world and the obstacles they’ll face. Kudos to you on raising a daughter that’s doing just that!

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  10. I enjoyed your article tremendously and felt as though you were speaking about my childhood. It was a great trip down memory lane.

    As a high school educator, I see the results of today’s parenting everyday. I have faced many disrespectful and offensive parenting interactions. Nearly every parent thinks their child is an ‘A’ student or at the very least a ‘B’ student. Evidently, I “give” grades, students don’t earn them.

    We all love our kids and we want to protect them. As a parent of children through the eighties and nineties, I had to fight the same instincts. This time period was a time when child abductions were at a high level. Luckily, we lived in the midwest in a fairly safe place and my children were able to, and I allowed them to, experience much of the same freedom I did as a child. My children began doing chores in the house when they were five. They always had responsibilities to the family, as I described them, until they left home upon graduation. The cars they drove in high school were probably embarrassing compared to those their more affluent friends drove, but that was just the way it was. One son made a big joke out of his car by naming it and describing it as the best driving experience around.

    One thing I do want to point out, Americans today seem to feel as though they live in such a dangerous world. This is simply not true. Crime rates have been going down steadily for quite some time. Parents are also fearful about harm coming to their children. Again, do the research. There has never been a safer time to be a child in America than right now and that includes safety from child abduction and murder. Parents obviously have to consider the area in which they live when making supervision decisions.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/04/14/theres-never-been-a-safer-time-to-be-a-kid-in-america/?utm_term=.4aabcab50181

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    1. Thank you so much for your comments! I think technology has created a fearful society. When we were kids, we only knew about the bad things that happened in our vicinity. Now, we know about every single bad thing that happens everywhere. I believe it’s overwhelming for some people and hard for them to keep their perspective. Parenting is the hardest job we ever do, and while there’s no easy answers out there, I do think having a dialogue and people like you sharing their thoughts and experiences helps tremendously. Thanks again!

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  11. Excellent read Rhonda! I am 51 and have kids 22, 20, and 11, yep I’ll go ahead and answer everyone’s question same mother, same father. Except for the cigarette smoke this is a perfect description of how I grew up with the extra caveat that my parents divorced when I was 2, and of course then that was thought to be scandalous by many. Thank you for writing this. I will be following. Julie L. In Texas.

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  12. YES To all of this. My stepson came home one night in October and told us that his class trip was in May, it was $1400 but aren’t we lucky because we “only” had to pay $700, half, because his mother was paying the other half. Guess who went to work raking leaves and sacrificed most of birthday/Xmas gifts in lieu of cash? Forget that noise. I can’t imagine even having the balls to say something like that to my parents.

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    1. Wow! That’s an expensive class trip! While he probably wasn’t too excited about earning half, I’m betting he appreciates the trip that much more for having some skin in it! Thanks for reading, Tonya.

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  13. What a great read! I get the tongue-in-cheek tone and your humour. Spoon of sugar helps the medicine go down and all that. I’m a mother of 6, including a Deaf son. I could say I’ve been a single parent since my husband I separated last year BUT truthfully I’ve been mostly a single parent for the past 20 years. The default parent. I’ve read many books, a writer& thinker myself, I’ve thought a LOT about this very thing…my parents parenting compared to my own. I’m clearly the same age as you but grew up in South Africa. We lived on the road, streetlights turning on was the sign to go home, my mom knew kind of who I was with, not often where when we rode our bikes all over the neighbourhood. I now live in Perth. It’s still safer here than it ever was in my childhood. I get a lot of judgement for letting my kids go out into the neighbourhood, encouring them to ride two blocks to a friend’s house…I’m not taking them etc. I believe that our generation has tried to give our kids what we wished we had and what actually did hurt us. Prob true of every generation really. I would’ve like more consideration from my parents (divorced when I was 4…not normal as it is now). We were never included in any decision making, so we’ve gone overboard and given our kids too much power in decision making. I’ve seen parents allow their kids to choose schools & suburbs! Our free range, go and play parents never played with us. So we’ve played with our kids, ad nauseum, been the buddy. No explanations were ever given. I could not fathom the adult world I watched. It left me insecure, anxious, bewildered and self blaming. Had to be my fault. Nobody talked to us about stuff. So we have spent hours including our kids, psychologising them, explaining. I hated mowing the lawn at 10, having the responsibility of backwashing the pool as a teenager (well it’s for you!). So we haven’t turned our kids into free labour. Because we realise they are going to do all this as adults, let’s not start it so young. Overall I think we have generally been better, more present & mindful parents but coupled with the onslaught of technology (first parents to face this unknown, pervasive, threatening, wonderful & amazing thing) we now have entitled, lazy kids who feel loved and special and are so confident, they are genuinely shocked when things don’t go their way. We were shocked when things did go our way! But what I can’t figure out, maybe you have some thoughts on this Rhonda, is why we have lost the respect of our kids? We’ve seriously stuffed up here. I know there’s the discipline debate, but we have & do discipline. Is respect honestly married to fear? I hope not. I respected my mother because of who she was, not because she threatened me. Same with older people, police, teachers, doctors, neighbours, adults etc. My kids aren’t as respectful as I want them to be or think they should be (but I’m told they are really respectful compared to others and indeed, they are! They never swear at me like so many kids do at their mothers etc) but has the standard of respect dropped so low? In teaching them to value themselves, have they internalised that to mean other have less value? I don’t know. Their parenting style will be interesting to see. I guess we find our mistakes there, because it’s what they’ll focus on doing differently. Sorry about the loooong comment.

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    1. I am so glad you commented! I love hearing about how similar we grew up despite living in two different countries. I agree completely with everything you’ve said regarding our childhoods. Our parents really didn’t engage with us. I never felt unloved, in fact quite the opposite, but there was a clear division between parent and child in those days. I know what you mean about the lack of respect for authority figures. I think it’s a direct result of over-indulgence. While the piece is full of hyperbole and some exaggeration concerning my own children, the truth is that as a single mother I’ve required more of them than what’s required of a lot of their peers. Mine, like yours, are very respectful and I often have other parents compliment me on it as well. It definitely isn’t lost on them how hard I work to keep the wheels on the bus, and I think that contributes to their good behavior. One major difference between then and now is that our parents were typically much younger when they assumed the role. They were still establishing themselves professionally, as well as financially. Most parents now have their children later when they have more resources. I wonder if this has resulted in some of the material indulgences we see. They’re far more intelligent than we were at their age, but woefully unprepared to navigate the world compared to us. Technology is also a factor, as they are bombarded with “adult” images and content in ways that we never were. I also am curious to see what their parenting style will be. Will the pendulum swing back in the other direction? I really, really wish I could jet over for coffee. Would love to have a big chat with you about the whole thing! Thanks so much for reading and for commenting. Yours has been a definite favorite. I’m a big fan of deep thinkers!

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  14. Excellent post. I am in my 33rd year of teaching, and am a mother. I want to put this into the hands of my preschool parents, yet their starry eyes would not see the messages. So, I do this bit-by-bit- developing relationships, then conversations, and plenty of writing on my blog and classroom newsletters. Like you, I need to tell families and children what is important. Thank you for a great post! -Jennie-

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    1. Thank you, Jennie! Also, thank you for 33 years of teaching. My kids have had so many excellent teachers that have contributed to them being the outstanding young people they are. You, and your co-workers, really do shape the future!

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      1. Rhonda, we had a staff meeting at school this evening. My director and I talked about your terrific blog post and the message you are giving to today’s families. Where are you located? If you are reasonably close to Groton, MA, northwest of Boston, our school would be very interested in having you talk with parents and families in the community. Another staff member told us that the “new term” is a curling parent (as in the ice sport). Unlike a helicopter parent, this one paves a smooth path for their child- no failures, no problems. Awful! -Jennie Fitzkee-

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      2. Jennie, I am in central NC. That would be a long drive! What a fantastic opportunity that would be though. I would love to have an open discussion with parents and hear what they’re experiencing. I had a message from someone in Australia yesterday. So surprised to learn that she totally related! While I’m guessing that NC doesn’t qualify as reasonably close, you can email me your contact info at rlstephens19@gmail.com and if I find myself in your vicinity we’ll make it happen!

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  15. Here’s a thought. Don’t have kids! The only deal you should be worrying about is the one they get. If you think parenting is aabout you, you’re doing it wrong. Use birth control, and life your life.

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    1. The title employs sarcasm. If you’re familiar with sarcasm as hyperbole, and you read the entire piece, then you saw the list of ways I fear we are short-changing our kids. As parents, I think we all want to do our best and we’re always looking for ways to improve. Having a sense of humor makes the journey that much more enjoyable.

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  16. Great Article! Took me back to my childhood, hide n seek after dark, riding our bicycles miles away from home and to get something for my mom at the store. Bringing home polliwogs, lizards, stray cats and dogs (which my parents Loved! hahaha) Corded telephones on the kitchen wall and tv had only maybe 6 channels that came in. I remember helping my two older siblings clearing the dinner table and having to stand in chair ( I was maybe 4 or 5 years old) to help with the dishes. My children were headed in the wrong direction ( because of my over indulgence) After an unexpected divorce my children had to do without somethings that their friends took for granted and had to learn the hard lessons of life, like if you want something you need to work for it. They had to learn to cook simple meals at a young age and to clean the house and do laundry. In the beginning I had to work a couple jobs. just to keep the lights on and food on the table. so they saw first hand what it is like to work hard. They are both hard working independent young adults that are on their own at 19 and 20 and are reliable and hard working and appreciate the fruits of their labor.

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    1. Gena, I’m also a single mom. Have been since my daughter was 3 and my son was 6. They’re 14 and 17 now. While I wish they could have known the security of a a two parent home, they also learned some very valuable lessons about life, survival, teamwork, and perseverance. In the long run, I think they will be able to draw on their childhood in very specific ways when life kicks them in the butt. We have become a formidable little team. My son is heading off to college next Fall, and as excited as I am for him, I know it’s going to be a huge adjustment. Congratulations on your parenting success with your two! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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  17. I loved your post! It took me back to my childhood in the late 60’s and 70’s, a time of discovery, imagination, and joy. Also a time of disappointment, responsibility, and sorrow. Childhood is about learning to appreciate the good through the bad, making your own fun, figuring out just how far you can safely go without getting hurt, and sometimes stepping over the line and having to take your lumps. Our experiences, good and bad, build character and make us sensible, responsible adults. I’m sorry for the over-scheduled, over-protected, technology driven children of today. They are being given everything they can imagine and they’ll never know what they’ve missed. If only they could spend a time like I did as a child, jumping on my bike in the morning, exploring miles of neighborhoods, imagining I was anything from an astronaut to a princess to a movie star, all in the same day. Going home only to grab a sandwich and use the bathroom and then out until the streetlights came on. And while everything wasn’t always ideal, there were valuable lessons learned. I hope the children of today can look back on their early years and smile as I am right now! Thanks for the memories!

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    1. I think they have some blessings, Barbara. They’re much more informed than we were, but in many cases they aren’t assuming any responsibility for themselves and their actions or learning how to work toward long term goals. I do believe though, that with some boundary setting and goal setting, it can be turned around. Thanks so much for reading!

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  18. So true. Things are turning upside down for sure! It’s hard not to give our kids things they want, but they don’t learn anything (not even that we give to them because we love them!), especially not the fact that everything costs, and what is truly important. We are setting them up to think they deserve whatever they want, and they should have it. I don’t plan on supporting my children in their adulthood. They have to figure that out. my husband is big on having the kids all work for him from the moment they can walk! That means sweeping the shop, picking up at job sites, whatever needs to be done. They hate it when they’re young, claim they’ll never work for dad when they’re older, yet they all have or do! Now they see the value and his purpose, and I dare say, our grandchildren will be raised the same way. It is raising responsible adults. Kids are in for a big surprise when they have to work and pay for those houses, cars and toys, when they’ve never been told no as children.

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  19. I think this really encompasses a lot of what is wrong with the way us Gen Xers were raised and how the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction for Millennials and Gen Z kids.

    I think that a lot of people that grew up in the60’s, 70’s, and 80’s were seriously damaged because they were raised by TV and video games rather than parents who made an effort to be present with them. To be fair ours was the first generation in American history to deal with both parents working, widespread divorce, widespread single parents, abortion, and birth control, and widespread drug use. It is a lot of change to introduce to a single generation, and in a lot of ways, I think we were a kind of social experiment. The mentality was that kids were often not wanted, and this is evidenced by the fact that there was about 25 million less of us than there were of the Baby boomers or the Millennials. Fortunately, by the late 80’s and early 90’s, society had begun to course correct.

    The complaints about kids of the 60’s and 70’s was that we were collectively some of the poorest performers academically since the Lost generation of the late 1800’s. (We coined the term slacker). We overcame this by grit, hard work, and entrepreneurial spirit, and a little help from the abundance of jobs stemming from the Information Age.

    For all of their faults, I think the Millennials represent some of the smartest, healthiest, civically minded, and most environmentally conscious, people in American history.

    I totally agree that the mainstream has over corrected and the Millennials seem inexperienced with failing gracefully, managing stress, and doing things independently. It is a challenge that a lot of employers face when hiring people from that generation. (Can you imagine your parents coming along on your first job interview? I know I can’t, but apparently that is now commonplace).

    I really try to make sure I don’t set my kids up for these weaknesses(which means that they will inevitably have other weaknesses that I haven’t thought about).

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    1. Yes, Jason! Each generation of parents faces unique challenges that are determined by society, technology, and policy. Things that we have very little control over. The silver lining is that the majority of parents want to raise their children to be the best they can be, and because of that they go out in search of information and advice that they can adapt to their situation. Each generation always looks back on their childhood with nostalgia and bemoans the youth of today. Hindsight is 20/20, right? Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  20. I am guilty of having overindulged my children and I do regret that but I don’t regret letting them be themselves and expressing themselves in their appearance and I don’t regret not ever raising a hand to them like my own father did. Both of them are adults now but always stay in my life and say they are grateful for the mum I was and still am to them

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    1. Thanks, Audra! I think that’s just it. As parents, we’re always going to have regrets and successes. I’m just so thankful and encouraged by the fact that we’re all looking for ways to be better and do better by our kids. I also believe that children should be disciplined with logic and reason, not fear of physical pain. Thanks so much for commenting.

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  21. Letting your kids “off the hook” is another form of giving them everything. Enabling them to not be responsible, or allowing excuses to be the end of a conversation. My brother still does not understand that his little accomplishments are 20 years after they should have been done.
    We were given just enough to participate at school or the park, so a job provided all the other “luxury” items like going roller skating or buying cassette tapes.
    Being able to provide for your kids is not a negative issue, but allowing them to be ungrateful, I feel is worse.

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  22. NAIL.ON.HEAD. I was raised by Veteran generation parents. They adopted my sister and I when they were 42. My mom would be ninety this year and I am 48 feeling very sad that the majority of the lessons and values she taught me are literally dying out to be gone forever. I have tried very hard to raise my two kids, now 16 and 18 to have those same values. I loved the part about crossing two highways on flat tires. We spent all out childhoods outside, It seems sometimes even the memories are like Charlie Brown where the parents aren’t visible. I can recall us building a fort, with boards and nails and carpet etc. at the cottage in the back forest. We were 5, 6 and 7. I am sure if we had cell phones in high school we would have be doing the same thing kids are today. Sending messages instead of embarrassing ourselves face to face. Great article. Luckily I know a lot of people who feel the same way.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kris! Our children are very close to the same age. I have a high school freshman and a high school senior. My single parent status keeps me from over indulging them too much, but I’m always looking for ways to do better.

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  23. This is a good article. Food for thought, humor, and some true stories that resonate with a generation that seemed to get caught up in “doing better than the last”. None of us have all the answers. But, dialogues like this can at least help us brainstorm towards finding some common ground that may leave our children a bit “better off” than the last generation. After all, that’s really the goal, to set our kids up to do better than we did. I truly believe there is a happy medium between “slavery” and “hovering”. Like most goals in life, it’s more about moving forward than actually reaching it. Each individual child will respond based on not only their environment, but how they are wired. So the best we can do is put our hearts into it while using our head. The rest truly is up to them. Maybe some of us “slave” generation folks overcompensated and put too much emphasis on our own performance due to our own insecurities? At this point, all that matters is that we are open to an honest discussion with the goal of coming together to benefit our kids well being and state of mind/heart in the end. But again, studies have shown two kids can both be raised the same, and come out completely different. So, who knows? All I know is this article brought back a flow of memories of my childhood, some good, some not so good. But, today, as an adult, my past is nothing more than a memory that I can choose to look at as lessons, or, use as a crutch. Being human, I’m sure I’m guilty of both. But, because of that past, I am capable of taking responsibility for both. I pray our kids are capable of doing the same. The biggest challenge I see in the “screw delayed gratification” generation is the lack of willingness to do exactly that, take responsibility. If this does or doesn’t apply to your kids, awesome. Share, brainstorm, let’s grow together as a society and learn from our failures, and successes, together.

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    1. Thank you, Ed!! Thank you for seeing the humor and understanding that the goal is to get us talking about how each of us can do a better job in our unique situations. I’m a single mother of two, so what works for me is most likely going to be very different from what works for someone in a two parent home where there is a stay-at-home mom. I had a great childhood and felt safe and loved, but there are absolutely things that I would have benefited from had they been different. As younger parents with different challenges, I think 70’s parents didn’t engage with us the way we do with our kids. A definite improvement there, in my book. I also feel certain that if I check in with my kids in 20 years, they’ll have their own laments about their kids. It’s all about the honest discourse. Sharing ideas eases that “is it just me” feeling and allows us to consider new ways of approaching problems. After all, we want to do the right thing, don’t we?

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  24. WOW! I think we lived in the same house! Everything you listed is spot on. Both the 70s and the 20teens. I could not agree more. I have been saying this for years. How we are not doing our kids any favors by spoon feeding them everything. And don’t get me started on Goodie Bags at kids parties!
    Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful article! It’s nice to be validated as a parent. Even tho we’ve kind of screwed them up.

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    1. Thanks, Vicki! I think we’re all looking for ways to improve as parents, and that’s a great thing. Most people I hear from have genuinely good kids that maybe need to take on a little more responsibility and learn how to handle problems on their own, but are making changes to get there. I’m feeling confident about their futures!

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  25. Loved the essay! I was born in 52, shared a pink 63 Buick Special with my Dad, the other option was Mom’s station wagon. Started working at 12, babysitting the neighbor’s 3 kids. All 3 of my boys had jobs, learned to ckean, cook and do their laundry. Now my only worry is for my 4 granddaughters who don’t lift a finger, play basketball on $1000 per season traveling teams and literally cry till they got their own phones. I try to quietly intervene where I can. Fortunately, I live on a farm, and they come and stay once/year (that’s all we can manage because of their rigorous sports schedule) Taught them to fish (and clean them), move cattle, feed the horses, ride a 4 wheeler safely, sew and cook. The older ones are 12 and 10, the younger 2 have never been here to stay, can’t leave their mother. *sigh* I don’t want to be “that” mother-in-law, but feel like I’m not helping our little girls be all they could be. It’s very disheartening.

    Thanks for a great read

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    1. Angie, I absolutely love that you want to have your grandchildren come visit you. Really makes me nostalgic because I so loved spending time with my grandparents when I was a kid. Working in the garden with my grandfather, fishing, shucking corn, and making homemade ice cream were some of my favorite things to do with them. These girls are soooo lucky! In fact, I think I would like to come stay with for a week this summer!

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  26. I loved this! I was 18 and just graduated high school in 1974. I admit I am guilty of some of the modern parent things because I didn’t want me daughters to have to do what my mother “made me do”! They were involved in sports through high school which did benefit our oldest who got some money to play at a private college. She also got academic money, too, as did our younger daughter so they did work hard. Luckily, both turned out to be upstanding young women. Our oldest attained her Masters degree after she married and now has our 2 grandsons… our youngest had a job before she graduated college and is doing well, too! Raising kids isn’t easy and I could have made it easier on myself for sure. My husband and I are both retired (we are 64 and 60) and I am thankful that we didn’t cheat ourselves by not squirreling away retirement funds…..

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    1. Thank you, Kim! I have athletic kids too and it is very difficult for them to work when they’re tied up with practices and games after school. This was a fun piece to write because it allowed me to reminisce a bit, as well as inject a little humor into a really difficult job. I agree that raising kids is one really difficult job and there is certainly no one right way to do it. I love hearing from people about their parenting experiences and what has worked and not worked for them. I learn something beneficial every single time. Sounds like you have a great start on some wonderful grandchildren. Enjoy!

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  27. This was amazing. we are the same age adn I think grew up in the same neighborhood, metaphorically at least. Both my parents smoked, Doral, not Kents, I worked through high school and college and have recently begun expressing disappointment my 23yr old son doesn’t strive or hunger for that independence. He had to grow up divorced and in hindsight I frequently did “more” to overcome any shortcomings he’d experience. I hope this didn’t short change him! We had “less in the 70s, but it left us with more want and more desire to achieve things. I am holding out hope, but I don’t think I can ever count on anyone under 30 to change a tire for me!!!

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    1. Jeff, it is so funny how many people have written me because they grew up exactly like we did! I swear I think our experiences were so similar because most parents were young and just getting started in life. Our kids have had the benefit/disadvantage of older, more established parents. Mine are still in high school, but I’ve been a single parent since they were 3 and 6. It’s prevented me from being too overindulgent. I still have plenty of improvements to make though! In the long run, I think most figure it out on their own, just maybe later than we did. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, Jeffrey! Oh, and by the way, my dad made me learn how to change a tire before I could get my license. I just recently taught my son!

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  28. Hi. I have 5 children, all girls, the oldest is 23 and the youngest is 3, so I’ve been parenting a long time. Many years ago it hit me that I am “raising adults.” Everything I do (or don’t do) directly affects how they will manage their lives as adults. We’ve never had much money for extra things, indulgences and such, so my kids have gone without while watching their friends get to participate in things we can’t afford. I think it has built so much character, because now they don’t expect anything (except I love treating them at Christmas & birthdays!). My oldest two are now 20 & 23, and they both live on their own & work full-time management positions at crappy pay. My 20yr old goes to college full-time and maintains a 4.0 while my 23yr old is a 2016 honors grad who graduated with zero debt. Zero! They drive reliable used cars that are paid for and cannot imagine having a car payment for a car they don’t need. They pay their own bills, and if they need something, they go without until they can provide it for themselves. And they both voted in this election (essentially cancelled each other’s vote out – haha!). I’m just so very proud of them. They set such great examples for their younger sisters who are eagerly following in their footsteps. I cannot emphasize my point enough, that all of this is based on unconditional love & respect and one simple concept – we are raising adults. What kind of adult do you want your child to be?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kristen, I love this! In the interest of storytelling, the article represents my children inaccurately. I’m a single parent (no child support,either) so mine also know what it’s like. In fact, last year they readily agreed to just a couple of Christmas items and instead we used the money to buy for some kids in foster care. What you describe in your children is exactly what I’m working toward. Congratulations on a job well done! Thanks so much for taking the time to share!

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  29. Add to this is that since we’ve “manufactured” our kids we are left feeling guilty when they seem to have some character “flaw” Did our parents feel that way?

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    1. Josie, I think it’s the nature of being a parent to feel guilt. It’s impossible NOT to make mistakes when helping to shape a child into an adult. I’m hopeful we get enough right over the years to offset the guilt 🙂

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  30. Everything was better back in the day, ice was colder, fires warmer, bread fresher, lemons zestier. Congratulations on fulfilling every tired old trope about ‘the youth/parents of today.’ The world has moved on, as expected. The only thing you can rely on is a lack of absolute perfection, in this regard my generation is no different from your own.

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    1. Yes, Stephen. It’s what happens. That’s why the piece is full of sarcasm and hyperbole in it’s comparison of then and now. Parenting styles in the 70’s would never translate into today’s society with technology and resources what they are. Every single generation faces unique challenges, and the parents of each generation enjoy reminiscing about how they grew up.We’re also always looking for ways to do a better job of getting our kids ready to tackle the world on their own. Eventually, if you become a parent, you’ll do the same. I’m a little surprised you lacked appreciation for the sarcasm, as you employ it yourself.

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    1. Wow, Mike! Thank you!! Truthfully, when I wrote this I thought my mom and few of my close friends would read it when they were bored. I’ve been shocked by how many people identified with it. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Happy New Year!

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  31. I love this, I am a sarcastic parent and my kids can say I always treat them like “slaves” haha. I was raised not only in the 70s/early80s but also in a 3rd world country where things were very different. I can only thank my parents for being so tough on me because it made me who I am today. Love this post because it does not care about “being nice” and it tells is it like it is. Right up my alley!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment, Silvina! I’ve been surprised by the number of people I’ve heard from who grew up outside of the US, but have similar experiences. I love that most of us genuinely want to do the right thing and raise our kids to be responsible, self-sufficient adults and are looking for ways to do a better job.

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  32. This article was so on-point and I love the responses. The golden question for me has always been “How do we instill the work ethic we were given as kids to our children when we are in a position to provide them with much more than what we had?” One of the greatest compliments I feel I have received thus far is that my son wants for nothing but is not spoiled. He truly appreciates and is grateful for what I can provide. I too am a single parent so my situation may be a bit different than families with 2 parents. I got divorced when my son was 2 and he’s now 15. He plays 3 sports and maintains mostly A’s but he knows that he also has to work when time allows. He is currently looking for a summer job and, not because he needs to help me maintain our household, but because the greatest gift I can provide him is self-sufficiency. I always joke with him that when he graduates college he can move back home but he shouldn’t unpack as the welcome will expire in 6 months. I adore him with every once of my being but I will feel that I will have failed as a parent in some way if he can’t or won’t want to support himself. I had to support myself at 18 because I lost both my parents to cancer by then. There were plenty of nights that a bag of microwave popcorn was dinner because my rent was due. I survived that and then years down the road a divorce and am happy to say that I can support myself and my son. That would not have been possible had I not been taught self-sufficiency and given the gift of my parents work ethic. I have also always held him accountable age appropriately. I hold him to the same standard he holds me. We have to mean what we say and say what we mean. I think that’s a big problem today – No accountability.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lisa, I love your post! I feel exactly as you do, and although I wish mine could have know growing up in a happy, two-parent household, I do feel like the adversities have taught them some valuable life lessons they wouldn’t have learned otherwise. I can’t imagine losing both parents by the age of 18. What a gift they gave you by teaching you how to be self-sufficient. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. As the single mom of a son, you might also enjoy reading the piece I wrote about mine called, “Letting Go”. Hope the new year brings you many blessings!

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  33. This was great! I will say, I AM that college professor and you are right on target, good luck with that phone call/text/email to me. I get them more than you would believe. Parents get a boiler plate response they are NEVER happy about and their child learns a life lesson a little too late.
    I am a single parent raising a young son. He has a lot of privileges I didn’t have but he also has chores and waits for things, earns things himself, saves his own money for replacing a broken item, etc. I am financially better off than my single mother was but that doesn’t stop me from raising my child a lot like my mother raised my brother and I. It was eerily similar to your article. As long as my son would rather be outside playing with his friends or even with me, he is allowed more electronic time than my mother approves of these days. I am involved in his activities but at 9 years old he is already learning to solve his own issues with teachers and friends. Hopefully he and I will like each other forever and he will be a kind, independent, productive, driven but compassionate adult in the upcoming years. I will love him always but that doesn’t mean I have to enable him to be an entitled little pain in the arse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Char, I have been astounded over the years by parents who would mention in conversations, calling their high school aged kids teacher to complain about a poor grade they had received, or to bully them into giving their kid “another chance” on a test because they were stressed out. If I even wanted to do that, my kids would be horrified! I’m betting that you and your son will definitely like each other forever and he will certainly be the kind of adult we’re all hoping to raise our kids to be. My son is a senior this year. I recently wrote a piece on here about our relationship as single mom and son that you might appreciate. It’s called, “Letting Go”. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. Good or bad, I love the feedback!

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  34. I agree fully with this. But sadly these parents that create these entitled adults aren’t new. Just a whole lot more of them. I know many people who were born in the late 60s and still feel they shouldn’t have to work unless it’s what they want or wait for things to fall on their doorstep and still rely on their elderly parents. This parenting isn’t new just more common and also with social media, in the spotlight.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Melissa, I’m sure there are those “entitled” people no matter what generation we look at. I was always struck though, at least in the town where I grew up, that the kids with money didn’t get nice things either. They had the same kind of substandard stuff I had. The good stuff was reserved for the grownups. In fact, that was one of the observations that sparked the article. One girl, in particular, whose parents were quite wealthy, drove an old station wagon with the ceiling lining falling down. She used to staple it back up every once in a while, so that she could see to drive!

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  35. I’m not a parent, but I am a teacher. I see many of the issues and comparisons you make in this article. I graduated High School in 1986. My first car cost $25. It was a 71 Datsun Station Wagon. No heat. No radio. Manual choke, stick shift and you could see the road pass beneath you. But I survived. I did get a summer job through my Dad, but that meant I had to work 3 times as hard because it was a reflection on him. If we were taking on too much, the fun stuff was cut. Not chores, work or school work. Today parents often feel we teachers give too much homework because the kids have sports after school. As to why didn’t many adults follow their parents parenting styles, I think some people did feel like ‘free labor” and may have resented it. So they made a vow to give to their child without making them work for it. In some ways I see the logic. But in others I see the missed opportunity. Hard work can often be its own reward. I learned skills through those summer jobs that I still use. I also understand the value of a dollar because I worked hard for many of them and have the spider veins to prove it.
    Thank you for your insights. I hope the pendulum begins to switch g the other way and common sense comes back to the American family.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Susan, you were just 3 years behind me! I wonder too, if parents today indulge their children more because they have kids later and have the resources to do so. I suppose it’s probably a combination of technology, additional resources, and society at large. Either way, I’m with you. I hope that, as parents, we can find a happy medium because I really do think we’re short-changing our kids. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment!

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  36. This takes me back to all the emotions I grew up with and almost all the ways my children grew up. What a blessing it would be if the children growing up now could have these values instilled in their lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gale, I’ve heard from so many parents who are actively taking steps to instill those values, despite the challenges that they face due to differences in society and technology. I think we’re going to see a swing in the right direction. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!

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  37. Dear Rhonda,

    I have recently found this post though is it about nine months old. I find it to be very interesting and something along the lines of what I have often thought about.
    I am a teacher. I think about how we are treating and raising children and young adults all of the time. In the educational realm it keeps changing, not always for the better, as well as in parenting, which impacts how a student often behaves in the classroom. I have seen a lot of types of families with many rearing styles. I have taught many different students coming from diverse backgrounds.

    May I ask your thoughts on how you feel this “new wave” of parenting styles has impacted education?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi JC, first I want to thank you for teaching! Teachers, in my world, are on the front lines of shaping our society. In the worst cases, I see parents who will ride a teacher relentlessly to give their child an A whether they earned one or not. These same parents are also eager to step in and solve every problem their kids have. They are much less concerned with whether or not their children master the material, and more worried about the grade they receive in the end. When I tell people I’ve never called a teacher on my child’s behalf and I never will, they think I’m crazy. I think my children have to learn to problem-solve. Many parents think I should be solving problems for them. In my mind, high school in particular, should be a testing ground for learning how to navigate college. That means managing your work load, communicating with and addressing problems with your instructors, completing assignments without a parents assistance, and accepting the grade you EARNED. There are a great many kids that leave high school having been micromanaged like they were still in elementary school. In those cases, I think they leave with a wealth of knowledge but no critical thinking skills. It’s a tough way to go out into the world and function as an adult. Thank you so much for reading and comment. I love the feedback!

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    1. I have a daughter who is a high school freshman, and a son who is a high school senior. Friends are often surprised by the latitude I give them in making their own decisions and dealing with the consequences. But how else are they to learn? They definitely need more work, but I’m hopeful they’ll leave me prepared to be a fully functioning adult. This parenting thing is HARD and I think what works for one kid, doesn’t necessarily work for another. I’ve been so excited to see the responses from so many parents who say, “Oh gosh, I’m so guilty of this but we’re getting it together!” I love that in the end, we’re all working hard to be the best parents we can be. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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