I recently read this article that opened with the following quote from Benjamin Hardy: “The demise of our culture will result from the demise of its men if something isn’t changed quickly.”
His article goes over the idea that boys and men are unsure about their societal roles. Because of this confusion, they struggle how to become men because of the changes in societal norms. While he has some valid points, I walked away from the article with a different train of thought than he might have intended. As a woman reading this article I felt like a lot of pressure was placed on men. However, I don’t see men as the main issue. Which ultimately led me to think, what’s the real problem in our society?
From the Mouth of a Teacher
As a teacher of 1st graders, my head was spinning with the reality that it is not just boys struggling to become men. The same applies to girls trying to become women. The pressures of society are not just playing into the downfall of men but the downfall of a future generation.
During my years teaching I saw children throw the largest tantrums, purposefully hurt one another physically and emotionally, and deliberately disobey their teachers. I would often end the day feeling exasperated and confused. Sadly, the behaviors I saw all often made perfect sense once I met their parents.
For example, I once told a parent that their child was below grade level in reading, and that she would really improve if they completed the simple homework I sent home. The parent responded, “Oh well she doesn’t want to do her homework when we ask her to.” Excuse me, what? Are the children in charge or the parents? Similar responses came as I told parents about my concerns over behavior, defiance, social skills, etc. Excuses like, “I just can’t get him to listen.” Or, “He’s six, isn’t that how six-year-olds act?” Or, “It’s just easier if I let her get her way to avoid a tantrum.”
The Real Problem
From my classroom experience, I do know it is possible for students to respond to adults, as well as consequences. I also know that children benefit from boundaries, limits, and expectations. Naturally they will push you, but they also rely heavily on their adult examples to nourish their behavior and prepare them to become productive members of society. So I would submit that it is not just a problem with the men of this generation. I would submit that the real culprit is how we are raising our children. There is no one right way to parent, there is no one size fits all solution that will magically make you have well mannered, happy, and obedient children. However, there are ways to prepare your children for the society they are getting ready to enter.
5 ways to stop the “decaying norm”of society:
1. Teach responsibility
Your children can learn from an early age that they are a part of a family unit. What does being a part of your family unit entail? Involve your children in their roles as a child of your household. What are they responsible for cleaning? What are they responsible for helping with each day? When they learn that they have a responsibility to their home and family they will not only learn good skills, but also learn how to take part in a social unit and apply that knowledge to other social interactions.
2. Hold your children accountable and have clear expectations
It was disheartening as a teacher to know the academic and behavioral needs of a child could be met with support at home, only to be undermined by parents who never held their children accountable for their learning or
behavior. Are you following through with consequences and expectations? If you tell your child they will be going to time-out if they hit their sibling one more time, and they do indeed hit their sibling again, do they go to time out? Imagine their confusion and excitement as they realize you aren’t going to follow through with consequences, so why should they bother listening to you? It is essential for children to know the expectations you have for them in order to prepare them for their societal roles.
3. Teach them to wait
We live in a world where we expect instant gratification at a moment’s notice. It is all too common to be speaking with another parent only to be constantly interrupted by a child saying, “mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy!” while the parent tries to teach the child to wait by ignoring the child. I promise the person you are trying to talk to can’t even focus on what you’re saying because your child is so distracting. I assure you that the adult you are talking with will be more grateful that you take a quick minute to teach your child how to say, “excuse me mom” and then patiently wait, instead of ignoring your child. This tool of ignoring also gives the child the power to continue what they are doing, instead of being told their behavior is inappropriate and WHY it is inappropriate.
4. Explain emotions
It is normal for children to go through a variety of emotions and not understand how to act upon them. Take the time to explain to your children what their emotions are and how to cope with those different emotions. For example, what does it look like when they feel angry? What can they do when they feel angry? What can they do when they feel sad, hurt, frustrated, etc? By teaching about emotions, either during or after the emotion has manifested, you are teaching your children two important lessons. First, they learn that emotions are not something to hide, and they can confide their emotional feelings with you. Second, they learn that they are in control of their feelings and not the other way around.
5. Lead by example
What example are you showing your children? Do you often sit on the couch with your phone glued to your hand? Have you yelled at your significant other in front of your children? Do you speak unkindly about others? We are a walking example of how to interact with the society we live in. What example do you want to set for your children?
It’s Up to Us
The pressure of parenting never ends. Something that has brought me comfort is one little line in a beloved hymn “I am a Child of God.” It says, “I am a child of God/And so my needs are great.” Childrens’ needs are great. They are given earthly parents to help best meet their needs.
The reality is that the main responsibility of child rearing does not fall to your children’s teachers, church leaders, extended family members, or friends. It falls to their parents or guardians. Of course, utilize your support systems, but take the time and energy to work with your children to prepare them to feel successful in this journey called life.
You are the only one who knows what your children need. Your formula for success for your children will be different from your friends and neighbors. However, by following the 5 steps listed above you can prepare your children for a successful childhood and adulthood.