A story is told of a very self-important college boy who took it upon himself to explain to a senior citizen sitting next to him why it was impossible for the older generation to understand his generation. “You grew up in a different world, actually an almost primitive one!” the student said, loud enough for many of those nearby to hear. “The young people of today grew up with television, jet planes, space travel, man walking on the moon, our spaceships have visited Mars. We have nuclear energy, electric and hydrogen cars, computers with DSL, BPS, light-speed processing … and…..” The Senior responded, “You’re right, son. We didn’t have those things when we were young, so we invented them. Now, you – arrogant little brat – what are you doing for the next generation?”
It seems so much fun to be born into a jet age where virtually everything is instant: instant coffee, instant tea, instant message, instant noodles, instant chat, instant fame, instant feedback (facebook like), instant download, instant access to data, instant gratification; indeed a generation of “at-the- spur-of-the-moment.” They’ve got no time to waste.
Do children still play? Play grounds today have become commercialized as opposed to other open fields where children and young people spontaneously gathered and freely flexed their muscles in heart-felt play. In my memories, children played like there was no tomorrow. It is part of their primary vocation as kids to have space to play. They must not be denied such opportunity while paying attention to their safety, security and well-being.
Today, video games, Ben 10 movies, satellite channels of cartoon networks and watching videos of other children singing and playing have become the order of the day. Apart from those who may live in rural settings, it seems gone are the days when kids played with sand, boys kicked football and did acrobatics in open fields, girls plaited one another’s hair and clapped in pairs to some musical tune, and engaged in other social activities.
So much of such child’s play has evolved into more structured recreational periods within the school and at clubs or game houses visited by affluent parents and their kids. Besides these, it is all TV and school work. Some of these kids grow fat as they are so well fed but have little or no opportunity for frequent physical activities.
Today, kids move from classroom to homework to home lessons to cartoon network, they eat and sleep. They wake up very early and their routine begins again. They seem to miss out on ‘just being’ kids. If only they would be allowed time to learn good social relations with those around them, learn respect and good ways of communicating their wants and needs, do house chores equal to their age, learn to talk freely with their parents and siblings and share their knowledge and experiences, play and mix with other children in a safe environment, and be taught to earn, through good behaviour, that which they crave for.
That reverence which kids had for elders and older persons seems to be wearing away and in some cases have worn away. With the jet age of information, there is a common attitude among the youth of “I know it, what can you tell me?” Elders have to deal with an “I-know-it-all” generation. It sometimes even becomes a crisis for some older persons who still can’t make sense of what the young ones are up to.
Do kids and young people today have self-restraint in their dictionary? Have the adults in their lives taught them to hold back themselves for a while? An exemplary image of self-restraint in the Bible is Mary in the verse, “But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). No! The children/youth of today are quick to retort, respond back and indeed give you a piece of their mind. No time to Pause, Wonder and Reflect (PWR = POWER).
Young people today find it extremely boring to read long write-ups. Even if they try, they browse through the opening and closing paragraphs. And if they are to respond, make the shortest responses possible. Not many of them can take the trouble of engaging and arguing out facts. This is one of the reasons why doing reading assignments and studying for examinations are such a nightmare to many of them. They lack the discipline, focus, and ability to postpone gratification for a higher good, at-the-moment. A young person who is otherwise, would usually stand out like a beacon among the crowd. So seek to stand out.
This is a “Me, myself and I” type of generation, in which the self is glorified beyond all else. The society, by example, has taught them that life is about – what I want, what I need, what I think, what I can get, what I earn, what I can buy, what I can show off; a world of self-aggrandizement. It is all about iPhones, iPads, iPods, iTunes, and other iDevices. Instead: Where is character? Where is creativity? Where is pure volunteerism? Where is service?
Some young people live in the virtual world of facebook and twitter and do badly in real life social relations. As an unknown author expressed, “Technology has brought us closer to those far away, but distanced us from those nearby”. While parents are either too busy, are absent or give inadequate response to questions asked by their kids, the kids of today can get an instant response/answer from the internet, more so without being judged for asking ‘such’ question.
Music lyrics which could not be sang so freely by older generations are today’s hits even for little children. So much awe and reverence have been lost along the way. Now, everything goes.
Of course the adults of older generations share in all these queerness.
The adults who are reading this know that the above is not just a description of the children of this generation. They too have become part of the “instant” bandwagon. So could you as an adult of an older generation stand out and give kids and younger ones some example to look up to? Or as we say in Nigeria, “Abi na the same rope tie all of us?”
Today so much emphasis is placed on grades and marks obtained as opposed to character, creativity and innovation. Parents put so much pressure on their children to attain good grades at any cost. But they also forget that each of these kids have God-given talents, passions, interests and positive characters that must be discovered and nurtured. As the grades get better, the child’s character needs to improve too for the better.
For education without character and creativity is no education at all.
All these culminate in the kind of parents we have in families, the kind of workers and the kind of leaders in businesses. The young generation need to be helped so they don’t have to go through failed marriages and failed businesses before learning their lessons in life. Yet this needs to be balanced with allowing them to fall and fail so they learn to pick themselves up.
You as a parent, growing up in the 70s and earlier, you were socialized in a society/community that emphasized self-reliance and a strong sense of responsibility over one’s family. So why now babysit your kids and teenagers as though you will always be there to give them all the answers they need through life?
Parents have the responsibility to bring up children who are strong and motivated from within themselves. This means that a good mix of confidence, humility and self-esteem need to be well nurtured in them. We can teach them to take little steps at a time without having to compare themselves with other people. They are also never too young to learn little acts of delayed gratification, in the spirit of self-development and service to others.
Teaching your kids respect for others and good manners isn’t old-fashioned. Some parents see their kid behave badly and simply over-look them rationalizing that they are only kids. That behaviour or character, if not corrected, may return like nemesis to haunt the parents, the child or both.
In addition, kids would be better prepared for the future when they are taught certain values and principles. Some of these include: independence Vs responsibility; sometimes being able to stand alone for one’s convictions; and that choices and deeds directly result in consequences. Let them learn that if they want certain things then they will have to earn it. A kid of any age can begin to learn problem-solving skills. This helps them become responsible adults and hopefully, good citizens in the future.
The truth of the matter is: you can’t give what you don’t have. You as a parent or guardian, you are ideally the best epitome of what you want your child/children to become. You do not need to be perfect, but they pick up your efforts, your value system, principles, discipline or lack of it.
The generational gap can be bridged. The differences in world views, perception and choices need not drive parents and children apart. The young ones of this generation can only be who they are and who you help them become. They never lived in your time and will never really understand. They are missing some values which you may have and they too have much to offer. Acceptance and an exchange of our best selves will make for better relations across generations.
Teaching your kids respect for others and good manners isn’t old-fashioned.
How safe are the kids and young people of this generation amidst so much war, terror attacks and violence? The problem still lingers on. Indeed, the Chibok secondary school girls who were abducted on the night of April 14, 2014 must be rescued and brought back home; we cannot afford to lose that generation of daughters, sisters, mothers and wives.
- Linda Asimole Ellah