Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
As a perceptive child, I made it my job to notice every little thing my parents did wrong in raising me, and I swore not to make the mistakes they made. One of the chief things I was going to do differently was to tell my kids I loved them all the time. I remember seeing television specials about this exact subject. Parents needed to tell their kids they loved them more.
So now I’m all grown up and I tell my kids I love them all the time. Seriously, not a day goes by without hugs and kisses. And I’m not the only one. I hear it a lot from parents.
When I was a kid, if we heard any parent say to a kid that they loved him, it was instant Lord of the Flies time. It was chum in the water. We’d all be blowing the kid kisses, rhyming his name, and singing that he was sitting in a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g his Mom. We were idiots.
When I was a kid, my Mom would drop me off at baseball practice and come back hours after practice was done because she was bolting around picking up her other idiot children. But today, I see parents gather on the sidelines at soccer practice, and when the kids come over for water all the parents make sure they’re hydrated, they compliment them that they are the most awesomely awesome soccer player in that time zone, and they tell them they love them. And that’s the new normal. And there’s plenty right and wonderful about that. Because I’m usually chasing three or four other children, the most my kids can usually get from me on the sideline is me throwing a water bottle near them and maybe a wink. But I’m the exception on the sideline. I’m telling you that this generation of children is likely the most verbally adored generation this country has ever known.
So how come kids seem to be getting worse?
I don’t think I’ve got a case of premature old-man-itis. There are a lot of really really rude kids around now. My kids seem to me like pretty good kids. I’m sometimes laughed at by the other parents for how strict I am with them. But I’ve gotta’ tell you, I see kids talking back to their parents and rolling their eyes right to their face. I see temper tantrums. I see kids hitting their parents. All the time.
Let me tell you something, if I ever rolled my eyes at my mother I’d have been chasing my eyes because they would’ve been rolling down the street from the slap I would’ve received.
Today, dads and moms go to practices, dancing lessons, and pick their kids up from school. I’m honestly not even sure my Dad knew where my school was. And if I ever saw my Dad at my school I probably would’ve run out the back door, burned my G.O. card, changed my name, and started a new life at a place where kids whose dads are out to kill them go. Seriously, if I saw my Dad at school that meant I was in trouble.
But nowadays, parents seem like they’re friends with the children’s teachers. You’d think a line of communication like that would likely spell doom for kids, but no. They laugh and chat and then the kid says nasty things and rolls his eyes and ... nothing happens. The parents and teachers commiserate with each other. They don’t plan how to change the situation. And I’m not blaming the teachers. It’s the parents.
Maybe it has something to do with parents wanting to be more like their kids. Maybe it’s because parents want to be their kids’ friends rather than parents. Maybe it’s because other adults in the neighborhood don’t scare kids anymore. When I was a kid, I pretty much thought every adult in the neighborhood had full rights to wallop me if I even walked on their lawn. That’s what made cutting through people’s properties so dangerous. We believed there was a real chance of a serious beatdown. To be honest, we didn’t get beaten by neighbors much (except one time Pat got housed by the lady who lived behind us. Ask him. See if he’ll tell you about it in the combox), but we thought every adult had the right to punish us or drag us to our parents by the ear. Most kids don’t fear other adults anymore. And maybe it might just be that people aren’t having as many children as they used to. Maybe when a kid is one of four, five, six or more they learn patience and they learn it’s not all about them, and they learn that they’re not the best at everything.
Now, I understand that parents want to get along with their kids. I see the good in kids not fearing other adults. And I hear people say they don’t want to have more kids because they want to lavish attention and love on the kids they already have.
I don’t know what’s going on, but I know that something’s going wrong. Very wrong.