When you look back on your childhood, who had the most impact on you growing up? Did you look up to the kids in your age group or younger? Was it the teenagers that you aspired to be like? Or, did you learn the most from the adults in your life? Parents, grandparents, guardians, aunts, uncles, their friends, etc.? Were your role models champions in your favorite sport or event, entertainers, actors, etc.? We all have elders (not saying they’re old now, just older than us) in our lives who set examples for us that have led us to where we are today.
My least favorite phrase in the world is, “kids these days.” Anytime I hear someone say it, I ask him or her, “why are the kids these days like they are?” Almost every time they’ll list off lazy, disrespectful, no hustle, lacking conversation skills, too much time on their phones and the list goes on. They aren’t all wrong. But next I ask them, “how do you think they got here.” They aren’t as quick to answer. Why? Because that would mean we, adults, have to take responsibility for the actions, or lack of, “kids these days”.
As Paulo Coelho says, “the world is changed by your example, not your opinion.” It’s time for many of us to stop complaining and take action to set an example for the “kids these days”. I don’t just mean parents either, I mean adult human beings. Together we need to provide more opportunities to include kids and let them be hands on. Be firm, but patient with them when they talk back and would rather be on their phone. Create consequences for poor behavior, attitude, laziness and all the things their future teachers, spouses, children and bosses will dislike. Take the phones AWAY and put them in a bucket when you’re outside playing games, working on the farm or eating as a family.
To this day, my parents are hardworking, hard playing people who are active in rodeo and have a solid social life. During my childhood, I got to tag along to events and happenings, but I was expected to be respectful by listening and speaking only when I was asked or I had something relevant to say, which only happened if I was actually listening to the conversation. With my listening skills came a lot of life lessons from stories I probably shouldn’t have heard from the adults conversing at night, but they kept me out of a lot of trouble as a young adult! As one of my father’s favorite quotes goes, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
My siblings and I were rarely asked what we wanted to do or how we wantedit done unless it was our birthday or we were doing something specific together. We were expected to go with the flow, tag along and do what was asked of us or find a way to entertain ourselves. The word “bored” wasn’t an option. Our mother made it perfectly clear that if we were bored, she’d make us “unbored”. So, out the door we’d go to use our imaginations to together or to find friends we could play with.
I don’t feel like my parents neglected me in anyway by raising me like this, but they taught me how to engage with my elders, enjoy the moment I’m in, listen and adapt to my surroundings with a smile on my face. My mom to this day will say, “you’re responsible for your own damn good time.” I firmly believe these life-lessons of respect, patience, listening and speaking relevantly, are the reason I’ve made it to where I am today. They talked to me like an adult, but I knew my place and had to earn the respect and right to be listened. I learned when I spoke, for it to be pertinent to the conversation. No whining, complaining or tattling. These lessons also gave me the confidence and self-esteem to not be intimated by my elders.
In my observations today, that kind of adult-child relationship has changed. As adults (not just parents, but every adult) we are removing them from reality. Rather than children either playing with each other outside or sitting in the same room patiently observing how adults interact and treat each other, we give them a device and they silently become absorbed by an unrealistic movie or app like Snapchat or TikTok.
As adults, we know people only show the “highlight reel” lives on social media. Unfortunately, children don’t pick up on those things because they aren’t present in the hard conversations their parents might be having at the table right beside them. Instead, they become consumed with the comparison game, false information, and feelings of being “not enough” when the filters are removed. These apps are also filled with advertisements for “quick fixes” or “get rich quick” schemes. NONE of this is reality.
After all this we “don’t understand” why the kids these days are aloof, unaware, lazy, and not creative. We expect them to be respectful little angels that understand how the world works without really looking at ourselves and realizing why they’re struggling with depression, lacking self-esteem, real relationships and problem solving on their own. In reality, it’s the adults that are too lazy, preoccupied and lacking the discipline to put their own devices down and take the time to interact with the children in their lives with the respectful, honest, direct attention that we expect them to exhibit.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some good things out there on social media and the internet and there’s a time the kids just need SOMETHING to let you breathe for a minute. But that should be a treat to a child when they get to use a device, not a daily norm. Plus, we all know you have to filter through all the BS to get to the good stuff and I highly doubt many adults can even keep up with the latest app updates on their own phones, let alone the children in their lives.
We, and I mean ALL of us “adults”, need to get back to kids being kids and adults being adults. Respecting our elders, listening, taking our turn,solving our own problems, playing outside and using our imaginations deviceless. As adults we need to INCLUDE children in hard, hands-on work and adult conversations. We to teach them how to earn respect with guidance and discipline. And sometimes, you just need to send those kids back outside to figure out who gets to play with what toy on their own. Life isn’t fair folks, children might as well learn how to handle that at a young age.
Together, we can instill the confidence we want to see in the youth. Don’t have kids, it’s still your responsibility as an adult to employees, children, family and friends. Be an ADULT and set a positive example for those around you. It’s one of our human responsibilities to help the next generation.
Be STRONG. Stand FIRM. Say NO. Set LIMITS. And most importantly, INCLUDE the youth. Look them in the eye, ask them questions and help them learn to earn the respect they’ll need to gain from their future bosses,
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Photo Credit: Karl Allen with is son Slate in the Oklahoma City Stockyards. Taken by Bunkhouse Media. Karl homeschools Slate and teaching him not only the important things in the classroom, but also the daily tasks associated with working on a ranch from building fence, welding, catching cows, buying and selling and everything in between!