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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Taking Responsibility For Our Children

"Life Recipes" by Alison, writing from Pennsylvania, USA

I read an article concerning the pre-mature growing up of today's children. It labeled children between the ages of 8 and 12 as "tweens" - too old to be young children and too young to be teenagers. Why are these children in such a rush to grow up? They have majority of their lives to be adults, to have adult jobs and adult responsibilities. Why are they not just enjoying their innocent childhood for the short time that it exists? To me, it seems like nothing more than a cry for some much needed attention.

Someone, or something is at fault, and it is not the children. Is it the parents? Is it our society? I think it is both. They work hand in hand. I can't say that this is happening more in single parent homes. It is happening in all types of families. Parents today are spending more time at work compared to our parents, leaving the children to fend for themselves with no adult supervision. Why? Is it to pay the bills for their family's necessities or society's pressure to "keep up with the Joneses"? More often than not, it is to "keep up". What happened to the days when all a parent was required to provide their child was a loving, nurturing, supportive home, nourishing food, and clothing (and I am not speaking of the $150 pair of shoes). Now, it seems busy parents are going for the quick fix to please their just as active children. Children today have so many things, that they will have nothing to look forward to when they are adults. Their list of wants will get more expensive as they get older, but with their own bank accounts? These children will have been so accustomed to getting whatever they want, whenever they want that there is almost a sense of entitlement. I have a feeling that many of today's children will be in for a rude awakening once they are living on their own.

I had a great childhood. No, I did not receive everything I asked for, but my basic needs were met. Things were simpler back then. There were no computers, no cell phones, no mp3 players. I had toys that challenged me to use my creativity. As much as I love owning a computer, I think it has taken away our children's childhood. It should not be a babysitter when the parents haven't arrived home from work yet. It should be used as a tool for learning and research...that is it. Children need to interact with other children, play outside, ride bikes in the summer, throw snowballs in the winter, even get grass stains and scrape their knees every now and then. That is what being a kid is about, not today's version sitting in front of a computer screen chatting with strangers or staring at the television while playing the latest video game for hours on end.

The computer and television expose children to things that are highly inappropriate for their age. There are people on the internet who are all too happy to take advantage of an innocent child. Television isn't any better. Quality television for the 8-12 year old range just isn't there. They are too old for "Sesame Street", yet not old enough to comprehend "House". What normally was shown during later hours many years ago, is now being aired during primetime. MTV isn't helping either. Maybe it is good that they have restricted the airtime of the music videos to only a few hours a day...given the amount of sleaze that is shown. Children today seem much more impressionable compared to when I was a child. I have been a music fan ever since I was very young, but I never had the desire to look or act like any of the artists. Why do all of these young girls want to look, dress, and act like Britney Spears, Beyonce, the Pussycat name a few? Is it because they don't have any other positive role models to look up to? What does this say to a young girl about how she is or will be viewed by the males in her life? Will it affect her self worth? How do these sexually explicit lyrics teach young boys how to properly treat females in their lives?

Father and child playing with toysThis is where the role of the parents comes in. We should take an active role in our children's lives. It is our job to educate our children about life - not society's and not their teachers'. We brought them into this world, it is our duty to raise them so they can reach their fullest potential. It is our responsibility to instill in our children what is right and wrong, how to behave in an acceptable manner, how to treat others with kindness and respect regardless of their religion or skin color and to place worth on every human being...not THINGS.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, an uncle of mine told me that he read an article about people standing in line for almost three days to make sure they were able to purchase the latest video game. This video came is priced at 600.00 USD. My first thought was, "What is wrong with these parents?" NEVER will I do that for my child. No child needs a game that costs that much, only to want the latest and greatest version released during the next holiday season. I know many parents would say, "You don't know what it is like. You don't have children of your own." That may be true. However, I am seeing it happen around me. Giving into our children may keep them happy and quiet for the time being, but that will not solve the greater problem...the one of the power shift. At that point, the parent has surrendered control from that point on - most likely to never get it back. Children are very well aware of this and will use every opportunity possible to take advantage of the situation.

Earlier today, I saw a billboard that sums it up. There was a picture of a man playing with his young daughter, holding her up in the air. It said, "Put down the remote and pick something else up." I think that some of the most valuable things we can give our children is our time and attention. I am willing to bet that if parents gave that part of themselves to their child on a daily basis - even something as simple as eating a home-cooked dinner together instead of going through the drive-thru (sic) at McDonalds - then they would not need to overcompensate for what they aren't giving their child. We are not here to be our children's best friend or to be the "cool parent". We are here to make sure they grow up to be contributing members of society, who will make wise choices for their own lives, who treat all people and things with respect and dignity, and to appreciate what they have. If that means being the "Bad Dad" or the "Bad Mom", and the hearing the inevitable "I hate you. This is not fair" for a little while because we said a firm "No", then so be it.

Our children will thank us for it one day.

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