Children — the Future, the Leaders, Etc.

My co-worker and fellow blogger shared this article with me in which the columnist challenged people, in the new year and the new decade, to look at a few things through fresh eyes. The writer listed 52 suggestions, one for every week of the year. This week’s topic is children in general.

I believe the children are the future. Oh wait, that’s already taken.

The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow. Uh, that one too I guess.

There’s no real original way to say those things — all the good quotes have been taken — but those kinds of sayings came to mind when I pondered this topic. Not just the clichés, but what that means: that the present times are the way they are because of the children of 40, 50, 60 years ago. The decisions they made created today’s reality. And that the decisions being made by today’s youth is shaping a new reality yet to come.

I’ve taken part in  several “Gen Y” discussions in recent years, and they usually center around how this up-and-coming generation has changed social norms, how they have grown up never not knowing digital cameras and cell phones and personal computers and the Internet, and as a result they have certain expectations of how the world works. They expect better, bigger, faster, now, now, now, my way or the highway, etc. Their expectations are changing how people function, how people do business, and how the world works. People say technology is changing those things, and that’s mostly true, but the technology is changing the people which in turn is is changing society, the way I see it.

So I wonder — what next? Today’s children are so spoiled. My own are spoiled. Rotten. We think Gen Y is spoiled? Just wait til the next one comes up. It’s partially parents’ faults. Society bears some blame too. It’s a mix of conditions that make it easy for unappreciative, greedy little brats (did I really just say that?) to thrive and multiply and take over the world!

So what do we do? As a parent, it feels like an uphill battle, like swimming upstream to try to do anything different with my kids. The peer pressure on kids, even on ones as young as mine (6 and 4), is unreal. The peer pressure on us parents, to conform to society, is just as bad. Spanking at all, much less spanking in public, is frowned upon, sometimes severely. Children are supposed to be coddled and put in time out; we’re to worry first and foremost about their self-esteem and not let them feel inferior or know that life’s not fair. You do know life’s not fair right? When my boys try to use that line to get their way, I tell them straight up: “You’re right, it’s not fair, but it’s the way it is. Better to learn now that everything in life will not be fair.” It’s not my job to make life “fair” for everyone. Finn is older. He gets to do things Caden doesn’t. Is that not fair? Sure. But fair is just another way of saying that’s not equal. Of course it’s not equal because they’re not equal. They’re different ages and different people.

We’re to give everyone on sports teams “participation awards” because it would hurt the other players’ feelings if they saw some children on the team get trophies for highest batting average or most points scored or MVP. What happened to that being used as incentive to do better? What motivation do kids have to do better if being mediocre (or less) is rewarded equally as doing well? Which is the worse problem: low self-esteem or taking things for granted and never learning that some things require working for? Those latter lessons are being lost on today’s children. The generations before us knew that and had a whole lot less struggles than we have today, or at least struggles of a different kind. A song from years ago talked about the biggest problems in schools being chewing gum in class. Today? It’s guns in class.

I don’t know the answer. No one does. There’s not one. But the children are the future, and the children of today are the leaders of tomorrow. What little bit we can do to help positively shape those children will only result in a better future for all of us, starting with the children closest to us — our own or the ones in our families that we’re around most often — and including children we’re around at church, parks, public places, and so on. Some children have no positive influences in their life, and each of us could be that to the children around us. One small act of kindness, one example of selflessness, seeing just one life model a better way could make all the difference in a child’s life and the future that child chooses, for themself and for all of us.

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