Remember experiencing those tough childhood lessons as we learned the rules of our society and how to function within it? Where we learned about acceptable behavior, and how to interact with others? Well those years formed the basis of our character and those lessons were meant to teach us how to survive as adults. As with most things, the old is eventually replaced with the new and the lessons have changed. However, these are timeless lessons that we need to reintegrate into the raising of our children. Their displacement has been nothing short of a disaster.
So what are these childhood lessons that our societal system now rejects? They’re to be found in those watchwords of old such as respect, accountability, and responsibility. Children were taught to respect others and to work through their problems. Children were given responsibility and held accountable, and in the long run these lessons were their own rewards. This was all an important part of the learning process; a necessary rite of passage to the adult world. Childhood is about experience and exposure. This is how they learn about life.
But these childhood lessons are now considered to be a form of child abuse and have been condemned as being too harsh and damaging to children. So a “new and improved” trend has emerged that encourages a “victim” and entitlement mentality. Children no longer have to respect anyone, and everything that happens is someone else’s fault and never their own.
We see parents who are afraid to parent and some who think they don’t have to. Teachers have little control in their classrooms. We have a juvenile justice system that is setting many kids up for failure as they take this new trend to the extreme. Consequences are often lenient with therapy and medication replacing punishment and restitution.
This new approach poses an interesting juxtaposition. Authorities like to stress that children don’t have the intellectual development and capacity for understanding concepts and consequences. Yet there is a heavy reliance on therapy and counseling. Lots of this treatment, along with sympathy – sometimes real, sometimes feigned – is heaped upon children. Yet words don’t have the same meaning to or the same effect on children as they do adults. Children aren’t stupid and they quickly pick up how important words are to adults. Because of this children are learning the art of negative manipulation and how to work the system.
But this new trend isn’t all bad, or at least it doesn’t have to be. It’s given a voice to children where in the past there was none. It recognizes the different needs and development stages of children and tries to meet them. The problem is that things have swung too far in that direction. The new way has merit, but it’s a tool, not a complete solution. It’s as though the old way is all bad and the new way is all good. This simply is not true. Like with anything, there are negative implications with extremes. This is as true with the new as it was with the old.
Child abuse is a terrible thing, but it’s nothing new and the new trend hasn’t eradicated it. It’s merely been moved from society’s closet to its front room. There is a acknowledged awareness with more help and resources available now than in past times. This is good, but it also should be realized that there are not child abusers lurking behind every door, and not all children are victims of child abuse.
A middle ground needs to be found; something that can combine both ways. Yes, it’s important to recognize and protect the rights of children, but rights come with responsibility and accountability. To be learned they must first be taught. Childhood without these lessons makes for trouble in adulthood. No matter how much we may wish it was not so, childhood is a hands on learning experience and not without pain and hard lessons. Society pays when these childhood lessons are forsaken.