“Do as I say…not as I do!?” “Because I said so that’s why!” “I brought you into this world and I’ll take you out!” “Fix your face or I’ll give you something to cry for!”
How many of us were raised by those words and the corresponding actions attached to them? There is something to be said about good old-fashioned discipline. I certainly appreciate, of course in retrospect, my upbringing back in the days when you literally had no privacy. Everybody was in your business! Not only your parents, but also Miss Mabel down the street! Your aunties, uncles and family friends could call you out on your childhood foolishness and then expect your parents to follow-up on exacting consequences to match the corresponding bad behavior of which you were accused. There was no questioning or “fair trial.” You were guilty if Miss Mary said you were!
Back in the day there was no social media or hash tag. There was no cable television or Instagram. Video games and cellphones did not occupy the majority of your time. Social interaction was about playing outside, at the community center, or on somebody’s baseball field, basketball court or football field. We rode bikes and had to navigate social interaction with our peers and the other kids in the neighborhood. Sometimes there were day camps, vacation bible school or the occasional family vacation, but back in the day, the long hot days of summer were sometimes treacherous as we attempted to stay out of trouble. Or just outside the gaze of the adults within our community sphere that had our parent’s permission to keep us in check.
Times have indeed changed and the children these days have less and less social interaction with the members of the communities in which they live for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is the proliferation of electronic and social media to which young people have easy access today. The 24-hour cable television industry, Netflix, computer and video games, and social media; including texting on their individual cellphones that apparently almost every young person has access to no matter their socioeconomic status.
This new generation is more “worldly” than we were back in the day. The fact is, due to the times in which they live they are exposed to more, whether good or bad. This exposure causes an increased level of maturity, if only due to what they have seen and experienced. Because they have the “answers” to whatever questions they want to ask through the worldwide web, it is increasingly difficult to “treat them like children.” They ask more complex and sophisticated questions because they are exposed to more complex information. Adults can no longer expect the children “to be seen and not heard” and, in fact, are creating a dangerous gulf of disconnection and distance from young people by continuing to allow the television sets, computer games, and social media outlets to raise our children without input or context.
The random slap across the face as a method of discipline can no longer go unchecked or uninterrupted in the age of Twitter and “Selfies.” Now parents, and/or guardians, can be reported to CPS or brought up on assault charges. Publicly shaming a child or young person in front of their peers or community can become a media firestorm in an instant and blow up into an event from which that young person may never recover due to Facebook and Snap Chat. Or, it can potentially fracture the trust once taken for granted between the youth and the adult. Trust, once broken, is difficult to restore and the negative consequences for our young people can be enormous. We need to wake up and recognize the world has changed and we cannot remain back in yesterday while our children are living in today. We still have a responsibility to raise them.