What’s up with kids these days?
Or, perhaps more to the point, what’s up with the kids’ parents?
When I was growing up, as long as you were a kid, other kids would play with you. We’d quickly form a group and play simple games like four square, kick the can, basketball and tag or we would create games with imaginary lands, forts and castles. The typical range of ages would be about six years or so (where the youngest child was around seven or eight and the eldest was about 14. Everyone had fun. Age just wasn’t an issue.
Ten year old boys play with ten year old boys, eight year old girls play with eight year old girls. Thirteen year olds play with thirteen year olds. Parents lift their noses as if it’s a matter of pride for THEM and assert, “My son just doesn’t enjoy the company of younger boys. It’s just not something he’ll do.” Oh come on now. That’s ridiculous. What if he’s part of a family of five kids? He just won’t interact with any of the younger kids? I can just picture it, 11 year old Bobby says to his 9 year old brother, “Sorry, Charlie, you’re beneath me. I couldn’t possibly engage in activities more suited to children of your age and grade level.” Absurd.
Or, if it is true, how sad!
What about the concept of mentors? Leaders frequently mentor younger, less experienced professionals and take them under their wing, right? Some Montessori schools have combined classrooms which include kids from Kindergarten through sixth grade just for that very purpose. I’ve seen it in action and it was beautiful. The result? The sixth graders were confident, self assured, polite, considerate and helpful.
The boys I know whose parents pride themselves on this “I can’t be bothered with younger kids” stance are bossy, self centered, and inconsiderate. They’re otherwise kind hearted souls that, IMHO, are being led astray by adults who are trying to feed their own egos in some backhanded way. Somehow they think that makes their children more, I don’t know, what? More intellectual? Please. More mature? Also doesn’t compute for me.
I think these lousy attitudes are leading us down a path where we’ll end up with narcissistic, rude, egomaniacal adults who treat their coworkers, employees, supervisors, clients and/or customers badly.
I think we parents need to take responsibility for the enormous influence we have on our kids. We need to realize that what we say and do sinks into their minds and often gets spit right back out. Let kids be kids. Let them play (without judgmental comments from the parents!) and see what happens.
Today, at parents’ day at my kids’ summer camp, I observed my son playing tennis with about a dozen other kids of all ages. His team consisted of a few middle school aged kids (about four years older than DS), a couple of kids three years older and one boy who was a grade higher. They worked as a team, supported each other and interacted in a jovial, collegial manner. It was touching and encouraging.
That interaction gave me hope. Society hasn’t changed. I don’t think that that negative attitude is pervasive. I think it depends on the parents. I tell my kids to be gentle and kind to younger kids and to teach them whatever they can. I want them to guide them and support them, encourage them and value them. Then, when they’re older, I expect them to give the same kind of respect, compassion and kindness to people of all ages.
Doesn’t that seem reasonable?