Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Remember the good old days back in 2010…

Recently I got sucked into one of those TV infomercials trying to sell music from the 50’s. I was amused as the overly botoxed hosts told me that this music defined a generation. Come on, defined a generation? This is the stuff my parents listened to; therefore it can’t be that good. Smug I agree, but that’s what was going through my mind. I mean really, how could Pat Boone and The Everly Brothers define a generation?

After skimming through the channels some more, and almost buying a Mr. T Flavor Wave Oven (that’s a story for another day) I got to thinking; it’s hard for someone of my generation to believe, but yes, at one point Elvis was banned from television (well at least from the waist down) because of his pelvic gyrations and that there were many people who found him, Rock and Roll (when was Roll dropped anyway?) and this new concept of teenagers to be very scary stuff. Many adults of that time felt that this was going to be the downfall of America as they knew it, and that we as a society were doomed. Of course we all know we did make it through that time, and now we all look back at those concerns as, well, quaint really.

When I hear adults these days talk about all teens today are disrespectful, or their music has no soul, or things were different when they were kids, I have a hard time. Today most teens in America are exhibiting their natural rebellion; just as their parents and generations before them did against their parents, and, just like our parents didn’t get us, we don’t get them. Rebellion is a normal, and I would argue necessary, aspect of growing up. Where I feel parents get into trouble is when they don’t counter this rebellion with natural consequences, and as a result I feel many parents find themselves in a position where they can’t differentiate between normal behavior and accepted behavior.

At Loeta we preach that just because a behavior is accepted does not make it normal. It’s normal for a kid to experiment with alcohol and pot; it’s not normal for them to steal from their parents to pay for the habit. It’s normal for a teenage girl to roll her eyes at her father when he just doesn’t get her, it’s not normal for a child to let loose with a string of curses which would make a sailor blush when asked to take out the garbage.

Part of our role as Independent Educational Consultants is to work with families to try to differentiate between these normal and accepted behaviors. Most of the time by the time a family calls us they feel they are at their wit’s end. Honestly in our first interaction with families we end up doing a lot of listening, trying to determine where the family is emotionally and and we make sure that any decisions being made are proactive as opposed to reactive. In short we want to make sure that whatever recommendation we make is appropriate to the situation. In some cases we end up steering families back to their home therapists or school counselors because, quite honestly, things really aren’t that bad; their children are simply feeling their way through adolescence. When we do end up assisting them in finding appropriate residential settings, whether that mean a wilderness program, a residential treatment center or a boarding school, it is always done with care, and the best interest of the child in mind.

The issues facing families today are different than generations before, yes. But I’d argue that is true of every generation, and we’re doing our teens today a disservice if we either underplay or overplay these events or factors and don’t do our job as parents, stewards and guardians of the next generation of adults. Just remember these famous words said recently,

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for
authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place
of exercise Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their
households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They
contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

Ok, not that recently, those words are attributed to the Greek philosopher Socrates, but you get the idea. This issue of how to handle or deal with adolescents has perplexed adults for literally thousands of years, and will continue for thousands more. Someday our children will look back on the good old days of the 10’s as fondly as other generations look back on the 50’s 70 or the 80’s and wonder what’s wrong with their children. Until then, however, it is our job to guide them, educate them, discipline them and love them until their old enough to actually have that epiphany.

Wait, the 80’s, the era of E.T., Rubix cubes and Mr. T. That reminds me, time to go check my Flavor Wave, tonight I made a cheesecake!