Social Question

linguaphile's avatar

Do you think parenting has become shoddy in the past 20 years- if so, what caused this?

Asked by linguaphile (13508 points ) August 24th, 2011

I was inspired by this thread. Please do read that thread as well to see where I’m coming from.

Most of the responses on that thread focus on what kids are doing to make them ‘icky.’ I’m of the mindset that it’s the parents who allow that ‘ickiness’ to develop, and that most kids are a product of their upbringing. I say most kids because I understand there are additional needs (Aspergers, ADHD, etc) that would allow for exceptions to the rule.

While working with kids over the last decade, I have seen a big change in how kids behave in school and towards each other. Recently, I saw 3 tween boys running around Michael’s opening kits, squirting paint, and knocking things off shelves while their parent stood placidly by and the manager ran around with a helpess, pained expression. That would never have happened 20 years ago. What happened?!?

A couple weeks ago, my family went to Olive Garden and two boys at the next table were allowed to scream, run around and climb the trellis. The kids’ fault? No, the parents whined and tried to negotiate with the boys the entire time. The manager didn’t do anything. This, again, would not have happened 20 years ago, so what has changed?

Has overall parenting gotten lazy? Has it become part of the ‘culture’ to be an overly permissive parent? If so, why do you think that’s the case? Where do you think this stems from?

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28 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

Overpopulation and both parents working.

Blackberry's avatar

There have always been really good and really bad parents. I don’t know what parents were generally like 20 years ago, but I know that some people just shouldn’t be parents, and it’s always been like that. Maybe it’s the larger population, maybe it’s both parents working, maybe it’s people letting technology parent for them etc.

Judi's avatar

I think some parents are way worse, and some are way better. I marvel that my grandsons can read at a 4th grade level before kindergarten. Either parents have no responsibility at all, or they go over the top making sure their kids have every possible advantage. Not so much in between anymore.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Parental relationships have changed drastically in the past 30 years. When I was in elementary school, I was often the only child to have divorced parents. I’m 36

Parents work, kids get shuffled off. These children do not have to follow one set of rules or one strong routine any longer.

I agree with @Judi. We fall into the latter. We homeschool. Our son is not allowed most of the things “regular” kids have regularly. There is no use of the TV babysitter, no McD’s for meals or even as a snack, no video games played religiously, etc.

ucme's avatar

There are always going to be incompetent parents, no matter which generation you’re in, it just manifests itself in ever changing ways. Some folks have kids without thinking it through at all, like it was purchasing a new gadget or something. Having kids starts with a refreshing approach, it’s called a carefully considered outlook, easy really.

wundayatta's avatar

I doubt that it is any shoddier now than it ever has been. It could be that twenty years ago you weren’t paying attention to these things. Besides which, unpleasantness fades as the years go by. Show me the data and I’ll answer you question, but I doubt if it has been any different from what it ever was.

There have always been parents who are better at socializing their kids than other parents. There have always been schools that do a better job. I do know one thing that has changed. In the past, parents were much more willing to resort to corporal punishment. If kids were better behaved then, perhaps you could argue it was because parents weren’t so reluctant to whip them.

That would be pretty sad, wouldn’t it?

linguaphile's avatar

@wundayatta I don’t know- which is why I asked the question. I don’t have research based evidence, only anecdotal examples from people who have been in education for 20, 25 years. That far back, I was still a teenager, so you’re right, I’m not a good source for examples, so I’m referring to what I’ve been told by many people over 45.

Most of them are saying the same thing. 20 years ago, kids were respectful in class. Nowadays, from the inner city schools to posh $35K/yr boarding schools, that’s not the case. 20 years ago, respect for authority was a given, with occasional lapses, of course. Today, teachers are expected to cajole, negotiate, bargain—kids have been given a huge amount of power. It used to be that parents would side with the school (that had its drawbacks for sure), but now parents will very frequently side against the school, again giving kids power before they’re cognitively ready for it.

I don’t know how old you are… if you remember 20 years ago, what do you remember as being the same or different related to kids’ behavior/parenting (other than corporal punishment)?

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t remember things being much different. I never noticed other people’s kids until I had my own. So I don’t trust my impressions of anything before that. I do know that in the old days, people did not bring their kids out in public. They hardly ever went to decent restaurants with their kids. If they did go, it was McDonalds or Friendly’s.

In the old days, if kids made a fuss, their parents took them outside the room so they wouldn’t disturb others. Nowadays some parents don’t seem to care as much about whether their kids are disturbing others. I don’t think the children’s behavior has changed much, nor do I think parenting has changed much. If anything has changed, it is courtesy. People don’t think it’s that important any more.

Pandora's avatar

Pure laziness. Whether both of you are working or not, boundries can still be set by parents. I worked in a day care center and most of the children who were there where there because their parents both worked. We had the children who were problems and those that were not. Whenever you met the parents of the good kids, you often saw that they were people who had boundries set for their children and were also very caring. Of course occassionally you will find a good kid with crappy parents and vise versa but I would say in 75% of the time the parents were vigilant.
Kids know when they are important in their parents life and when they are seen as an accident.
Back 20 years ago people also saw their childrens behavior as a reflection of their parenting skills, today they rather just shake their heads and raise their hands in the air as if they purchased a lemon car. They take it out on everyone else as if society is to blame for their little monsters.
However I think the selfish behavior of parents today can be attributed to the parents who overindulged their children and now after 2 generations of bad parenting you have the perfect little monsters. Wanting and yearning for affection and doing anything they can to get some type of attention and guidance. They won’t get that, but they can certainly get a new PS2 or 3 and a huge flat screen tv with all the bells and wistles for them to play their games in their room and stay out of the parents sight when they are home.
Oh, lets also not forget to thank the lawyers who made it possible for parents to sue over every little thing that may seem as harsh to little Johnnies feelings. And to the laws that make it almost impossible for a parents to correct their child in public because they are afraid of what others will say or think and may cause them problems with the law.
Yes, today its even a hastle to arrest people stealing. Some stores have policies set in place that they can’t hold someone for stealing any more because they can be accused of hurting the perp. Or if the perp hurts someone than they can be sued for that as well.
But in the end. It is mostly laziness. A well disciplined child learns self discipline at home first.

john65pennington's avatar

Divorces granted by the 100s, instead of trying to work things out. This one-parent scenerio is the main cause of disobedient children. In most cases, there is no male father figure in the house to correct an unruly child. The mother is so tired from working, that most just give up and let their children do as they please. This is not good home leadership. What the children do and learn at home, they take directly onto the school bus and into the classroom. This is why many teachers are now babysitters, as well as school teachers. It’s not fun being a teacher and a referee at the same time.

Unruly children at home are unruly children in the classroom.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I think our culture currently over values individualism and valuing needs of self over anything else including family. For example we have parents who leave their kids as Latchkey so they can have a much needed beer after work, parents who let infants cry to sleep so they can get much needed rest, parents who spank or use time outs for every infraction because they don’t have time to ‘deal with it’’ and parents who use tv as a babysitter so they can have some ‘me time’. It’s not that finding time for oneself is bad’ in fact quite the contrary but at some point these all add up. I’m a new mother and I hear these excuses for not choosing quality time with children or using easy but ultimately ineffective discipline all the time. Kids need to spend quality time with their parents, they need to be raised. Of course the ‘blame’ isn’t solely that of the parent. We don’t exactly have a society that is parent friendly. If parental stress was reduced they might feel less desperate to put their own needs first ad the norm (vs. Occasionally). As an example if most jobs had on site daycare parents could reduce commute times and anxiety over their child’s care and put more time into the family ‘bank’. Or if we had a reasonable maternity leave parents could return to the workforce after their babe has got passed the worst of the night waking. In the past their was lots of emphasis on ‘the family’ vs the individual and mothers could afford to stay home if they wished. So short answer less time and support equals less focus on the family vs. The self.

SuperMouse's avatar

@john65pennington I am divorced and not a single one of my children has ever been in trouble in school, or anywhere else for that matter. I am also not convinced that unruly at home equals unruly at school. My kids are allowed to let off steam at the house, they certainly do so, and at times they are unruly. Is it a pervasive attitude? No. Are there boundaries in my house? Absolutely.

I am troubled by the need to pin this “trend” on any single thing such as laziness, divorce, both parents working or the lack of spankings. There always have been and always will be good and bad parenting. When I was in high school in the early 80’s I knew a lot of spoiled rotten kids with zero respect for authority, no self-control, and an incredible lack of parental involvement. I also knew my share of decent kids who tried hard and respected authority. My father taught middle school from the mid 60’s to the early 90’s and I never remember a time where he didn’t talk about his biggest challenge as a teacher being dealing with indignant parents who thought he was mistreating their little angel.

I do not believe parenting has become shoddy in the past 20 years. I first became a parent 13 years ago and since then my circle of friends has consisted mostly of other parents. I can tell you that the vast majority of these folks are dedicated to loving and raising their children to become happy, healthy, well adjusted members of our society and they are willing and able to put in the time, effort, and patience to help make that happen.

tinyfaery's avatar

Umm. Someone had to raise those shitty parents. You’re just seeing the cycle.

MissAusten's avatar

When I was a kid (over 20 years ago, I’m 36 now), there were a lot of kids in our neighborhood. A couple of them could be real brats. I don’t think anything has changed, except that now it is trendy to hate on parents and kids. We’re about the only group of people left that can be generalized, assumed, stereotyped, etc. with impunity. :)

filmfann's avatar

The belief that we should reason with children, rather than spanking them, or grounding them. Most kids see this as laughable. Spare the rod, and spoil the child. If you don’t spank your kids, you will end up hating them.

Kardamom's avatar

Parents have become lazy and refuse (or don’t even know how and don’t understand why it’s important) to teach their kids patience, self-control, manners or to be able to delay their gratification or to show compassion and graciousness. I can’t remember the last time a kid, in my family or elsewhere said “Thank you.”

Our society has become child-centric instead of adult-centric. Which means if the child wants something, he usually gets it, whether it’s fast food, the TV or videos turned on, or to continue mis-behaving. That’s because parents, today, want to be their child’s friend, rather than their teacher and their care-takers. And parents that are busy and tired, due to most couples having to both work to make ends meet, it’s easier for the parents to simply give in to a whining, screaming child, rather than to teach the child how to act respectably in various situations. I’ve noticed that my relatives with children don’t even seem to notice that their children are screaming or whining or mis-behaving. It’s like they’ve learned how to tune them out. Where me, being childless is left to suffer and put up with the naughty displays or ship out.

I watch that show with Jo Frost, The Supernanny, and she has a lot of great non-violent techniques, that if practiced regularly, can really help to solve these problems. Even though I am not the care-taker for my nephew, I’ve tried these techniques on him and some of my other young cousins, when I was babysitting and it really does work. But it only works in the long run if the care-taker is willing to change their lifestyle and be 98% (nobody’s perfect) consistent in carrying out the teaching, the expectations and the remedies. I don’t think most parents today have the interest or the backbone to teach their kids to be good citizens.

My own nephew is not ever taken to real restaurants because, even though he’s 6 years old, he was never expected or taught how to behave in that kind of environment. But he gets to go to McDonalds several times a week, because he knows that if he just keeps screaming or whining, he’ll be taken there. On the other hand, my brother and I were taken to adult-style restaurants (they didn’t really have kid-centric restaurants in the 60’s) when we were little tiny kids and we were taught how to behave and what to expect if we didn’t behave. Going out to a restaurant was a luxury and a treat, not and everyday thing like it is with a lot of families now. Most families do not sit down together at the dinner table every night like we did when we were kids. They pick up take out or run through the fast food joint and then eat in the car, or in front of the TV or in the stands at the soccer game.

Another problem is in today’s world, as opposed to when I was growing up, the community was part of the child-rearing system. Meaning that everybody knew what kind of behavior was expected of children. So if your kid started acting up in school, he was sent home with a note and the parents came to class to talk to the teacher and the problem got solved. If the kid was acting poorly in the home of a neighbor, the other parent would first let the kid know that he needed to shape up or he was going to be taken home and his parents would be told of his misdeeds. If he didn’t knock off the bad behavior, he was indeed taken home and then his own parents handled and stopped the problem immediately. My parents never had to spank us, because they would give us very explicit expectations of behavior beforehand, and even if we started to screw up we would get a lecture and a stern look. That’s all it took. If a kid acted up in a store, other parents would give the child a glaring look and then the parents would immediately stop the kid from mis-behaving and most likely give him a stern lecture right there on the spot in front of everyone and then lead him out of the store, and then apologize (or make the kid apologize) to the other patrons.

Nowadays, the parent is likely to bring a lawsuit against the store or any patron that dares to point out that little Billy was shrieking un-controllably, ramming his mini-shopping cart into other patrons, or eating handfuls of grapes from the produce section, and putting already chewed fig newtons back into the bulk bin. And lots of parents today expect teachers to turn their kids into angels, but they’re not given the tools to do that. Teachers are not allowed to discipline kids in any manner (I have a bunch of teachers in my family and they’ve all discussed this fact of life for teachers in the 21st century) then the parents either blame the teacher because their kid is having disciplinary problems or they threaten to sue the teacher or the school because the teacher suggested that their sweet little Billy might have behavioral problems that need to be addressed by the parents.

My SIL’s school, which is in a very upscale neighborhood, at least half of the kids are on Ritalin (whether they need it or not) and the parents call or e-mail multiple times a day to find out why their special child isn’t getting the individualized treatment that they need/deserve and they often threaten to sue and they can’t understand why their creative intelligent gifted child is in the remedial math and reading sections of the class. But when she taught in a different school located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the county, the parents rarely or never showed up to parent teacher conferences, often sent their kids to school without lunch or school supplies and often allowed their children to not do their homework or kept them out of school, even when they weren’t sick and seemed to have no interest in education or in making sure that their kids were up to any educational standards whatsoever. So she’s seen it from both ends of the spectrum. Either you have demanding, un-cooperative parents who think their kids need to be medicated and every single one of them is gifted and needs special attention, and on the other hand you have parents who don’t seem to think that school is necessary at all.

My SIL’s school also had one little girl (elementary school aged) that attempted suicide. My cousin’s school had to have their school put on lockdown because a boy (also elementary aged) assaulted a teacher. My SIL had 2 students in her class with extreme special needs because they were adopted from a Russian orphanage and had never formed any bonds with people. This was in a class with 32 other students (5th graders) but these 2 girls had only the mental capacities of kindergardeners. She said that these girls would scream and jump up out of their seats and grab and pull on her multiple times throughout the day. My SIL would come home every day and cry and she’s been teaching for over 15 years.

MissAusten's avatar

In any other type of discussion, all of the stories here would be dismissed as anecdotal evidence. Even I could come up with examples of crappy parents or bratty kids. Most of the families I know are not wealthy or poor, and the people I know that could fit into those categories actually still have great families.

@Kardamom So, in a class of 32, there were two kids who shouldn’t have been there? Is that their parents’ fault, or the way the school system is designed? Did the parents force those kids into the class, maybe at the suggestion of therapists? You make it sound like those children weren’t also having other support services, which I’m sure they were.

@Kardamom Your post illustrates a lot of what is frustrating to those of us parents who aren’t anything like what you describe. You throw parents into the same group and give examples of things you’ve seen or heard of from other people. Rich people, poor kids, kids adopted from Russia…what about just typical, average people? Your population sample isn’t a good representative of most families.

We rarely eat fast food. We eat at the dinner table every. single. night. My kids are fine in restaurants and stores. None of them are medicated. They do well in school. They behave appropriately for their ages (meaning, they are basically good but screw up in ways you’d expect a young child to screw up). They are learning, growing, and lucky enough to be in a loving family that can provide for their needs. I can’t think of any of their friends that aren’t basically decent, normal kids with normal families. Even kids I used to think were kind of bratty when they were littler have learned much better behavior as they’ve gotten older (still talking grade school here).

Yes, children today really suck. Like that little girl who asked for donations to Charity: Water for her birthday instead of presents. When she later died in a car crash, her request got so much publicity that public donations to that charity topped a million dollars. Have you ever heard of Alex’s Lemonade Stand? That charity was started by a kid. Another group of kids started a charity down south where they take feral pigs that have been killed, have them butchered, and distribute the meat to shelters and other needy places. My daughter’s Girl Scout troop volunteers regularly at a soup kitchen, my son raises money each year for heart disease research, and all three of my kids voluntarily put their spare change into donation boxes when we’re out shopping. OK, I’ll admit that last one is because they like to watch the coins spiral down that slide thingy. So clearly, from my anecdotal evidence, kids today are saints!

@filmfann We’ve never spanked our kids and are nowhere near to hating them. They are 12, 7 (about to turn 8) and 6. When will they turn into monsters from not having been hit or painfully punished in some way? Spanking is never the best, or only, solution in any case. There’s always a smarter and better way. I don’t think a spanking here and there is abuse or that it will ruin a kid, but I do think it can be done away with totally and parents who resort to it just don’t know any better. I also think if not spanking kids ruined them, mine would at least show some signs of that by now, don’t you?

filmfann's avatar

@MissAusten I hope you are right. Mine didn’t start turning into cats until they were 13.

wundayatta's avatar

Oh goody! How many different questions can we morph into the spanking debate? Violence is a failure of diplomacy, I always say. Removing violence does not mean eliminating discipline. Some parents seem to think those are the only two options—violence or letting the kids run wild.

To me, that is a failure of education and imagination. Few of us are trained to be parents. Thus we fall back on what we know, and if we are told that is bad, we replace it with nothing. Maybe supernanny should be required watching. Diplomacy works, if you know what you’re doing. Otherwise it’s guns and spankings—or worse or nothing. Those should not be—functionally speaking—the only tools in the toolbox, but far too often, they are the only weapons in the armory.

SuperMouse's avatar

It is astounding to me the sweeping generalizations being made about parenting and children based on an infinitesimal sampling of kids and their parents. I still maintain that there are and always have been good parents and poor parents. I also maintain that most parents are much like @MissAusten and @wundayatta, myself, and the other parents who have weighed in in this and other parenting threads; dedicated and loving parents who want to effectively and patiently give their children the roots and wings they need to be successful, happy, fulfilled contributing members of society.

Please don’t lump me and my children in with the parents and children being described. None of my children is on medication and none require it. I take my children to restaurants and they sit quietly eating their meal, use appropriate manners and offer thank you’s. I attend all of their school and sporting functions, appreciate all their teachers do for them and believe that proper discipline begins at home. I could go on and on.

For the record none of them has ever been spanked. @filmfann, my oldest is 13 in two months and while he is certainly acting like an adolescent, I still don’t see any whippings in his future, and I am not sorry I have not hit him up til now.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Kardamom I fail to see a society that is kid centric. What you are talking about is permisiveness (not to be confused with gentle discipline) or lack of a child’s needs being met. A child who screams at a restaurant has some need not being met and that is not child centric. As a parent I can attest to this as a very a

dult oriented culture. I had to learn to question people if events, restaurants, even mothering groups allowed children and most always was the answer no. We don’t leave room for kids to be kids or to be even present. It sounds like you expect children to act like an adult, kids have tantrums , they are a developmental milestone. So I really fail to understand how this is a child centered culture when children are expected to act as adults or not be present.

@filmfann The research has spoken, spanking doesn’t work. Or if it does in the short term not in the long run. Not to mention the moral objections. Take a look. Btw 65% of parents still spank so it could hardly be a cause of any new problems (if there are some).

‘Spanking in the U.S.’

filmfann's avatar

My sister didn’t spank her kids, and her daughter is now 21 and constantly in jail. I hope your sucess doesn’t fade.

YARNLADY's avatar

@filmfann You are basing your sweeping statement on one child? If you were to look at the statistics on spanking, you would find that the majority of people in jail were spanked, and the majority of people with PhD’s were not spanked.

(I’m not going to look it up for you)

MissAusten's avatar

My husband’s cousin spanks his kids. The 11 year old has been known to steal money from purses, and the 8 year old is a terrible bully. When will their success kick in?

Kardamom's avatar

@RedPowerLady What I mean by living in a kid-centric culture is the fact that parents now have year round passes to Legoland and Disneyland and Six Flags. Back when I was a little kid, we considered it extremely lucky and a huge privilege if we got to go to Disneyland even once a year. Now parents just take their kids there whenever they start acting up, because it’s easier than teaching them how to behave. Kids expect to go to these theme parks whenever they want to, it’s not a special occasion treat anymore.

The same thing goes for places like McDonald’s and Burger King. The toys in the Happy Meals are designed to get the children all excited so that they whine to be taken there. Today, most of the parents that I know, give in, because they simply don’t want to deal with the tantrums, instead of teaching the child how to learn to live with delayed gratification and how to control themselves. When I was a little kid, it was a rare treat to get to go to Der Weinershcnitzel. Now kids demand to be taken to fast food restaurants.

Also, there are what I call the “Tyler Moms” (only because the first time I ever witnessed this, and I’ve seen it over and over and over again, the kid’s name happened to be Tyler). Here’s the conversation:

Mom: Tyler it’s time to get off the swing so we can go home.
Kid: Whine
Mom: Tyler, honey, mommy wants you to get off the swing.
Kid: No!
Mom: Tyler, honey, mommy needs you to come over here right now. Tyler! Now! Tyler!
Kid: Noooooooooo!
Mom: Tyler, honey, Tyler! Mommy really wants you to come over here now, Tyler! Honey!
Kid: Uh uh! (runs away)
Mom: Tyler! Honey! Please come back! Tyler! Mommy needs you to come back over here, Tyler!

Today, a lot of kids simply don’t expect that there are any consequences to their actions. Even if they get sent to their room as punishment they’re in the room with a computer and an Ipod and a TV and a cellphone, because it would be unthinkable to deprive Tyler of any of these gadgets, he needs them. Actually he doesn’t, but he expects them and if he doesn’t get them, he’ll throw a tantrum, even if he’s 12 years old.

Then there are the moms and dad’s who live vicariously through their children, and instead of simply letting kids run around or kick a ball or ride a bike, they are lessoned-up to a farethewell with soccer and ballet and swim and and pageants etc. Everything in these households revolves around buying equipment, driving kids to and from lessons, making sure that Tyler’s self esteem is intact, even if he has no talent. Sometimes the parents even get into fist fights with other parents or coaches or umpires, because they simply can’t let their kids be kids, they have to jump in and manage everything so that it works out in their child’s favor. Back when my brother was playing little league (he was allowed one organized activity, because that’s all my parents could afford) he would have been taken out of the game and taken home and lectured about his bad behavior if he’d have acted up or did something illegal or inappropriate. But little league never came first. Family came first and that was equal to schoolwork, fun and organized activities had to be worked in to the schedule, not the other way around. If that’s not child-centric, I don’t know what is.

filmfann's avatar

@YARNLADY I am not using one source for my sweeping generality. Thanks so much for thinking that.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Kardamom Disneyland, McDonalds, Ipod, Television, Little League – sounds like consumerism. That isn’t kid centric, that is effective marketing. A culture of on-demand consumption. It is problematic in parenting but hardly makes our culture kid centric. Sounds like what you are really saying is that kids need boundaries and limits. That certainly is an age old concept that perhaps is rearing its head through consumerism.

In your Tyler scenario I see a clear issue. A lack of respect for how children work. They don’t just shift gears like we do. Tyler needs to be communicated with and not manipulated. A better scenario would be to tell Tyler he has 3 more minutes, 2, and 1 so he can transition his needs to his parents needs. The need to play is very real for kids as that is how they do most their learning. While helping with the transition mom can say what it is they are going to do next and how it will happen vs just demanding her kid to accept that moms needs are most important. A kid centric culture would respect a child’s need for help in this way and not just expect good behavior because ‘I say so’. To me kid centric means respecting children as human beings not as little robots subject to our control or as little
manipulative brats. Heck if I could to Disneyland once a month i’d ask for it too.

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