Why our children are the way they are

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated March 21, 2010 12:00 AM

When I am with people my age and we talk about our children’s generation, we wonder why many of them, two of my children included, are still not married even if they are in their late 20s and early 30s.

Contrast this with our generation. Many of us got married just a few years out of college. When we were in our mid- or late-20s, we had at least one child, and we were not only dreaming of owning our own homes, but had actually done something solid in that direction, by committing to a mortgage to acquire it.

My wife whom I married when she was 20, observes that the new generation has a problem with commitment. Sometimes I tend to believe it, and I think it’s the fault of the generation that preceded them — ours.

I am not going to rant about how my generation is better than my children’s. Instead, I will try to explain what I think we did which may have caused some problems for our kids.

We who are now in our late 50s certainly feel that our generation had it easier than our parents did. For one, we did not have to go through the trauma of World War II. But even if we grew up in a world that was, in many ways, less challenging than theirs, there was still much of their world that lingered in ours, and this helped shape us.

Even if we lived through many changes, it took quite a while for these changes to affect us. Our formative years saw us growing up in a world that was still pretty clear-cut about many things. School and church rules, duties, obligations and the like were taken seriously. Sin and grace, right and wrong, punishment and reward, were understood in the same way by most everyone. Family was important, and the word of our elders was something we did not take lightly.

In school, there were the good students and the bad students. You either passed or failed depending on how well you did your work. In the world we grew up in, no one had heard of Attention Deficit Disorder, dyslexia, or other mental or psychological impediments that now explain why certain students perform less well than others. There were also no schools that offered individualized instructions, and our parents did not feel the need to be informed in great detail about how we interrelated with classmates, or how we behaved, unless we did something really bad.

Most of us “earned” the perks we enjoyed like the privilege of driving the family car with “good behavior.” We were given reasonable amounts for baon and we lived within our means. Most of us first experienced travel only after we got out of college.

When it was our turn to become parents, however, our generation must have collectively decided to give our children something “better” by giving them what we did not have. In wanting to help them be all they can be, or to give them more confidence and an edge over others their age, we not only sent them to the best schools, we also enrolled them in extracurricular activities like ballet, gymnastics, karate, etc. We brought them along on our trips to broaden their perspectives. We over-praised them even when they underperformed. We withheld the stick when they did wrong because we could not stand seeing them suffer, even if it was for their own good. Besides, we were afraid it might affect their “self-esteem.” We also gave them gifts at the slightest excuse — something we did not enjoy when we were growing up, unless it was Christmas or our birthday.

In effect, we wanted to make our kids feel “special.” I am sure our own parents also thought we were special, but the difference was, our parents did not indulge us in the way we have indulged our own children. They lived by stricter rules which were not as ambiguous as ours today. Whereas their rules were mostly spelled out in black and white, we gave our children greater “understanding” and bent the rules accordingly.

Throw in the new ideas that were practically unheard of in our parents’ time — concepts like “self-esteem enhancement,” “individualized learning” and other modern notions that we embraced and applied. These not only opened us up to “shades of gray” when dealing with our kids, but in many ways, they trapped us there.

While our parents may have seen us as special, we were still treated like the other kids. To us, today’s parents, the “specialness” (in our eyes) of our kids may literally mean to us that they are “exceptional,” and thus deserve to be exempted from the rules that apply to everyone else.

Our kids are brighter, taller, more intelligent, better looking than us, thanks to all the nutritious food we did not get when we were growing up. To be sure, it’s a different world they are growing up in. The choices open to them are much more varied than those we ever dreamed of. And their choices extend not just to lifestyle and career options, but to moral ones as well. I believe that our children navigate a more ambiguous world of morality in this fast-changing world than we had to when we were young. One reason is because, for better or worse, we introduced them to a more understanding, forgiving personal God than the one our parents introduced to us when we were growing up.

While I tell my kids that I wish to see them grow up independent and living their own lives, I am often greatly tempted to intervene and sort things out for them. But I hold back because I feel that they are old enough to “save” themselves and they should assume full responsibility for the choices they make.

Evolution tells us that every generation is an improvement over the previous one. I sometimes wonder if this is true though, since I see the young today as less tough than we were, with less patience and a greater feeling of entitlement.

The late Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop chain, expressly told her kids that they would not get any inheritance from her when she died. She had decided to donate everything to charity. She impressed upon them that they had to work for their own piece of the pie, so to speak.

I’ve told my kids the same thing, but I am not really sure that I can follow this through with when the time comes.

I hear from many parents that they try to be their kids’ “best friend” to make sure that communication lines are always open. That sounds fine, but in truth, many times we could probably have served them better by being more like their parents than their barkada.

But however we raise our kids, it is important to know where they are at, at any given time in their lives. The writer-humorist Josh Billings said, “To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.” And that means not just remembering how we were at their age but never forgetting that our parents probably fretted too about how we would turn out as adults.

* * *

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I will be giving a workshop on Basic Photography on April 3, 2010. This will be a hands-on experiential approach which will cover basic knowledge of the SLR camera and its functions, techniques on lighting for outdoors, indoors and including studio lighting, composition, the use of different lenses, portraiture and landscape techniques, motion or action photography, and a whole lot more.

This is a one-day workshop only. We will proceed immediately to shooting pictures as we discuss the theories. I will work with a limited number of students only.

Participants must have a DSLR digital camera capable of manual settings.

Workshop date: April 3, 2010, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Place: 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC

Cost: P3,500

Please call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 (ask for Ollie) or e-mail me at emailjimp@gmail.com for questions and reservations.

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Adolfo Sheive
10 years ago

I have recently been an enthusiastic fan of this site for a while but not really given anything back, I am hoping to change that in the future with more talk.Thanks for another new inclusion to your website.

10 years ago

I’m 28 years and single. My mom and my aunts are now tired of bugging me. When I was in my early 20s every Christmas, every birthday, every time there’s an excuse to ‘bring over friends’ they would ask me if I’d be bringing a special friend this time.\n\nI couldn’t help but feel that I still have a ton of things that I want and need to do before settling down. They taught me to be independent and to be an achiever. At 28, people find it odd for a single woman to be building her own house when she’s got no family yet. I find it empowering on the other hand that I can do it alone.

Bass Poet
Bass Poet
10 years ago

Hi Jim, \n\nI think being a parent is both gratifying and challenging. There is nothing more rewarding in bringing up a child who is now a well rounded and as a whole human being. It is not easy being a parent, with the current generation of entitlements and attitude of “I deserve all” and yet we choose to be a parent and our children did not choose us.\n\nI myself growing up with a father who is more liberal and a mother who is conservative that I did experienced that the “Yin and Yang” of parenting from my parents. I am glad I experienced both the strictness and rigidity of my mother and the freedom and flow of things with my father. I guess in life we are all journeying through and to the centre – to the balance and centredness of our beings.\n\nLooking at the present, I love to be a parent one day God willing, to be a way better parent than my parents and hopefully to be more compassionate and more understanding, with more sense of humour, more warmth, less rigid, provide more clarity and to be more humble in the pleasure of telling my future child/children that I don’t know everything and the pleasure of being foolish again….to return home in being a child again once again.\n\nSincerely,\n\nBass Poet

Craig Peihopa
10 years ago

A very good synopsis of what I am seeing around me Jim with the rising generation being less patient and possessing a feeling of entitlement. What I never factored in to the mix though, was the generation or two older than me, who are beginning to feel this way also. People who feel they have travailed the vicissitudes of life and triumphed in a measure and feel they have earned a pass of immunity and have now earned the right to be rude and more deserving. I am 44, soon to be 45 and lament in a small measure the erosion of fundamental courtesies like manners, respect for people – not so much authority, but for one another. I will watch with no small degree of wonder at what the future ahead has in store. Good post.

10 years ago

My two cents’ worth:\n\nJeffrey Arnett, a psychologist, came up with this relatively new developmental stage called Emerging Adulthood. It says that young adults (20’s to early 30’s) postpone enduring commitments such as marriage to explore (as there are many available opportunities) and see the world. =) This is a characteristic of highly-industrialized societies.\n\n=)

Anne P. Cleofas
Anne P. Cleofas
10 years ago

Hi! I am a fan, follower of ur tweets and reads your articles in your site. I am a mother of 2 teens (college and HS), 2 nephews (both college) and I see myself in how you describe how we treat our kids. I myself did not experience special treatments w/ our parents becoz we cannot afford. I able to finished college becoz my father was an employee of the University, but we live and study only on our means. Lucky for me to finished and land a stable although not good enough pay, but happy environment to work with. We are able to send our kids to good private schools with tutors on the side, enroll them on summer schools when they are on their elementary yrs. even though my husband is doing blue collar jobs. My husband decided to be an OFW 2 yrs ago to make our kids life more comfortable that is. Good thing for my kids and nephews to be loving, caring & responsible one.\nI agree with you with everything you’ve written. I hope to see one of yoru last show in May with my husband who will be on vacation this summer.\nGod bless and hoping for you more inspiring thoughts about life.\nCheers!

Mary Joy
Mary Joy
10 years ago

Jim,\n\nThis is your best post ever, in my opinion. You just sorted out a lot of parenting questions for me.\n\nJust heard that you guys just performed in my Socal hood. I learned about it rather late. Too bad there will be no “next time”. Anyway, I wish all of you good luck and a more relaxed and stress-free future!\n\nJoy

10 years ago

I prefer the older generation’s way of upbringing. They were more responsible and sensible. I hate how today’s moraility becomes almost non-existent. By the way, I am 22 year old.

ccigaux green mangoes
10 years ago

now i understand why my mom is more strict than my father.
they both born in the same decade but with difference in demography and environment.

Howe about the effect on parents that lived in the time of martial law?

And what if there will be another world war? Babalik po ba yung way ng pagpapalaki sa mga bata tulad sa parents niyo po?