MIND ON THE RUN:

Silent Rebuttal:  Part I

By Anthony Kovatch, M.D., Pediatric Alliance — Arcadia

 

“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.”    

— Quote attributed to Greek Philosopher Socrates, who lived in the 4th Century, B.C. He also insisted that “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”

 

KIDS!!!

 

Musical accompaniment:  “Kids!” from “Bye, Bye, Birdie”

 

Shame on you, Socrates! An honorable man does not plagiarize the sentiments written on the walls of the cavemen and later in the Egyptian pyramids and the tomb of King Tut! Indeed the jeremiad bemoaning the behavior of the newest generation of children is as old as Genesis, but psychotherapist, Victoria Prooday (read “A Silent Tragedy” on The PediaBlog last month), takes the case a step too far by blaming “the devastating emotional state of our children” on their parents, who she claims are “self-absorbed and clueless to the fundamentals of good parenting.”

“Deprived of the fundamental of a healthy childhood,” Ms. Prooday alleges that “children are being served with endless stimulation, technological babysitters, instant gratification, and absence of dull moments.”

My immediate reaction was that of indignation and defensiveness, claiming the author had fallen prey to fallacious generalization. I voiced an accusation: “While the tenets of her arguments may be valid, the doomsday conclusions are marked by hyperbole and misdirected blame on parents, rather than on our culture.” In an effort to debunk this myth, I considered doing exactly what the author had implored:  Talk to teachers and professionals who have been working in the field for the last 15 years. And so I did!

Since mental health disorders generally have a genetic etiology (and the genes do not change from generation to generation), other factors — broadly termed “epigenetic” — must be at play in the escalating rates of diagnosed ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety (other than conventional teenage angst), depression, and teen/preteen suicide. What insight could be gained from the observations and interpretations of educators who are members of my so-called “Generation A” (“A” for awakened, amazing, awesome, attached) — the young adults raising the newest generation of our children and formulating the present day philosophy of life and parenting? Although I interviewed individuals of Generation X who I judged bright, mindful, and unbiased, I must disclose to our readers that I did not hear what I had hoped and anticipated!

An elementary school teacher from Virginia responds to the question “Do you think Dr Prooday’s essay is misguided and exaggerated?”

No, I think this is the case for many kids. Sometimes my coworkers and I just look at each other with blank stares because we can’t believe the behaviors that actually happen. Certainly not the case for all kids, and a lot probably comes down to parenting. The parents who are emotionally available, giving their kids whole healthy foods, keeping them on schedules, and limiting technology are the ones who are swimming against the current. We all say (before becoming parents) that we will never let technology babysit our kids… but it’s a different story once the demands of parenthood set in. This is the norm in the world around us. I don’t think you can entirely blame parents — our whole culture revolves around instant gratification and technology. It’s easy to get sucked in.

 

A high school English teacher from Indiana and author of a book on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy likewise agrees with Ms. Prooday’s premise and points a finger at “technology addiction” victimizing these older students:

I think this article generalizes a lot — but I have seen an increase in some of these things even in just 8 years of teaching. Technology addiction in teens (and parents) is definitely true. Perhaps this is what is being diagnosed as ADHD. My students get anxious and upset when they don’t have their phones or computers in front of them. They are always multi-tasking — even in class! They would much rather email than talk face-to-face. I see this with parents too. Parents are happy to abuse you over email but then when you ask to sit down face-to-face, they almost never want to meet. But this kind of social interaction via technology has become acceptable.

I think there are indeed “indulgent” parents who let kids “rule the world”” and have a “sense of entitlement rather than responsibility.” But this is on a case-by-case basis. I’ve seen good parenting as well where both parents make their kids take responsibility. I think the real problem is that it is socially acceptable now to be entitled and to indulge your kids.

 

Others view the issues from a different vantage point. (To be continued…)