My girlfriend Sarah and I decided two Sundays ago to take her 13-year-old son to soak up some sun at a river recreation area along the Stanislaus River.
The sandy beach was already growing more crowded as the temperatures reached the mid-80's and it wasn't even noon. Trodding through the sand with blankets and cooler and umbrella, we positioned ourselves in an open spot that was closer to any group than we wanted to be. To the right of us was a woman in mid-30s, or early 40's who had children ranging from teenage down to young elementary school.
It soon became very apparent that our time on the beach was not going to quiet nor pleasant.
This mom had apparently control of her kids years ago. She was snapping at one of her children, a girl of about 8, with some sharp and somewhat hateful insults. Moments later a younger kid was harassing the older brother with childish actions, which sent him into an angry tirade using foul language. The mom returned a profanity-laced barrage of comments to the teen and told him to just leave (like any loving parent would do). Please understand sarcasm when you read it.
The teenage girl in the group began talking about a certain male body part and pierced female body parts with no sense of modesty or embarrassment. If she had a filter it was either off or she didn't realize strangers could hear her silly yet dirty teen banter among her family members.
It wasn't pleasant to be within an earshot of this but we stuck it out, hoping they'd leave sometime soon. As it would turn out, they would outlast us on the beach.
I was still shaking my head on Wednesday evening when Sarah wanted to try out her new hiking shoes she just received for a hike we're planning up Half Dome this June. The evening was pleasantly cool so we took a brief walk. We hoofed it three blocks - in a very nice neighborhood - when I hear a very loud group of young men on bicycle coming our way. They were loud enough to cause me to wonder if someone was being assaulted. As they got closer I could see there were four males who were in the 13-17 year range. Their annoying outbursts were reminiscent of someone with Tourette syndrome.
Sarah and I had just entered the park down a walkway when the boys followed. They passed around us quietly but their mouths revved up again. Sarah remarked that she just saw the four at Panda Express and I asked, "Were they acting like idiots there?" They must have overheard me because the insult factory started kicking them out. The farther they rolled ahead of us, the more brazen and patently offensive they became as they disappeared into the darkness.
We walked down into a park basin and something told me that I hadn't seen the last of them. Sure enough, as we came up at the top of the hill, the kids shot a barrage of insults (fat a - - and ugly were two of them) and cursing at us from the dark. The little cowards definitely had some issues and their display of a maturity, equivalent to a kindergartner in a sandpit fight, began to boil my kettle of testosterone. I stopped walking, turned in their direction and didn't see them but they could see me under a street light. I didn't say a word but they ran their mouths. I wanted to tell them to pound sand or teach them a lesson in respecting others when Sarah reminded me of the score.
We continued on our way and I tried to shake things off as were discussed what is wrong with America's kids. Sarah suggested that things are different, that kids have fewer responsibilities than they did in generations of ago. My take is that parents have lowered the bar because society has lowered the bar. We've come a long ways since the day of Andy Griffith when Opie needed an occasional "good switchin'" when we did wrong.
On the way back to watch "Survivor" a young man was barreling his souped-up car down the street much faster than anyone with a license knows is permitted in a 25 mph neighborhood zone. I walked towards the car with both hands pushing down to signal "Slow down" and he got the hint.
I don't want to sound like one of those old cranks who enjoy saying "This generation has gone to hell in a hand basket," but this Generation Z (those born between 1994 and 2004) has gone to hell in a hand basket.
Allow me to share some of my thoughts and see if they resonate.
1). Many people who are having sex are not ready, or willing, to raise children if they happen to get pregnant. They simply haven't a clue what child rearing is about because they're not stable themselves.
1). Kids aren't given responsibilities. If they are, they expect some pay (unlike Mom and Dad you do mostly everything without pay). What's wrong with them learning to do jobs that contribute to the household?
2). Kids are protected too much. They aren't allowed to take risk. They grow up not learning cause and effect, such as if I rob a liquor store, I might get shot or killed.
3). Parents give kids too many choices. Wisdom takes time but through proper instruction. Joe Newman, author of Raising Lions, says "Children who are given choices - and asked their opinions - about everything grow up feeling entitled." He said he heard about a Buddhist philosopher recently asking a group, "What is the opposite of thank you?" He answered, saying, "The opposite of thank you is: you're supposed to do that." In others words, a feeling of entitlement. Newman suggests that "living in the condition of thank you is happiness. Living in the condition of that's what you're supposed to do is suffering because you've set yourself up for constant disappointment."
4). Kids are given everything and not made to work for what they want. (This dovetails with #3). So the conditioning is they grow up to expect everything handed to them without any sweat of their brow. If they do want to work, they expect a wage that the market can't support. (But that's why they like Jerry Brown and Bernie Sanders types).
I found this 75-year-old's perspective on a website: "A recent female college graduate started working for my company. One day during lunch she was complaining that her four-year-old car was in need of serious repair, and that her father refused to buy her a new car, following with, ‘My father hasn't done a thing for me in my entire life!' Turns out, he bought her the original car when she started college!"
The same gentleman writes: "My 15-year-old neighbor just got his driving learner's permit and during our talk about it, I asked him how much he thought I paid for my auto insurance. He said, ‘Thirty dollars? Anyway, I'm not concerned; my mom is going to put me on her insurance.'"
5). Kids are growing up too fast sexually, brought on by a media and societal culture where kids are singing lyrics in music that would have got your mouth washed out with soap in your great-grandmother's era but now fail to shock anyone my age. Innocence can be shattered with just a few taps on an iPhone. But then again, it's in the mainstream. Just watch a Selena Gomez music video like the steamy "Can't Keep My Hands to Myself" as she writhes around on a bed wearing very little and it's little wonder why junior high girls are obsessed with taking duck lip selfies with ample cleavage on display and posting them on social media.
6). Kids have a heavy reliance on gadgets. If the power goes out, they don't know how to survive. Portions of their week are sucked up by limitless video gaming, texting friends or browsing Facebook. There's so much to take in, no wonder they have short attention spans. Their idea of research is copying and pasting from Wikipedia. While kids are whizzes at multi-tasking, they are earning the reputation among older generations of being lazy, unaware and apathetic. Gadgets rob kids of experience, such as exploring the world or volunteering to help others.
7). There's too much reliance on the media for their opinions. Kids - indeed adults too - rely on others' brains to digest political discourse and we all know that the media is generally controlled by those who spin things against conservatives while offering kid glove treatment to those on the left. Thus, if Donald Trust says America must be more careful about letting in refugees and other immigrants to ferret out the Islamic terrorist, or that we need to protect our borders to prevent illegal immigration and the loss of jobs, the talking heads on CNN label him "racist." If something is repeated long enough, non-thinking people will start believing it.
8). The abandonment of faith. Doug Giles of ClashDaily suggests that "When the going gets tough, (kids) have no moral compass or religious foundation to fall back on because their parents have shown them that religion is an unrealistic, oppressive and judgmental institution. They do not see or know of anything or anyone that is larger than themselves. There is no higher being to whom they hold themselves accountable - and therefore no motivation or conviction to be honest, kind, and humble individuals."
9). Dad's nowhere to be found. The Center for Disease Control states 85 percent of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes - 20 times the average.
10). Self-absorption. Since they aren't accountable to God or anyone, they develop a "me, me, me" mentality. That's why it's okay to break into an abandoned house in Ceres, invite 100 people over for a party in it, thrash it, disturb the neighbors and go about their merry way without regard to their trespasses.
Sven Mørch, a psychology lecturer at the University of Copenhagen, who specializes in youth studies, believes that the rudeness exhibited by many youth is "because other people are without relevance in their world." His view is that some youths can only relate to the relationship they have with their friends - and that relationship is often a reproduction of themselves - and anyone else is an outsider who deserves no consideration."
A very astute observation that I think hits the nail on the head.
Without seeming totally negative, I realize that not all kids today are like this. There are lots of great kids who are turning out just fine, but society ends up spending inordinate amounts of time dealing with the ones who are off-track. Parents have to get back to the basics. They have to love and support their kids. They have to treat them firmly but with love and kindness. They have to spend quality time with their children and guide them; they won't find goodness, necessarily on their own. And a little faith would go a very long way.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org