Is Generation X Raising Generation Rude?

Filed under: Opinions

They say kids today are ruder than ever. The question is ... why? Image: BurningQuestion on Flickr.

Gen-Xers are champions of attachment parenting; we're a sling-wearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding bunch. Heck, we even invented things like unschooling and consensual living. We're invested in our children's growth and development, and we're dedicated to building their self-esteem.

But while our kids might be considered the most secure generation in modern history, some experts are starting to a disturbing behavioral trend: Our kids don't have manners. Not your kids, of course. (Mine either.) But some people's kids are out there stealing toys and calling names and ordering their parents around. And attachment parenting is getting the blame.

Dr. Phillapa Gordon, Park Slope pediatrician, recently told MSNBC that today's parents are so invested in their children's feelings, that they've forgotten to teach them to care about others. "There is a feeling that anything interfering with their kid's homeostasis, as they see it, is an inappropriate behavior to be fended off sharply."

A quick survey of my mom friends turned up story after story of rude kids and indulgent parents. Lindsay Ferrier of Suburban Turmoil recently wrote about a run-in with two young women at the mall. Amy Hatch wrote about narcissistic kids just last month. And Jenn Tryban, mom of two who blogs at Serving the Queens, tells ParentDish that she's seen rude behavior from her 11-year-old daughter's friends. But like most of the parents I talked to, she doesn't allow it herself.

"My daughter and I were shopping at the mall recently," Tryban said, "And we overheard a daughter shrieking at her mom over a mini-skirt. 'I want this one. I hate you. You suck. No! I said I want THIS one.' Then her mom put the mini-skirt in the cart, rubbed the girl's head affectionately and said, 'There? Feel better?' " Tryban says she gave her daughter a look and said, "If you ever...." Before she could finish, her tween nodded, "I know. I know."

Interestingly, experts want to blame our own parents -- the Boomers -- for this phenomenon. Blaming pioneering feminists, divorce, and a latchkey culture, one expert told MSNBC, "They (Gen-Xers) are trying to heal the wounds from their own childhoods through their children."

Magda Pecsenye, who writes the parenting advice column Ask Moxie, isn't buying it. She notes that while Gen-Xers grew up in a transitional time, there was more intergenerational interaction and family support for parents. "I saw my grandparents at least once a week, and would never, ever have dared to be rude to them," says Pecsenye, "And part of that was being raised to respect them, but a big part of it was just the calmness that came from spending time with them."

Instead, Pecsenye attributes it to stress: Most families need two incomes, she says, and "parents are so stretched out that they just want to enjoy their kids and not enact a lot of discipline."

Kids are under pressure, too. Pecsenye points to preschool testing and first graders with "wheelie backpacks" full of homework, but says, "They don't get the chance to blow off steam physically, and instead are channeled into indoor activities (like watching rude TV shows or playing video games that can contain rudeness). And then they're watched like hawks so they don't succumb to childhood obesity or ADHD. It's an awful lot of kids to bear without lashing out."

I think there's one more thing the experts are missing: Anxiety. Our kids might be secure, but as parents, we're often anything but. Our own parents were rarely scared, because no one ever told them to be. But we've got books, TV shows, websites and mainstream media barraging us with information about all the things that can go wrong. I think that's what makes some of us hover anxiously when our kids should be striking out on their own, and it's what makes us doubt ourselves when it's time to set clear boundaries and teach those difficult, but important life lessons.

Have you seen an uptick in rude behavior among your children's friends? Do you blame the media? Or are parents just not getting tough enough with their kids today?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.