Why are kids so unappreciative and entitled today? Have we spoiled them? Why are my kids so lazy? Another common complaint is that, all they want to do is spend their time with friends or on their electronic devices; they don’t want anything to do with us (their parents). What should we do… take these devices away? Restrict them? How do we get them to appreciate what they have?
Have parents ever asked these questions? Over my 21-plus years working as a family therapist I have heard many parents ask these questions. I am sure that many continue to ask similar questions now.
Nearly 20 years ago, a former colleague, John Meacham, wrote an essay entitled “Parenting in the 1990’s” in which he discussed the differences that parents of children faced in the 1990’s vs. the 1950’s. He stated that in the 1950’s most children were raised in homes with their mothers and fathers. The majority of Moms were in the home with a great deal more supervision over their children. With the emergence of latchkey children made necessary by one (single parent) or both parents working and children who are too old for daycare, teenagers are left alone for numerous hours after school and all day during the summer.
John further stated that in the 1950’s 50% of the U.S. population lived on farms where children were economic assets to the family. A 13 year old boy worked along-side his father, plowing fields, milking the cows, feeding and caring for the stalk, rounding up cattle, branding calves, irrigating the crops, etc. Thirteen year old girls worked along-side their mothers—gardening, doing the wash, canning or bottling produce, taking care of the younger children, and tending the yard. Both teenage boys and girls felt the self esteem and self worth from truly being economic assets to their families. John also ascertained that in the 1990’s and now the family make-up has changed significantly. Only 30% to 50% of children are raised by both biological parents in the same home. We have an increase of blended families, single parent families, and alternative families.
Presently those who live the farm are less than 5% of the population. Economics really require both parents and single parents to work outside the home, leaving latchkey kids.
In this blog I wish to address child and teen self esteem in the present decade. I find it interesting to ask my clients what their hobbies are as I am getting to know them. This tells me a great deal about their lifestyle and abilities that the child has to feel good about self. The majority of my male clients tend to list video games as hobbies and for my female clients it is social media. Many of my clients don’t do much to help them feel good about themselves. If they are not doing well in school what do they have to feel good about in their lives?
Another former of colleague of mine who is musically inclined, made the statement about youth learning music: Music is a gift that parents give to their children. It takes a lot of effort to take their kids to practices, concerts lessons, pay for the lessons, be at recitals, etc. I can safely say that the statement is not only true for those learning music, but those who are learning dance, playing on a school or a little league team, playing in a chess leagues, science club, astronomy club, etc. Involvement in these activities can be a financial burden as well as a challenge to parents’ already full schedules. However, wherever possible, they are crucial for child or teen self esteem. Through activities like these youth can feel good about their accomplishments and the benefits being a part of something positive.
Since school is required and is such a big part of each weekday in the lives of youth, it is important for parents to do all they can to help children be successful. However, the unsupervised time after school for teens or kids too old to be in day care can be a recipe for boredom and trouble. The benefit of children and teens pursuing interests or talents, in my experience, has the benefits of structure for otherwise empty time, helping then learn a work ethic, and be involved in something they feel good about. Character is often built and self esteem is increased from such activities.
Though not all parents have the time or the resources to place their kids in some of these activities, there are still many possibilities open to the creative parent and a child who wants to be involved. Youth Services also offers free parenting classes called Strengthening Families along with other prevention classes for female empowerment and anger management.
Salt Lake County Youth Services offers after school programs and summer programs in Kearns, West Valley City, and Magna that have many benefits to youth including: keeping kids safe, healthy adult role models, building friendships, skills, a sense of accomplishment, inspires learning, and supports working families. Youth Services has seen much success in the after school and summer programs with our teen clients and it is a great service to working parents who can’t be present right when their kids get home from school.
Kids need to have reasonable structure and activities or talent development that makes them feel good about themselves and less likely to acquire negative friends our out on the street. We don’t have the benefits or the hardships of farm life from the 1950’s, but we can benefit from the things that worked in the past and implement what we have learned from that time to benefit the present. If parents implement positive structure and activities that help children and teens feel good about themselves, they are more likely to become productive citizens as adults.
If you are looking to strengthen your communication, looking for activities for your youth or need counseling contact Salt Lake County Youth Services or call 385-468-4500.