Parenting in the age of awfulness. Children grow up in a culture that encourages disrespect. Here’s how to foster some politeness in your workplace.
“How long has Kyle had a stomach ache?” I questioned his mother, who was engrossed in gaming on his iPhone. “I guess it’s been approximately two days,” Mom said. “Shut up, mom,” Kyle said. You don’t have a clue about what you’re talking about.” Without glancing up from his videogame, he let out a snorty chuckle. Kyle is a ten-year-old boy.
For the past 29 years, I’ve been a doctor. In the 1980s and 1990s, a 10-year-language old’s and conduct was quite uncommon. A decade ago, anything like this would have been unheard of. Today, it’s rather common. Disrespect for parents, teachers and one another pervades America’s youth. Parents are depicted as ignorant, out-of-touch, or absent on television, including the Disney Channel. Celebrities or the Internet are the sources of their knowledge. Social media is where they learn it. It is passed down from generation to generation. They’re dressed in T-shirts that say things like “I’m not shy.” I simply despise you.”
Raising children in the United States now is not the same as it was 30 or 50 years ago. Whether it was the “Andy Griffith Show” in the 1960s or “Family Ties” in the 1980s, popular culture backed parental authority back then. Respect is not something that children learn from birth. It is necessary to educate them.
Respectful children are now more likely to grow up to be anxious and depressed, three times more likely to be overweight, more likely to be fragile, less healthy, and less creative than respectful children, according to multiple lines of evidence, including cohort studies such as the National Longitudinal Study of Youth.
Don’t lose hope, though. I see children who are kind, respectful, joyful, and confident in my office, just as I see youngsters like Kyle. Household income, color, and ethnicity are all the same. The parents, on the other hand, are unique in their parenting styles.
I’ve spent the last seven years chatting with parents and their children, trying to figure out why some kids are courteous while the majority of their friends aren’t. The parents are the difference.
Here are some of the things my parents taught me: Ensure that everyone acts in a polite manner at all times. It’s fine to disagree with someone. Disrespect is never acceptable. Make your family a priority. More essential than heaping on after-school extracurricular activities is the family dinner at home. Teach humility instead of promoting self-esteem. Defy the cultural pressure to be “great.”
Furthermore, no screens should be used when you are with your child. Place your phone on the table. At the dining table, no technological gadgets are allowed. Instruct students in the art of face-to-face communication. In a public environment, such as a doctor’s office, no gadgets are permitted. Regulate your children’s usage of social media, television, and any other screen-based device.
Don’t be subtle if you’re going to make a difference. New Year’s Day is an excellent opportunity to sit down with your children and explain that there will be some changes in this home, including changes in how we communicate, behave, and treat one another. While living in the United States today, it is possible to cultivate a respectful culture at home. It isn’t simple, but it is possible.
Dr. Sax is a practicing physician in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and the author of “The Collapse of Parenting,” which will be published by Basic Books later this month.
On December 18, 2015, The Wall Street Journal published an article with the same title. Visit the Wall Street Journal’s website to read this article.