I hear it all the time.
Children are worse than they used to be.
I hear it from relatives and friends who claim not to know where the children they’re raising come from. I hear it from uncles and aunts, from people whose jobs require them to work with children, and from neighbors who live behind high fences or in the company of bad dogs. And, after listening to them all complain about how bad children have become, they’re caught off guard when I beg to differ.
My initial response to these people who are deliberately trying to give children a bad rap is what they’re saying is an unproven fact. After explaining that an unproven fact is something you know to be true but only because your gut tells you it’s true, I usually lay out my journalism credentials. You see, the first and most important lesson they teach future journalists at the University of Florida is a fact error is an automatic failure. So, I learned to take issue with unproven facts.
However, most parents don’t seem to care what they taught me or what I learned at UF. Nothing short of divine intervention will convince them that their children are not worse than they were.
I’m not sure who’s to blame for starting this misconception about today’s children, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason children appear to be worse than we used to be is because nowadays you can’t tell children to “get lost.” Or as my grandmother, mother, and aunts would command, “Get out of my sight and don’t let me see you until I call for you.”
On weekends, during the summer, or any time school was out, we were literally thrown out the house. And some days, when they wanted us to be really good children, they didn’t allow us to hang out in the yard.
By the time one of them walked out on the porch and yelled across three neighborhood blocks, “Y’all better get here,” they would have spent the day watching “As the World Turns (without bad children)”, “Search for Tomorrow (without bad children)”, and “The Young and the Restless (about bad children)”. The house would be cleaned, dinner would be cooked, and the only thing left to do was feed, bathe, and put their “good” children to bed.
The encroachment of society’s seedy elements into neighborhoods has made it even more difficult for parents not to raise “bad” children. I’m sure no parent wants to put their children in harm’s way and they shouldn’t. But how can you raise “good” children if you can’t tell them to get lost? Getting lost when told to do so is what made us good children.
Technology is also to blame.
When was the last time you told someone to get lost? And they did? Or could?
Technology won’t allow people to get lost.
Back in the day, when you needed to talk to someone, your options were to call their house or yell across three neighborhood blocks. If they were home, good. If not, you yelled until you were hoarse or you called back every 10 minutes until their mother took the phone off the hook and you got a busy signal for the next hour.
Today if the person you need to speak with isn’t home, you can probably reach them on their cell phone even if they’re somewhere they shouldn’t be talking on the phone, like in church or class. Most of today’s so-called bad children have cell phones, which presents yet another problem. Even if you could tell your children to get lost, you wouldn’t have a hard enough time finding them. Just call your bad children’s cell phones and yell, “Get here!”