Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kidz Deez daze (we are doomed)

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers

- attributed to Socrates, 4th Century BC

Have you that noticed kids these days are surely seem different than our generation? Certainly they are more plugged in and appear to be fully proficient with a blackberry. They also seem to have mastererd the art of multitasking albeit in ways that I don’t always like. For example as much as I appreciate the ability to send text messages while simultaneously having a conversation I would rather have someones full attention while I talking to them. Its just polite. But whats really lacking these days is a sense of responsibility and independence of action caused by a lack of real world experience.

On my last visit home I had drinks with my brother. Somehow the conversation turned to kids or specifically the appalling lack of maturity observed in some kids along with a plain lack of common sense. We are both rather concerned that these kids will have zero marketable skills at an age where they should be entering the workforce. Who will hire them? What will they do? We have a whole generation coming up now that are armed with blackberries and facebook but are unable to tie their own shoes or speak for more then 10 seconds without using the word "like" or "uhh". How would you uhh like them uhh like to do uhh like a business plan or be uhh like the first thing like uhh that a client uhh like sees when he like steps into to your uhh like office? With a two word vocabulary all they will be capable of to offer society will be "uhh like would like fries with that?"

Not only are the language skills abysmal but the attitude sucks. It is the nature of a small child to scream if a toy is removed from their hands. Its a part of growing up that this behavior is unlearned - in most societies children quickly learn that resources are finite and you can't get what you want simply by yelling for it.

Or can you?

I'm shocked to say that the squalling of a 6 year old in my day appears to be commonplace in a 16 year old today. Really some of the kids I've met, if I was their father I would have wished I'd worn a condom.

So what went wrong? My theory is that of the free range kid. As opposed to the factory farm kid the free range kid has had an element of self reliance forced upon him at an early age. It doesn't have to be too onerous - just a small responsibility at an early age. We used to call them chores. With that responsibility some self confidence and esteem will eventually emerge. With some luck you might end up with a child who will possess some basic life skills which will serve them well when they finally leave the nest.

What kind of skills you might wonder? Well, if I were to make a list, it might look like this.

An Acid Test For A Free Range Teenager (by Pj)

  1. Ability to get to school or anywhere else without asking your mom for a ride.
  2. Ability to operate a lawn mower or vacuum cleaner unattended.
  3. Ability to feed yourself without destroying the kitchen.
  4. Ability to complete school tasks on time.
  5. Ability to separate homework time from facebook time (corollary to 4)
  6. Ability to have an activity that does not involve spending money or parental supervision - hanging out in a mall arcade is not an activity.
  7. Ability to manage a part time job during school so as to have an independent source of income.
  8. The knowledge that gasoline, oil, and water each belong in different parts of the car and to know what goes where.
  9. Ability to start a fire without using diesel or barbecue fluid
  10. Ability to jump start a car.
  11. Ability to wear a pair of pants that fit. Believe it or not its not appealing to see male boxers pulled up because the pants are halfway down your ass.
  12. The ability to wear a baseball cap in its natural, unlocked position. No one takes you seriously if you hat is at 20 degree offset to your nose.
  13. The absence of excessive amounts of metallic objects riveted onto their faces. I'm all for people expressing themselves but really, whenever I see a kid with a giant metal hoops in their septum I have to struggle with the temptation to give that hoop a tug. Its distracting.
  14. Ability to organise their schoolwork for the next day so that the entire household is not involved in a frantic search for their biology textbook 2 minutes before the bus leaves.

Give your kid a point for each affirmative answer.

  • 11-14 Congratulations! You can die now without any lingering concerns about the well being of your progeny.
  • 6-10 Make sure you have a will and a competent lawyer to execute. Your kids will struggle. Military school should be considered as an option.
  • 3-6 Pray that your kids marry a heiress. I'm not sure how good the benefit package is at Burger King.
  • 0-3 The spawn of your loins will only notice your stinking corpse when supper has not magically appeared on the table and repeated calls to your cell phone have gone unanswered. Pray that the country you live in has a good welfare and/or prison system.

I'm sure that over time this list and the ranking system will change. Suggestions will be greatly appreciated.


Disclaimer - I do not have any kids of my own so anyone who has kids gets my respect...and sympathy. It can't be an easy job. Further I have no professional qualifications of any sort related to child development - I'm merely remarking on what I see around me.

Aside -Interesting to see how much things haven't changed since Socrates' day. It leads me to believe that comparisons between generations are eternal. Notwithstanding that I can't resist making the comparison.

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