The Children We Want Are Not the Children We’re Raising

· March 11, 2018

As a society, we can’t and shouldn’t stop looking towards the future, and the world that subsequent generations will create. They will bear the weight of the large-scale decisions and preparations that will keep society functioning when we retire. The children of today are the adults of tomorrow.

Therefore, it’s normal to worry about the way we’re raising our children. The world changes and so do the norms that we impose on them. Just like their toys, interests, concerns, and aspirations, the way we raise our children evolves with each passing generation.

For example, we’ve stopped believing that physical punishment is an appropriate form of discipline, thus ending classroom violence. We´ve done this by providing teachers with other disciplinary methods that display their authority and  replace the violence of being hit with a ruler, which has allowed the balance of power to shift in favor of the students. They are ignorant simply by virtue of being children, and now they have too much power.

rainbow cloud

What do we want for our children?

Not long ago, as I was browsing the Internet, I came upon a photo of a plaza, of which their are many in Spain. It wasn’t especially beautiful, and the photo wasn’t taken by a professional photographer. It seemed more like it was taken quickly, almost by accident.

The interesting thing about the photo was that it transcended the instant that was captured. There were a bunch of “prohibited” signs posted on a few of the lampposts. One above the other. The first one prohibited playing with balls, the second prohibited bicycles, and the third prohibited roller blades. I wondered why they didn’t just directly prohibit children. Maybe that way they wouldn’t have to keep adding more prohibited items to the list. This would be more comfortable and more economic, too.

The first one prohibited playing with balls, the second prohibited bicycles, and the third prohibited roller blades.

A short time after, I was the direct witness of another scene. Late afternoon. Father and mother taking a relaxed walk, pushing a calm child in a stroller. Suddenly, the child started to cry, the way children do (and the way we did when we were young, although we don’t remember it now). The parents’ strategy was clear – the father took his phone out of his pocket, and the child took it almost as if he expected it, and calmed down.

I thought to myself, “if he had made him put a bar of soap in the child’s mouth, or given him or what we used to call a “good smack,” the same thing would have happened.” The child would have gone from the upset to passive state and stopped disturbing the parents’ peace. The thing is, children can be adorable, but also really annoying and restless. They can test the patience of even the calmest adult.

boy and fox

What we want takes patience

Why did I bring up these two situations? Because it puts what we want right now in contrast with what we want for the future. We would like our children to be creative, but the instruction they receive in school rewards those who spit back out what the teacher tells them. We want our children to be healthy, but it gets on our nerves when they play in the puddles on a rainy day. We want our children to be curious, but we don’t make an effort to answer their questions. But for them to be the kind of children that we want, we need to put in effort.

It’s bad when children aren’t hatching some sort of plan in their free time. It’s bad when children don’t want to play with their parents and prefer to leave them in peace when they get home. It’s bad when children don’t look at the rain or snow with wonder and don’t want to play with it. Comfortable is bad. Making them eat soap, shouting at them, and hitting them is bad. It’s bad that we prohibit them from playing in plazas instead of using that space to teach them about respect and how to share with others. It’s bad that the neighbor who complains about everything can’t deal with the most minor annoyance.

Children need discipline and limits, but most of all, they need our patience and understanding. That’s why we’re the ones who think and they’re the ones who play, or at least, should play.