Katherine Reynolds Lewis, author of the new book The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids Are Less Disciplined Than Ever – And What to Do About It, has some good advice for today’s parents.
Is there an epidemic of misbehaviour? Are kids really worse now than they used to be?
Kids are definitely worse now than they have been. It’s impossible to prove 100 per cent why this is the case, but I think there is very compelling evidence. There’s three factors that really align with the timing of the change in kids. The dramatic decline in play in children today compared with a generation or two ago. Kids are pretty much constantly supervised from the time they are born until they’re maybe 18 when they leave home, so they never learn to manage their own behaviour. The second big factor is media and the growth of so much media that’s bombarding us with information and ideas about who we should be and what we should want. Forty years ago kids figured out who they should be and what they should want, mostly by thinking about themselves. We’ve seen clinical research that this external focus is associated with anxiety and depression. The third big factor is just the decline in our communities and connection in our families. Maybe a generation ago a child would be in charge of a younger sibling, or they would have had a job of putting dinner on the table, and now their job is to get straight A’s and be a super star.