Shifting priorities: from responsibility to happiness-Part 2

 
        In this two-part series, I invite parents to think about a shift in priorities that many parents have made during the last thirty years or so.

        Previous generations of parents wanted their children to be responsible. In contrast, more parents nowadays want their children to be happy.

        Baby Boomer parents, those born between 1946 and 1964, have significantly departed from the parenting they received. This, of course, does not refer to every parent in the cohort. But it is a shift that is widely represented among the parents of children I have been teaching during the last twenty years or so.

        Why is it a problem for parents to emphasize happiness over responsibility?

        We see these situations play out daily, as parents readily give in to their childrenís demands for material goods. Parents give their children what they want so that the children will be happy.

        As a result, children are led by their parents to understand that they can achieve happiness by accumulating objects. One symptom of this approach is the overwhelming desire on the part of children to have such items as brand-name clothing, cell phones and cars. Moreover, they confuse the concepts of wanting these things with needing them.

        A further complication of the situation is that parents have used material goods as rewards to their children so that the children will perform what their parents want them to do. The children comply only because they want what the parents will offer, and not because the act in question is the right thing to do.

        We see and hear the results of this all around us: young people asserting their presence by blaring their music and spray-painting their names on othersí property, without regard to who might be affected or offended. After all, they have been raised to believe that they should have what they want, without regard for others around them.

        What many parents have failed to teach their children is that each of us prospers more by giving than by receiving. Helping other people, thinking about their needs before our own, is more gratifying to us as individuals and helps the society at large at the same time.

  
This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís  Advice for Parents.

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