Kids these days! How often have you ever heard or said that comment? Every generation I believe looks at the youth and makes this comment in comparison to their own up brining and the generation of cultural norms of their own time. It is often done in a negative way. However, every generation goes forward and acclimates to its own time and the changes to the new cultural norms. It is not negative it is necessary.
In the last few years, I have heard comments like this about generation z’s and millennials. Again, mainly they are said in a negative connotation regarding their work ethic. What we often do not acknowledge is they are a product of our own doing. They were raised by parents who not only set them on their path but also influenced by the culture of the day in response to the generation before them.
Today, our youth are living in a different time than my generation. If I stop and truly evaluate this, I understand it better. Kids have seen the greed of big corporations, political divisiveness, and are more exposed today to the social injustices taking place outside their own neighborhoods. They are hoping to not make the same mistakes and if anything, are less likely to be driven by money and more driven by a sense of purpose. They want to learn, grow and make a real difference.
What has changed is that kids today live in a faster paced world that changes constantly. They must be technologically savvy. They understand that the new platforms are social and technological platforms. They are not the newspapers and magazines of my day but readily available, at the moment, knowledge and responses to what is happening in real time. Watching my 12-year-old has me quite impressed. He can do things in far less time online than his dad who is not too bad at technology…for his age. He has been exposed earlier to negative sights and events much than I ever was at his age. In some ways he cannot be sheltered but rather needs strong adults using each exposure as a teachable moment. A friend of mine said “whoever gets to our kids first wins”…social media is winning when parents do not parent and teachers do not teach kids where they are at and to what they are exposed.
Positive behavior support of our children today should not be focused on the negatives but reinforce the positives. We are never taking a step backwards so our job as parents and educators should not be focused on what we think they should be doing but rather preparing them for the realities of what lays ahead. This is hard since we tend to look at the world through the review mirror of where WE have come from. But today with all the online connections, are we reinforcing good on-line social skills? Are we fostering on-line safe relationships? Are we teaching the skills they will need to move forward in a virtual world that is only becoming more so every day?
With the way business is changing and becoming more virtual and online, the way we deal with conflict resolution is also changing. Instead of creating undue conflict with our children, are we teaching conflict resolution techniques that meet them where they are at in today’s way of operating? We no longer live in a society where we can say “just work it out on the playground” like we did back in my day. The playground has grown to amass a space on social media and on-line gaming that I would have never dreamt about. Youths’ problems reach much further today than even their local school or neighborhood. Kids will never go “back in my day” but can I help support them in their day and through their struggles.
Covid has in many ways hurt the face-to-face social skills of our youth. They spent many months in a virtual classroom, doing virtual learning, and then jumped on social media and online games. Yes, we need to teach and role model these skills when possible and where necessary. But we also must reinforce the online socials skills and virtual relationship building that they are doing more and more of and that will only become greater with time. We need to stop saying “Kids these days” in a negative way. We need to say kids these days….wow, how impressive!
Tim Geels – Director of Implementation and Governance