Where Are You Mom and Dad?
Back in the 80's there was a commercial from Wendy's with a little old lady asking, "Where's the beef?". For whatever reason this commercial took off and people everywhere were jokingly asking the question, "Where's the beef?" In today's social media world it would have went viral.
But, in 2019 there's another question that should become a phenomonom and that is, "Where's the parents?"
Today's parenting has got me scratching my head in amazement at how uninvolved and lazy parenting has become. It's no wonder our kids are in the trouble they are in. How many times have you been out and about and seen a toddler or young child walking beside their parent holding a phone in front of their face and the parent doing the same?
Whenever a mass school shooting happens with a student everyone wants to start talking about gun control and mental illness, but the real conversation needs to revolve around the lack of parental involvement in kid's lives today.
As a parent of three children I can testify to this. Throughout the years and many sleepovers, I can literally count on one hand, in fact, I can probably reduce it to a couple of fingers, the amount of times I have had parents call me to verify that their children are spending the night at our house.
I've had kids stay at our house for the whole weekend and never once did I speak with or meet the children's parents prior to them staying at our house. I've either picked them up and dropped them off without a single conversation with the parent, or they've either pulled up in the driveway and texted their kids to come outside.
And I'm always baffled by this.
I could be a mass murderer, a child molester....I could have a meth lab in here...I could be a hoarder living in squalor....this could be their boyfriend's house.....don't you want to see where and with whom your child is staying with?
I remember being a teen and what we did and what we tried to get away with. Do I believe that teens today are not doing the same things or worse? Absolutely not. So, why would I not follow behind my child to make sure that they are where they say they are? Why, as a parent, would I not do everything within my power to try and protect them from harm?
Where's the parents? And why are they not parenting? Are they too busy? Too tired? Too involved? Too broken?
I would say all of the above, but none of these are excuses to neglect your responsibility as a parent. If there ever was a time our kids needed us, it is now. They are in trouble and the numbers don't lie.
The National Institute of Mental Health reported that approximately 3.2 million 12 to 17 year olds have reported at least one major depressive episode within the last year. A study published in April 2019 in the Journal for Abnormal Psychology, which was collected from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, found that from 2005 to 2017 youth depression increased by 52 percent.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is now the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 34. If this doesn't alarm you, it should. Today's kids are increasingly falling into despair.
There are a number of factors contributing to this, however, one of those is the increase of social media. Studies have shown the more time a youth spends on digital media the more likely they are to experience feelings of depression, lower self-confidence and discontent. This can be a result of cyber-bullying, comparing themselves to unrealistic expectations (fake lives and filtered faces), and less face-to-face interaction.
The more you interact with people face to face it is shown to increase your serotonin levels. (This is the stuff that gives you the good feeling.) Think about it. How many families do you have where everyone is off in their own little world either on a tablet, on their smartphone or watching TV? I see so many families out to dinner where no one is even talking because everyone is on their phone.
Just because you are in the house at the same time as your children, this doesn't equate to the same thing as having a conversation with your kids about their day or doing an activity together like playing at the park, taking a hike or going to the museum.
Those are the kinds of activities that build memories and are building relationships with your kids. If the only time you have a conversation with your kids is when they get in trouble or you're telling them to do something, like get ready for school or pick up their room, you're not building a bond with your kids. These are transactional relationships.
Think of relationships as positive, neutral and negative. Sharing a fun or happy memory with someone, celebrating an achievement, or encouraging them through a hard time, are all examples of creating positive relationships.
If you go to the bank and deposit some money, have a contractor come to your house and do some work, or have a woman check out your groceries, without discussing anything personal, these are all examples of neutral relationships, or transactional relationships.
Having a spouse ignore you, slamming doors or cursing at each other during an argument, or a friend that's not there for you in a crisis situation, are all examples of negative interactions.
You can think of your relationships like a bank account. Each positive interaction is like a deposit, while each negative interaction is like a withdrawal, and every neutral interaction is like you didn't go to the bank at all.
If you aren't depositing anything into the relationship, when there's a negative interaction the account becomes overdrawn. Then the next time there's an interaction, the account is still in insufficient funds. It's trying to rebound from the deficit. The deficit of conversation. The deficit of love. The deficit of laughter. The deficit of concern and compassion. The deficit of happy memories.
If you keep making deposits in your account, when the inevitable negative interation does occur, whether it be an act of justified discipline with your child, or you were just tired and lost your temper, there's enough previous deposits to cover the withdrawal and to keep it from going into insufficient funds.
Kids are also more likely to listen and respect your opinion as a parent if you're spending time with them outside of only criticizing them for doing wrong.
I know raising kids is not easy, especially raising teenagers, and you can be the best parents in the world and still your kids can rebel and get in trouble. So, don't hear what I'm not saying. I'm not condemning good parents whose kids have gone astray. It happens. So don't guilt yourself more.
However, what I am saying is that there has become a phenomonom of lazy parenting, and if you're honest with yourself, we're probably all guilty of this to a certain degree. Some more than others.
But as parents we have got to be more involved with our kids and stop letting all these electronics disconnect us. Start finding ways to set boundaries, like no electronics in the car. Instead, spend that time talking. Or set a certain time of the day or in the evening when everyone's phones get put up. Make it a rule that there are no phones at the dinner table.
Schedule time with your kids. If you don't schedule it, it won't happen. I know from experience. Life gets busy and we always think "someday", but then "someday" turns into months and years before we know it. Aim for weekly outings, even if it's just a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood, or a weekend board game. The key is to do something fun with your kids.
And don't be afraid to say no. Just because other parents aren't parenting or think something is okay doesn't mean you have to be pressured into doing something. My daughter was just recently upset with me that I wouldn't let her go to a hotel party with other teens where there was no adult supervision.
She proceeded to tell me, as if this was going to somehow scold me into changing my mind, "Her mom said that now that she's sixteen she doesn't need any supervision."
Say whaaaaaat? Not in this house chickie. Cause I will be the mom to show up at a party and snatch you out of the door. There will be supervision here until you leave the house.
Why this mother would allow her sixteen-year-old daughter to be at an all-night hotel party without an adult is beyond my understanding. From what I do know, is that this family has had some recent trauma and ongoing difficult situations, not to mention she's a single mom. So maybe she's so overwhelmed she has mentally checked out, I don't know, but nevertheless, no matter how tired we get as parents we must not abandon our role to raise our children and give it over to the world because the world will raise them like ravenous wolves.
Think about the images portrayed throughout music and media for our young girls. We are sexualizing them younger and younger. Is it any wonder that teenage girls now dress in the same manner that at one point would have been looked at as a hooker? Now dressing like a hooker has become the norm in our culture, and it's impacting the way they view sex.
Consider this: Young people aged 15-24 make up only one-quarter of the sexually active population, however, they account for half of the 20 million new STD's that occur in the U.S. every year. Sex has consequences and we need to be teaching our children that they are worth more than giving themselves to someone for physical gratification that can end up giving them a lifetime disease and even end up in death.
Everywhere teens turn the message they are receiving is sex and provocative images. So, it's that much more important as parents that we send a different message to our kids, that they are more than just an object, especially our young girls, who are bombarded with body images.
Despite what we may feel, studies show that kids actually are influenced by what their parents believe and communicate with their children, when it's done in a positive and affirming way. And on the flip side of that, they are also influenced by outside factors. So, when you consider the disproportionate amount of time kids spend at school, extra-curriculur activities, jobs, and then social media versus the time spent one-on-one with their parents, it's all that more important that we make the time we do have with them count.
Otherwise, our kids are left to be raised by society, and in case you haven't noticed our society doesn't seem to be doing such a great job. You only need to spend 10 minutes watching the news to know this.
Parenting has never been an easy job and there will never be a "one size fits all" manual for raising kids, and being a parent in today's world certainly has a whole new array of stressors that didn't exist years ago. I also get that the breakdown of the family and single parenting has added complications to this role (I'm a single parent so I get it.), but even in the midst of these added stressors and complications, we have to step up to the plate and be the parental role in our children's lives.
Despite how you may feel right now, I promise there will be a reward for you on down the road for making the sacrifices, committment and dedication for being there through the tough decisions.
Mom and dad....you are necessary. It's time to get back in the game. Your kids need you, and one day you will look back and be grateful you didn't sit on the sidelines.