Rude, rude children

Despite all the other important news going on, an article I read last week about children being ruder than they used to be has stuck with me. I think it's because I've noticed an inordinate amount of rude children and I'm surprised that it bothers me. After all, I grew up on a commune; manners are not something I learned early and I don't place a lot of store in convention. Yet there's a way that I see American children being spoiled, indulgent, demanding, and completely unaware of the people around them that strikes me as not just unpleasant, but unhealty for both child, parent, and the world.

"Don't you realize that there's a war going on and people are being tortured and killed?" I want to scream at them. But of course they don't. And they shouldn't. My almost-three-year-old has no idea about Guantanamo or that the ice caps are melting. And that's as it should be. But of course what is really going on is that I'm mad at the parents. We shouldn't tell our children about the horrors and inequities of the world before they are able to hear them, but we can parent with the knowledge of how incredibly lucky our children are and what a great responsibility they have as a member of this country and this human race.

It is hard to be a parent and particularly how hard to be a parent when me and my child are both cranky and stubborn. "We use kids like prozac" said a Harvard child pyschologist in the New York Times article. It's true. After an incredibly difficult day--whether working outside or inside the home--do we really have the time or energy to teach our children manners, even if there's a big payoff for society and ourselves as well as our children? It strikes me that the problem, besides all the rude children, is that it separates our lives as parents from our lives as members of society. It seems that, from as early as two, we can teach our children in such a way that they understand the realities of globalization. Our behavior affects others, not just in our families and in our communities but around the world. For everything we buy our child, there is a parent somewhere who worked long hours to make it. This isn't a dour view of the world; it's a realistic one and it includes the joy, as well as the responsiblity, of our global connection.


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