It is constantly repeated in tabloid journalism when celebrities aren’t misbehaving for once. More staid publications also include statements of this type within editorials and letters to the editor. Opinions pieces in particular are rife with rhapsodies on this theme. Google searches reveal that the internet has not been silent on this matter of importance. What is this pervasive problem that everyone is talking about? Why, the youth of today are <insert unflattering adjective here>. This will lead to the inevitable break down of society, rah rah rah.
These authors could well be completely correct in what they say. Unfortunately what they fail to realise is that their complaints are nothing new. Their parents certainly thought that their children fitted these headlines- they were the ones that were hippies and all that that entailed. And look how wrong they were… the Baby Boomer’s destruction of society has little to do with their rebellious youth days. Every generation has looked at it’s succeeding generation with deep suspicion. Even 6,000 years ago:
“We live in a decaying age. Young people no longer respect
their parents. They are rude and impatient. They frequently
inhabit taverns and have no self control.”
Inscription, 6000 year-old Egyptian tomb1
It is in no way an isolated statement:
“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”
Plato, 4th Century BC
Isn’t this argument a little flat by now? Certainly one or two generations have been completely correct in viewing their offspring as dangerous, but for many it is simply paranoia. Why do they treat those who are to follow them as dangerous? I can’t actually speak for them, I’m not in that situation. I can only guess. Perhaps they are worried about how easily they gained authority from their parents. Worried because the shoe is on the other foot. Or is it a rueful acknowledgement that the very actions that they took in rebellion to their parents actually did go too far, and so the next generation would be on a shorter leash.
Oddly many of this generation are still proud of their exploits, even while preventing their offspring from doing a tenth of what they did and punishing them far more severely for smaller infractions. Are they not happy with where they ended up and think that they can help their offspring to offset their pitfalls? I would have thought that the last thought is how most parents think, but it doesn’t explain the downright fear-mongering that writers have inflicted upon their unsuspecting and accepting public.
In most cases, each generation has followed on from the last without the catastrophes so earnestly predicted by the merchants of doom. And of the catastrophes that did occur how many can be primarily attributed to the behaviour of youth getting so bad that the culture could not cope? Is there one at all?
The thing is that the youth are not the primary cause of problems at all. Have you thought about why children act out? They act out because their parents aren’t fulfilling their needs. So they are spoiled brats? Well actually, not so much. One of the needs children have is a need for boundaries. When they don’t know where the boundary is, they push out looking for it. The problem is with not having boundaries, not with the child which the parent is supposed to be raising.
Ephesians 6:4 ESV / 204 helpful votes
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
This all came from a situation that I saw first hand. An adult thought a group of young people was doing something wrong. She was extremely angry, but that anger doesn’t do anything apart from putting people’s backs up. I was part of the group and came over to this woman and told her quite firmly that she didn’t have any authority to demand the demands she was making. And I thought afterwards, if she’d come in with a far more conciliatory attitude the situation could have been different. Maybe not, but talking it with a calm attitude would have been far more conducive to a negotiation. In that case, being a member of the public I wouldn’t have been able to say what I did, but I wouldn’t have needed to either. Then I started thinking about young people who had been yelled at their whole lives. How do they respond to all this anger? They would find ways to cope, human being are quite resourceful like that, but at what cost? What social misfunction would result from having to cope with all this anger that we aren’t meant to?
A misuse of authority does lead to a loss of authority. Mistreat someone and they will usually find a way to rebel, even in a most insignificant way. Using the pen or by using other means something will happen. The next generation takes what it thinks is theirs and resents their parents’ generation. Seems like the feeling is mutual. But this isn’t the only way. If both acknowledged the situation better, were more patient and understanding certainly both parties would feel better. But it wouldn’t end there. They would realise that there isn’t actually a competition, but a cycle of helping each other and so get the best of what they can. Although authority can be transferred, the respect still carries on. While the older generation may not be in control any longer, their contribution is welcomed and valued. My idealism is running away with me… but if we all looked to the model given by God, with the Father and the Son, we would be so much better off. We will, someday. Someday soon.