You might have guessed that this quote was me talking about my own kids with my articulate friends, but you’d be wrong. You might have thought it was a politician, religious leader, teacher, coach, lecturer in either this or the last century. But you would have been wrong again. If you guessed the year between circa 470 – 399 BC, you can give yourself a pat on the back. This quote refers to what Socrates shared about the children of his time. Yes, of his time, 400 BC. Grownups have been frustrated with their children from even before Christ was born.
Reading this quote by Kenneth John Freeman (1907) summarizing Socrates’ frustrations experienced in 400BC, a feeling of shock and disbelief consumed me. But becoming aware that this was said about children roughly 2400 years ago normalised the frustration I have with my own kids and the children of this generation. It not only normalised my daily struggles of parenthood but also provided me with some relief. Here is how:
- “The children now love luxury”
It becomes clear that parents have never understood why our children like or are involved in the luxury items associated with the current time, whether it was the introduction of the flute in 400BC or the newest smartphone in 2020. My father never understood why I could spend so many hours behind my Pentium II, but it was the icon of technology in 1998. I had to be associated with it to fit in. Not to fit in with the cool kids but to fit in with the era and the times. I had to associate with luxury or technology to help me build my identity in a time which was different than that of my father. As a parent in the 21st century it is more important than ever not to deny our children being involved in technology. Spend time with your kids participating in those activities to help educate yourself about their new PlayStation game or the newest app. It will display your interest and instil their feeling of being understood. It gives you the opportunity to teach valuable life lessons, create boundaries and the impact of consequences. Furthermore, it encourages their sense of fitting in, being appreciated and assists in identity building without them resenting you.
- “…they have bad manners;”
Bad manners, disrespect and defiance has been characteristics of children for more than 2000 years. In some way it makes me feel helpless and hopeless that this then becomes something which I can’t change or wish away. The flip side of the coin is that it empowers me to know what to do and what not to do. I now know that getting into conflict situations, fighting and arguing about their behaviour is futile. What becomes more important is modelling the appropriate behaviour, respect and conflict resolution in situations with our co-parent, others, elders and even our own parents. Addressing, supporting and validating their thoughts and feelings rather than the behaviour creates resilience with effective behaviours and healthy relationships.
- “…love chatter”
Children has always been loud. They have always loved ‘chattering’ wherever they find themselves. They love chattering because they love expressing themselves. They have a need to be heard and to be understood. Because of this need I should not tell my kids to keep quiet. I should not supress their ability to express themselves or to connect with others. I should create an environment and atmosphere where they feel comfortable enough to share anything and everything with me. By allowing and supporting them to talk about their everyday events might help them to talk about more difficult and serious issues when they arise.
The parenting struggle, now evidently being experienced for thousands of years and multiple generations made me aware that there is no secret formula to raising children. There are no books or guidelines about surviving parenthood, and there never has been. The awareness took the pressure off me of trying to be the perfect father/parent. It took the guilt feeling, of not being good enough, away when reading mom’s blogs or baby and toddler magazines. It also made me realize that the perfect child, as portrayed by the media, doesn’t exist. The better truth is that my child exists. My child exists in an era of which I know little and they know even less. They might seem to know more about technology and what is going on, but they desperately need guidance and modelling to assist them in fully connecting and finding themselves in this difficult and confusing process called growing up.