Last week, part of one comment on a blog post read: “I don’t think the average parent’s behavior regarding their children has changed over time.” The poster then went on to blame teachers for the attention deficit problems of students and for not adapting teaching to the internet.

Parents’ behavior hasn’t changed? Oh, really? Over what time period? Twenty-five years ago, I never saw parents buried in their cellphones all the time, as I do now. I never saw mothers with earbuds on talking on their cellphones and ignoring their children as they drive them wherever. Children weren’t spending an average of seven hours a day looking at screens. I walk daily, and have for over forty years, and it’s only been in the last ten to fifteen years when all the “younger” joggers are trotting along talking apparently to no one. I see parents using cellphones as baby-sitters all the time.

Until about twenty years ago, when college students switched classes, they talked to others they encountered. Today, classes change almost silently, and students walk along looking down at screens or concentrating on what they hear in their earbuds.

This is a seismic social change in American culture [and likely others as well], and it’s had seismic impacts on young people’s ability to concentrate, as well as on their social development. Far too many young people literally don’t know how to make conversation, and they’re awkward in social interactions. Their social maturity is 1-2 years behind that of the previous generation.

Now… the vast majority of these habits and patterns are developed before children ever enter a classroom – by the parents and the example they set. Is it the teacher’s fault that a student cannot concentrate because the student effectively has electronically-established ADHD? Or because the student is conversationally deprived?

Usage studies show fairly conclusively that parents aren’t very effective at monitoring their children’s screen time.

But, if the poster meant that parents ignored their children too much twenty years ago, I can’t really argue with that. But the cost of that ignorance is far higher now, and blaming teachers for not “solving” the habits and patterns learned at home isn’t going to address the problem… or help the children.

Also, insisting that teachers need to “solve” the problem is just passing the buck. Because teachers have always been underpaid and still are, there have always been some bad teachers, but previous generations still learned. Now, too many aren’t, because skills aren’t gained by looking things up, and real learning takes concentration that too many students not only don’t have, but find boring.

But… go ahead and blame the teachers. It’s easier than looking in the mirror.

11 thoughts on “Parenting?”

  1. Tim says:

    In the 60s when at school and later at university in the 70s I can only think of one teacher who could be called entertaining. At university the lecturers usually faced the chalkboard or wrote on a scrolling OHP usually not that legibly.

    So to understand what notes I was able to record, I had go through them later using text books to help comprehension.

    It was down to you not the lecturer.

    However I will admit this approach can destroy an interest. I remember getting balled out at the age of 11 because I was having trouble using a violin. I dropped music at age 12 and never took it up again. No prize for everyone then.

    1. Lourain says:

      I had a college professor who never lectured. The syllabus had weekly reading assignments and supplemental reading assignments in books on reserve in the library. Wednesdays he had question-and-answer sessions (I attended once) and hour-long multiple-choice tests on every Friday. Tests would have 100-150 questions. To make an A on the test you had to earn 50+ points. Wrong guesses were penalized. Learning was definitely up to the student. The subject? Genetics.

  2. Christopher Robin says:

    Schools are no longer expected to simply educate, they are now responsible for raising children. Some don’t understand the difference between the two but more and more teachers are expected to parent students. The emphasis in professional development has shifted from educational strategies to socio/emotional learning and helping students deal with issues that would typically be the realm of the parents. Parents have stopped parenting and schools will never be able to do a comparable job. I have on average 5 minutes per student each day. Effective parenting requires far more than that.

    1. Censored Far Too Often says:

      Why are teachers expected to parent?

      Why do school managers accept this parental expectation rather than expel the student?

      Clearly teachers cannot and should not try to parent other people’s children.

      Is this a consequence of 2 parents having to work to support a family?

      1. Christopher Robin says:

        When enough parents simply decide not to truly parent their children then the consequences are felt in the school. When the problems become prevalent enough then schools have to adjust. Kids left to their own devices don’t learn the necessary skills to cope with the real world and thus, in an attempt to alleviate the problems in school, a new emphasis is placed on teaching things less academic and more parental.

  3. Steven Snyder says:

    Latchkey kids have existed for generations, yet they’ve made it work. As you said, only in the last twenty years has a lack of parenting become a game-changing problem. The internet, cellphones, earbuds, tablets, and big tech, among other things, have weakened parenting and effectively increased the number of “latchkey” children. I wonder if it hasn’t reached a critical mass, like a lack of herd immunity, and now the results speak for themselves.
    Who is going to solve this, if not teachers? These parents are already aware that too much tablet time is an issue, yet they have already proven incapable of fixing the problem. You can yell at them for another decade, but I don’t think it’ll change anything.
    The people you can change are the little ones stuck in a classroom for six-plus hours a day, five days a week. Teachers in primary school are not dealing with rigid brains. While I can appreciate that Christopher Robin above, along with the vast majority of teachers, most often have a child’s best interest at heart, he outlines the most significant issue. Teachers have shifted away from their primary purpose to assist students in a way the school shouldn’t. This change often results in teachers misusing their new “purpose” to preach to children instead of teaching them critical thinking and concentration.
    Are teachers underpaid? On what measurement? Their results are only getting worse.

  4. R. Hamilton says:

    There have to be consequences. Expecting the “village” to be collectively responsible for the children and everyone else in it is crazy; collective responsibility is tantamount to nobody actually being responsible.

  5. Hanneke says:

    What I am missing in this discussion is the “helicopter parenting”, the over-protective parenting that protects children from learning anything from making their own mistakes and mishaps.

    Partly because of this mindset, and partly from spatial planning and infrastructure policies that prioritise car speeds over children, the world in which children grow up has become very much smaller and more restricted over the past two generations. Children have lost most of their freedom to explore their physical surroundings, and to interact with their peers without close adult supervision to build their social skills.

    Kids used to walk or bike to school with their friends, play outside and roam the neighborhood with their friends. Now they are sat in the backseat of their own family car being driven to supervised activities and play-dates.
    If a parent lets their 10- or 11-year old play outside in the local park “without supervision” (even though they’re in sight with a glance out the window), or walk a block or two to school alone, they can get Child Protective Services called on them.

    You think that doesn’t make a difference in how parents’ behave towards their kids?
    If a kid in my youth complained of boredom, they’d be told to go play outside or read a book. Now they get plunked in front of a TV or given a tablet to play on, because it’s not safe to let the kids play on the street. That makes a big difference in how self-sufficient and resilient vs. how dependent kids grow up.
    Look at a local map with your grandparents and parents, see how far they were allowed to roam by themselves when they were 11 – could they go to school, to sports, to get an icecream, on the bus to the other side of town to see granny, or go fishing by themselves? Then think about if you would feel safe letting your kids or grandkids do the same.
    Here’s a source for that:

    As for R.Hamilton’s remark: all throughout history the “villages” have been part of raising the kids in that village, as those kids generally had the freedom to roam througout the village at least part of the time. One neighbor might teach some of them how to catch a fish, who then taught their friends; another might warn them away from poisonous mushrooms. Kids thoughout history learned from everyone, not just their parents.

    1. Excellent point, and, frankly, the dangers to children are over-emphasized by the media — as are far too many things.

    2. R. Hamilton says:

      That aspect of “village” generally implies parents that take the time to become acquainted with each other and accordingly have some confidence in one another to look out for each other’s kids as the occasion may arise. Absent that individual contact and responsibility, the “village” is a just a melting pot for excuses.

      It is certainly a good point that more trusted eyes enable wider ranging freedom – but that’s ultimately individuals networking, not government, not even a voluntary community association, except as a means of facilitating that networking.

  6. Sandie says:

    A number of really good points here.. well worth our thoughts. This subject has been on my mind for many years. As a parent who chose to stay home (with financial consequences and career disruptions) and parent my kids, I think I have valid insight. I don’t know all the reasons parents make their choices… some are not able to choose due to finances or other reasons, but I see many who choose working outside the home rather than full time parenting because parenting is hard work… very hard work… especially when done well. It can be enjoyable and rewarding, but it remains hard work.. and I believe it is harder now than when I was raising our kids. So some parents choose to pass the work on to others… day cares, teachers, neighbours..

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