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I started writing this book on the day the principal of our local elementary school told me about a conversation he’d had with a parent of one of his eleven-year-old students. Driving home after work, he’d passed the boy playing road hockey with his friends. When the principal waved hello, the boy shouted back, “F– you!” and then, with a big smirk, went back to his game. The next morning, with a defiant boy in his office, the principal phoned the boy’s mother. He was astounded when she told him, “You have no right to discipline my son. He was off school property and it was after school hours. You have no say over what he does. I’ll decide what to do with him, not you.”
The principal stammered, “I see,” and hung up. He still gave the student a detention, but he wondered later what would become of such a boy.
I wasn’t that surprised by the mother’s response. I’ve seen fathers at my children’s soccer games yell insults at thirteen-year-olds on opposing teams. I’ve seen parents at the university where I teach hire lawyers to defend their sons and daughters who have been caught plagarizing. I’ve seen a mother of a three-year-old complain angrily to a daycare worker that another three-year-old was bullying her child by not getting off the playground swing quickly enough.
While parents don’t consciously raise their children to be self-centred, there are subtle and not-so-subtle things we do that teach our children to think about themselves (“me”) first, and about others and their own connection to those others (“we”) second. We can decide to consciously steer our children in the direction of more socially responsible behaviour. I’m convinced their generation has the potential to become far more connected with others and more compassionate than the generation raising them was raised to be (that’s us). In the pages that follow I’ll show how to raise children to think We during these Me-thinking times.
ON-LINE BUT IN NEED OF TOUCH
Say the phrase “connected kids” and most parents think about an Internet generation of MSN-chatting, online-gaming, text-messaging, and YouTube-surfing young people. They think of children sequestered in their bedrooms surrounded by technology, hardly wanting to break for dinner. This book is about a different kind of connected child.
Despite appearances to the contrary, our kids still crave old-fashioned flesh-and-blood connections with their parents, and with lots of other adults in their communities besides. They have a need to feel close to those who populate the “village” that raises them. But our children, whether they are five years old or fifteen, need parents most.
One parent or two, step-parents, or a caring grandparent who takes over when necessary — it doesn’t really matter who’s doing the parenting as long as it includes modelling the compassion that nurtures children’s own caring instincts. When we show children compassion, the odds are that they will grow up giving a damn about others, and caring about people in their families and communities as much as they care about themselves. They’ll become a We Generation.
Raising children to think We might just help us rethink some of our own Me-thinking ways. Afer all, many of us grew up in Me-thinking times. We feel guilty about driving huge gas-guzzling vehicles, but keep driving them to get our children safely to school or hockey practice. We try to forget the impact our actions have on the environment, while our children in the back seat report what their teacher said about global warming and our environmental “footprint.” We don’t mean to segregate our communities, but choose to live in gated communities just the same. We blush with embarrassment when our children finally notice that the poor people have been pushed away. We mumble something about “That’s just the way it is,” or make a donation to the food bank, but we are shy to say anything about how our choices are part of the problem. We want our children to have access to every available medical and social service imaginable, but we look for ways to avoid paying our taxes, hoping someone else will foot the bill. We don’t mean to be so self-centred, but as individual adults, we haven’t shown much inclination to take responsibility for the fiscal, environmental, or social liabilities we are leaving our children. It is a small step from such selfishness to the actions of the parent who excuses her son’s belligerent behaviour when his principal calls home.
Introduction The We Generation 1
Ch. 1 Parents Matter 23
Ch. 2 Connected Kids 51
Ch. 3 Adult Mirrors, Adult Mentors 75
Ch. 4 Please Touch 103
Ch. 5 The Best and Worst of Connections 133
Ch. 6 An Invitation to Responsibility 163
Ch. 7 Monster Homes Make Monstrous Children 183
Ch. 8 Village People 217
Conclusion: We-Thinkers 245
Appendix Answer Key to "How Connected Are Your Kids?" 263
Posted October 10, 2011
This book will make you think about the the values with which you were raised and about what you have deliberately (or unconsciously!) told your own children. I shared it with my adult son and we have had many a spirited discussion, using the chapters as a guide for initial concepts... If you are rigid, this will be uncomfortable, but still productive. I am very glad I bought it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.