- Family and Parenting
The Decline of Parenting Skills
The Future Isn't As Bright As It Used To Be
I have two children. I had them relatively late in life. I am far from a perfect parent. However, when I look at the parenting skills of those who I see on a regular basis, I have conflicting emotions: I'm relieved that I'm not the worst parent out there, and I'm worried about our future generations.
I can only speculate as to why parenting skills have virtually dropped off a cliff, relative to two generations ago, but since I'm right more often than I'm wrong, I don't have a problem with presenting my opinions on the topic. Here are my reasons, in no particular order:
Reason #1. The Divorce Rate
From 1900 to 1967, the divorce rate climbed steadily from 7% to 25%. From 1967 to 1977, the divorce rate jumped from 25% to 50%, and it's been around 50% ever since. My best guess as to why there was such a dramatic jump from '67 to '77, is that in the 1970s, "no fault" divorce was instituted. Subsequently, a divorce could be attained, with the only reason being "irreconcilable differences", whereas prior, there would have to be proof of abuse, infidelity, etc., in order to be granted a divorce.
Now, I can't prove that the divorce rate wouldn't have been 50%, if "no fault" divorce had been allowed since 1900, but I will tell you that kids from officially divorced parents, compared to kids from non-divorced parents, are more likely to drop out of school, have a higher propensity for criminal activity, and are twice as likely to get divorced themselves. Do kids from non-divorced, but incredibly unhappy households fall into this category? I don't know, and I don't think that anyone knows, with any degree of certainty, because the divorce rate is our only barometer for unhappy marriages.
Reason #2. Unwed Mothers
From 1950 to 2012, the percentage of unwed mothers increased from 4% to 45%. In fact, for the first time in history, the median age of women who give birth, is lower than the median age of women who get married. I don't know why women give birth out of wedlock, and I don't care. They all might have legitimate reasons for having kids without marrying. I would also speculate that, if men were able to bear children, then they would do so, out of wedlock, at the same rate as women. But the numbers don't lie: Children born out of wedlock (regardless of ethnicity or faith), have less financial security and less emotional well-being, than those born from married parents. It's true - I looked it up.
And it makes sense, because if you have a baby out of wedlock, then your child is less likely to grow up in a home with two parents, and is more likely to be financially wanting, due to the household only having one source of income.
Reason #3. Technology
When I was a small boy, there were no home video games. There were pinball machines and a few large video games, which you could find in bowling alleys and ice-skating rinks (each of which cost money to play), and that was it. When I got a little older, "Pong" was introduced as the first home video game. I never played it because it was incredibly boring, and I preferred to watch TV or play outside. By the time I was a teenager, Atari came out with their line of home video games. I'll admit that they were fun to play, but I had already developed rudimentary reading, writing, and mathematical skills.
When I see ten-year-old children, who are playing Wii games (the latest line of video game technology) for four hours per day, yet who cannot read, write, or add 9 + 6 without using their fingers, it concerns me. I tell my kids that I would rather they watch soap operas than play video games. At least with soaps, they might pick up a new word, or get an inkling of how people interact (albeit scripted).
When I was young, phone conversations could only take place in the house, which lent itself to shorter periods spent on the phone. I don't have to tell you the advances in phone technology, but I suspect that these advances have resulted in children talking, instant messaging, texting, etc., for ridiculously extended periods of time. And I'll bet that they are talking to other kids, who will not teach them anything of value. I can denounce kids as much as I wish, in this article, because I know that they will neither want to nor be able to read it.
But don't get me wrong...It's not the kid's fault. It's the parents' fault for letting this happen in the first place. In my day, parents would only allow their children to watch an hour of TV per day. Today, parents couldn't care less, if their children play video games all day long.
Reason #4. Selfishness
I see it every day; parents who put their own needs ahead of their child's. As long as their kids aren't inconveniencing them, parents do not feel the urge to parent. And when their children do inconvenience them, parents will punish or medicate them, instead of trying to understand them. This posture results in more and more confused and angry children. These are the kids who get left back a grade (or two), and who get into serious trouble as adolescents. By the time they become adults, they end up making poor life decisions, because their only benchmark was their parents' behavior.
When I add it all up, my conclusion is crystal clear: People (regardless of their age, ethnicity, religion, etc.) should not have children until they are absolutely sure that they can provide said children with a polarized household, economic stability, emotional support, a modicum of discipline, and the concept of putting their child's needs ahead of their own. I'm aware that no one knows what the future holds, and circumstances can arise for which we have no control, that can change the dynamics of an otherwise healthy marriage, but if you are planning to have a baby, without lining-up at least three or four of the above conditions, then you are simply not responsible enough to have a baby. That's it. End of story.