American culture is entirely subsumed by consumerism, and the materialistic ideal has eroded the emotional core of the family. There is only so much time in a day, and how people spend their time reveals their values. The majority of time is spent making money to pay for all the things which should make life meaningful. However, the real meaningful moments are all too often falling through the cracks of distraction, un-fulfillment, and absent parents. America’s youth are warped by this misappropriation of values, and struggling to define and find a love of life worth suffering through it for.
Cultural ideologies play a huge role in how people behave. Their beliefs inform their actions, and this in turn creates their habits. The predominant theme in America is materialistic, and all other cultural values revolve around the possessions which support/define a person. In the chokehold of the trifecta of wage stagnation, inflation, and planned obsolesce American families are working more and more for less. This creates a constant environment of stress, exhaustion, and the pervasive hulking depression that it will never be enough. However, this is in fact true, and children are horrified by what they are being asked to embrace as society. No amount of material success will provide security, and American families blind lurching after such a fleeting state is consistently distracting them from the one place they could nurture authentic security-in the loving and supportive relationships of their family and friends (Day).
Many Americans believe they are what they have, and allow others to define them by their education, socio-economic status, quality of clothes, and possessions. This classism reinforces vicious cycles of materialist maintenance which eats up whatever free time a person may have to spend with their family or friends. What this looks like is a common cycle of two parents working full time (or more) to pay for everything they think their family “deserves”. However, this is usually living outside their means, making parents slaves to debt, mortgages, and to an unsustainable work schedule which leaves little to no room to actually raise their children (Pew Research Center). This creates nagging and largely unconscious guilt in American parents. Guilt that they are doing it wrong, that they should be there for their child, and that their voice should carry more weight than an Internet meme-but it does not.
While many have deluded themselves into believing they are a bad parent if their kid does not have any number of opportunities and possessions, what their child truly needs the most is time spent with their parents. Time spent not performing, quantifying success, or any number of ways parents train their children for lives of economic slavery, but time spent simply being with each other in the embrace of unconditional love.
Unconditional love is the best gift a parent can give to a and one of the rarest richest to witness. Rather, American parents often play the same carrot and stick game they run their daily rat race for. Do what I say and I’ll give you….Don’t talk back and you’ll get…All this does is train a child to learn how to please and manipulate without instilling self-resiliency or trust. This terrible cycle has led to a more dependent and entitled generation of American youth than ever before. Children being raised in daycare, or through nannies (if they are lucky), or being raised by other siblings or simply neglected (if they are unlucky) has eroded the concept of family in America.
Today’s youth observe their parents frenetic working, shopping, and constant stress, and think “For what?” To them it is clearly not worth it, and they are right to shirk the responsibility of being a good little worker/consumer bee. However, how they shirk it is by never leaving home, and using their parent’s guilt as a shield from the real world. In a sense, they choose never to grow up. This is seen in the Pew Research data as, In 2012, 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31—the so-called Millennial generation—were living in their parents’ home… A record total of 21.6 million Millennials lived in their parents’ home in 2012, up from 18.5 million of their counterparts in 2007. (Fry)
Parents who were not around to raise their children often carry a lifetime of guilt and shame, and overcompensate in their “parenting” actions by acquiescing to their child’s every desire. So, if their children do not want to get a job, provide and make a life for themselves, an amazing number of American parents continue to spoil their children all throughout their twenties. This is a bigger temptation for American boys, as “The men of the Millennial generation are more likely than the women to be living with their parents—40% versus 32%—continuing a long-term gender gap in the share of young adults who do so” (Fry). There is a surprising lack of research and data on the effects of spoiling children, and a great deal of research on “How to Ditch the Guilt” as a result of the cultural focus on consumerism subsuming all philosophies (Torrieri).
It is a common endemic in America that successful parents who are often working fill their children’s schedule to the brim with all types of classes, activities, and preparation for them to “get ahead in life.” This may keep the child just as busy as the parents, an effectively ends childhood as the child does not have free time in which to play, discover, and dream. While many of these well to do parents think they are doing right by their children, they are actually training them to keep busy at all costs just like they live their lives. If the children do not see through this distraction and consuming technique of “networking”, “skill building”, and “education” they will likely be successful absentee parents themselves.
Children developed and brought up in this way receive many subliminal messages about their value to their parents, and to society. One consistent result is various forms of mental illness:
• Anxiety: the child is always afraid, of everything. The child is terrified of the messages they are receiving about the price of love, starving for physical affection and time with their parents. They are terrified they will never see their parents again.
• Depression: the child is consistently sad due to the emotional exhaustion of always being afraid.
• Behavioral Problems: this is due to the justifiable rage of being neglected by their parents, raised by strangers, and put on a leash of conditions to win affection. The child is enraged by the corruption of the core of the family, and desires attention and unconditional love.
• Attention Disorders: the child is constantly being given distractions (technology, TV, etc.) and not the attention of the parent. None of the distractions are fulfilling, and the child eventually has difficulty paying attention to anything.
• Violence/Suicide: the rates of violence to self and others in American young is at an all-time high. The pressures to conform and to ignore the gaping void of real love in families is spiraling out and effecting the quality of all relationships. Without the foundation of the unconditional love in the home all other relationships become desperate for a sense of security and love which it could never fulfill. In rage and despair many turn to violence.
The solution for the American parenting lack is actually very simple ideologically, but apparently very difficult in practice:
• Live within your means.
• Do not put your child in daycare, raise them. The earliest years are the most important to form a bond of trust and love.
• If you are forced to be away from your children do not allow your guilt to spoil them, but build respect through teaching boundaries and self-reliance.
• Recognize your children do not need gadgets, the distraction of television, or even friends as much as they need you.
There is a fine line between smothering children with love, spoiling children out of guilt, and believing that “giving your child every opportunity” means delegating the responsibility of their raising to experts (California Newsreel). Within a balanced perspective no one action (such as a treat, an extra class, etc.) disempowers children, but the total gestalt of the day to day choices send a clear message of how the child should prioritize their lives. This balance can be present in any race, class, or challenging situation if the parents are willing to do what it takes to ensure the child knows they are loved for who they are and not what they do. How this looks varies within the classes and ethnicities of America (The Economist).
Another major element that is missing raising children in America is the extended family. This puts too much pressure on young and disables children from the wisdom and special relationship of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. However, they are either all too busy or living in some warm location. This isolation forces children to rely on the distractions which are continuously put in their hands, and rather than learning values from their grandparent’s life story they learn values from video games and reality TV. The result of this absence is cynicism, atrophied emotions, disrespect for elders, and a general sense that life is meaningless. This tragedy could be ended by strengthening family and sharing time together in the peace of nature.
Raising children in America is being done largely by strangers: babysitters, day care teachers, school teachers, and counselors. Parents are too busy working to support what they mistakenly believe are the essentials of life, and are consumed by the subconscious guilt of missing out on being with their children. This guilt is the filter through how parents often relate with their children, and thus children are taught to manipulate this guilt to their full advantage. Real emotional connections based on trust and love have degenerated into tit for tat, emotional tricks, and blame. As a result the psychological health of today’s children is devastated by disease, and confusion numbed by pharmaceuticals. This is tragic when the solution is simply to be there for your kids. Spend the time, be vulnerable, be authentic, play, and revel in the security that only love can create.
California Newsreel. “Are We Crazy About Our Kids?” Raisingofamerica.org, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.raisingofamerica.org/are-we-crazy-about-our-kids
Day, Nicholas. “No Big Deal, but This Researcher’s Theory Explains Everything About How Americans Parent.” Slate, 10 Apr. 2013.
Fry, Richard. “A Rising Share of Young Adults Live in Their Parents’ Home.” Pewsocialtrends.org, 1 Aug. 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/08/01/a-rising-share-of-young-adults-live-in-their-parents-home/
Pew Research Center. “Parenting in America.” Pewsocialtrends.org, 17 Dec. 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/parenting-in-america/
Spock, Benjamin. “Dr. Spock: Cultural Differences in Parenting.” Parents.com, 2016. Retrieved from: http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/teaching-tolerance/cultural-differences-parenting/
The Economist. “Choose your parents wisely.” Economist.com, 26Jul. 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21608779-there-large-class-divide-how-americans-raise-their-children-rich-parents-can
Torrieri, Marisa. “Parenting 2.0: What It Takes to Raise Kids in America Today.” Learnvest.com, 29 Oct. 2013. Retrieved from: https://www.learnvest.com/2013/10/parenting-2-0-what-it-takes-to-raise-kids-in-america-today/