Meet Xander and Chloe, the celebrated offspring of two educated and very distracted parents. These two little nuggets love to make a stir; being noticed for their endearingly awful behavior is just part of being special—-and to see their trophy shelves, you’d know they are special, indeed.
Their habitual fits of anger and eardrum-piercing objections are “caused” by unfortunate things like red food dye, fatigue, or poor reading skills. Therefore, they must carry fun iPads everywhere the family goes, or they’ll melt down. Their parents’ commands, cleverly disguised as perky questions, are usually met with defiance or ignored altogether.
From a shelf full of soccer trophies to a summer packed with boredom-crushing lego “camps,” Xander and Chloe have impressive resumes. Their academic pedigrees are off to a good start at the local expensive private school. At the after-school Little Tigers club, Xander can learn yoga, and Chloe can design a robot.
Their histories full of travel, art classes and swim meets would shame the average adult. However, those same adults would rather drive or walk than share an airplane row with these budding little Napoleons.
I sat behind a Xander and Chloe on a recent flight to Florida. Both were dressed ominously in trendy sweatshirts announcing “here comes trouble” and “be kind”. Obnoxious, but endlessly coddled by their hipster dad, they bucked the system from takeoff to landing.
Xander (short for Alexander, as in The Great) would not condescend to sit in his boring airline seat, preferring to roam the main cabin. Mom was seated nearby, willing to suffer his cute disobedience. Passengers around him suffered, too, but not so willingly. Poor, sweet Chloe; she could only sit comfortably if holding her snack and her iPad.
It was a mercifully short flight, clocking under two hours and one snack, but service for Xander and Chloe occurred several times during that span. Juice boxes, Pirate Booty and Skittles fueled them through 20-minute rounds of brattiness. Placating these airborne punks on longer flights probably requires a Wonka-level candy experience.
Off the plane, life isn’t much different for these two upstarts; If Chloe is brazen enough to defy her mom’s impotent suggestions, she meets quick justice in a four-minute “time out.” Brave Xander will not leave a playground until his dad counts to 3, at which point he may or may not be dragged off the playground kicking and screaming, but certainly not before. The playground trip is only possible on those insufferably dull days when Little Kickers or Kindergym or Kreative Kidz isn’t scheduled.
If Xander and Chloe sound familiar, it’s because their parents are, too. Chasing cultural imperatives and working, mom and dad have little reserve for anything too serious. Those heady matters are left to the real experts— public and private educators, child psychiatrists and social justice activists.
The main job for these parents is keeping their little people properly entertained (preferably by a sitter) or socialized in groups. When downtime pops up, mom arranges something—anything— to fill that weird gap in the schedule. Other parents know what’s up immediately when they hear the loaded (and dreaded) invitation to a playdate with bored Xander.
No doubt, their parents love them “to the moon and back”. Yet somewhere along the way, they’ve shrunk from the gritty task of training up children. Their void has been filled, though; Group activities and the village have taken their place quite nicely. The doctor even said the kids have ADHD anyways. With that, they settle for a household of chronic, low-level brattiness and meltdowns, unconvinced that things could be any different.
Before digging in further, I must acknowledge a couple things, first about parenting and then about medications. I’ll start with parenting: I’m a very imperfect mom to six very imperfect children. To be clear, I haven’t managed to produce any sinless olympians or geniuses, because I’m not one, either.
People who observed my parenting style probably criticized me, too. Goldfish won’t kill you, but I imagined a slippery slope, so my kids only snacked on whole wheat muffins (or Ryvita, in a pinch). I helicoptered and fretted on public playgrounds, hand sanitizer on the ready. High School Musical seemed edgy to me, so Little House on the Prairie and old Scooby Doo episodes filled the air instead; no harm done, but my homeschooled hyper-vigilance probably seemed a little goofy.
As for medications, they are blessings when they beat back the curse in our broken world. I’m not here to condemn drugs that help mitigate life-threatening situations. I will even allow that some children, due to genetic or environmental factors, have mental disorders that can be helped by medication.
What I’m addressing here is medicalized disobedience and pitiful parenting. I’m not talking about the normal ups and downs of saints and sinners struggling to raise other saints and sinners. I’m contending that our growing legion of ill-behaved, over-celebrated and medicated kids are products not of disorders, but of disordered thinking. They suffer the dysfunctional ideas of parents, educators and doctors, as well as those that flow naturally from their own, digitally jumbled brains.
Raising six children in an affluent community has given me lots of thoughts on parenting. Nobody in my area lacks for anything. Most have iPhones by 5th grade, organic meals, club memberships and private educations. Nobody sits at home in the summer; children are busy at camps when the families aren’t vacationing.
Amazingly, in this wealthy enclave of college-educated parents, a large number of kids must do an obligatory stint at one of two elite language remediation schools. Many of these children are diagnosed with ADHD or dyslexia. It’s hard to imagine that so many successful adults in an expensive zip code have offspring that have disorders, but that is what we’re told.
I’ve observed children who attend these schools, and for many, “disorders” and disobedience seem to go hand in hand. You can spot them easily at little league games and playgrounds; their parents pacify them negotiations, iPads, treats, and choices. Parents trained in pop psychology are less willing to fight the good fights, so their little people are emboldened— and often unpleasant.
Years ago—when it started, I’m not certain—parents my age were discouraged from disciplining with spankings. We were encouraged by Today Show parenting experts to “empower” our kids through choices. Far along into that fad, we have a generation of kids sporting blue-haired, genderless looks, dependent on medications, and riddled with anxiety.
We know what built the Greatest Generation, but how did we get the Brattiest Generation? We could trace our problems to some very basic things, like our neglect of the sobering influences of faith and family time. We could point to our breathless calendars of good things that have crowded out first things.
In the end, though, we must lay the real blame on adults, and primarily parents. A leadership vacuum at home creates a void that worldly wisemen and woke influencers are happily willing to fill.
Parents around here pay big bucks for private educations designed by the academic far-left. Educators who spew expensive nonsense shun old-school sensibilities because they reek of intolerance, patriarchy, or some other woke sin. Meanwhile, these privileged children are taught to cheerlead for transgenderism or crusade for climate justice.
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