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What's the Matter with Kids Today?
Mom with a View

What's the Matter with Kids Today?

There is very little in anyone's life today that teaches respect for authority.


One of the challenges of being a parent today is that there is no longer any respect for authority. Although this may be an age-old lament -- anyone else remember the song from Bye Bye Birdie, "What's the matter with kids today?" -- I think things have changed. There was a time when the rule of parents was stronger and held kids faster.

Now, as Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, of blessed memory, told us, "All you have is the personal relationship." I don't know when things changed. As the father bemoans, tongue-in-cheek, in that song, "Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way?" Surely our parents would disagree.

But perhaps the real sea change occurred in the last 40 years. The sixties taught kids "not to trust anyone over 30" and Vietnam and Watergate confirmed it.

There is very little in anyone's life today that teaches respect for authority. While not condoning any of Bill Clinton's behavior, it seems to me that his real damage to the country was how he diminished the role of president, how he made himself and the United States a laughing stock.

The conclusion of today's kids: You can't respect the president. You can't respect royalty. The Wall Street Journal lists new corporate scandals daily. You can't trust CEO's; you can't trust the businessmen running our large corporations. You certainly can't respect movie "idols" or sports "heroes."

It's a tough challenge for today's society. Without respect for authority as a culturally-supported value, it's more difficult to create it in our homes. And it becomes more difficult to properly transfer Torah without it.

So we have to work harder to teach love -- and some adherence to rules and discipline. To do as the Talmud says, pull close with the right hand (the arm of compassion) and push slightly away with the left (the arm of judgment).

It also places a heavy burden on us to behave in a way that merits respect. And to apologize when we blow it. (Another element pointedly lacking today). No one (except very young children) thinks their parents are perfect. But acknowledgment of errors engenders respect.

It's a large responsibility to carry. But it seems we have no choice. We owe it to our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren? They may not perceive it as such (especially when we're saying no to something they really want) but teaching our children to respect authority -- ours and ultimately, the Almighty's -- is a gift that will last quite literally forever.

August 3, 2005

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Visitor Comments: 11

(11) Lewis, April 2, 2010 2:24 AM

this is a north american problem.

I am an expat living in Thailand. The way kids, esp teens act today with their sense of self entitlement and zero respect for anyone save their pals, this just doesn't happen here. you won't find young people disrespecting anyone older than themselves. This happens in all the countries here in S.E Asia. even young people here are appalled by the attitudes and actions of American and Canadian kids they see on youtube or in the news. Just an observation.

(10) Anonymous, August 10, 2005 12:00 AM


respect. It's what I am trying to instill in my young children...limit setting surrounded by a loving environment. Difficult to do..I just work on it everyday...I think the key is to teach respect to your children by being repsectful to them and the others around you. ...overly simple? maybe.but for's what I am doing....oh just a note to Judah Rosen on his comment about WMD and Bush...I really do think that there are WMD's...i just think that they have dismanteled them like everyhting else that they do over readily accepting/assisting countries and that we have just not found them yet....Clinton's sexual issues I definately think are by far more damaging......

(9) Rachel, August 7, 2005 12:00 AM

More to it than that

With all due respect, kids don't grow up knowing about Clinton, CEO's, and Watergate. Their lack of respect, to the extent it exists, is often taught by the parents, who are afraid to insist that the children behave a certain way, for fear of making them angry. This is especially true of divorce parents, who fear disciplining a child, for fear that the child will choose to live with the other parent. A parent has to know when to be firm, and has to know how to listen and be understanding. If a parent takes time to listen and be understanding and loving, then he or she need not fear the times when it is necessary to be firm.

(8) Karen, August 7, 2005 12:00 AM

TV and media are somewhat to blame

I agree with Rachel's comments that respect must be taught by parents, but I think that tv shows and other media are somewhat to blame; programs aimed at children often show kids getting away with lying to parents and teachers and show these "authority figures" as stupid and incompetent. Also, kids today have learned that they can easily and quickly get what they want. Everything's fast paced, so they can get fast food, instant tv, instant computer games, lots of instant gratification. Parents are always struggling to get kids' attention. Just look at some of these horrible video games kids play, and you'll see why there is no respect in our world. It does start with parents setting limits and demanding respect, which means the child does not question authority or argue, but listens to the parent or teacher, because they are the authority figure. Yes, a foreign concept in today's world, but it really fits in with Jewish values.

(7) Anonymous, August 7, 2005 12:00 AM

You are one of the most interesting sites on the web today

I am a Gentile and I love reading your intelligent comments on living today.

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