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Extra Sensitive?
Mom with a View

Extra Sensitive?

What's the matter with kids today?


Although I probably won't see the latest revival of "Bye Bye Birdie" on Broadway, reading the review reminded me of that song that seems to ring truer and truer with each passing year. I find myself humming the words sotto voce, "Kids, what's the matter with kids today? Why can't they be like we were? Perfect in every way..."

Although obviously meant tongue in cheek, I wonder if it's just possible there is some reality to this.

I pondered this idea anew when one of my children described her recent homework assignment. Every day she (and each of her classmates) has to write down a story that demonstrates extra sensitivity.

I'm certainly in favor of sensitivity and the more the merrier. So I was curious to hear some examples.

"Well," she explained, "remember when my sister and I were at Walgreens and an elderly woman dropped all her change? We bent down to pick it up for her."

Like any mother, I love to find instances that highlight how unique and wonderful my children are, but this story left me puzzled. Yes I was glad they did it. But extra sensitivity? Isn't that just basic common decency?

Apparently not – since no one else in the store made a move to help.

I think it's unfortunate that treating others with basic respect has been redefined as extra sensitivity (the dumbing down of manners?), but perhaps the character in "Bye, Bye Birdie" asked the wrong question. If our children aren't behaving the way we'd like them to (how many times has someone's child walked through the door in front of you and let it slam in your face?), it's not their fault -- it's ours.

We are the ones whose example they're following. If we're dismissive of others, if we put our own needs first, that's the lesson they'll learn. And if we are "extra" sensitive, then in all likelihood they will be too (adolescent behavior notwithstanding!).

A lot of this is just courtesy – saying thank you to the saleswoman, not leaving all the clothes on the dressing room floor, waiting patiently in line (if we don't yell at the bank teller these days, we are elevated to the level of the truly righteous!), going easy on the horn...I read once that it inconsiderate to go rushing by an older person. It makes them all the more conscious of their age and infirmity. It's more appropriate to slow down our pace and walk in a more measured way as we pass. Sensitive? Yes. Extra sensitive? Maybe.

I think it all boils down to that most basic of Torah edicts, "V'ahavta leraiecha kemocha – Love your neighbor like yourself."

We understand this to command not emotion but rather action: Treat others the way you would like to be treated.

Certainly we would like to be treated with common courtesy. Most likely we would prefer extra sensitivity. But if we want to see it in our children, we need to show them the way.

The real question should be "What's the matter with grown-ups today?"

October 25, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Rachel, November 9, 2009 5:23 AM

Common decency

I frequently take issue with Ms. Braverman's postings, but not on this one. The only thing I would add is that, while we should all take responsibility for our children, I hope people won't judge any of us too harshly for our children's occasional lapses. I've seen exceedingly wonderful parents' kids misbehave; I've also seen terrific kids whose parents don't strike me as the best role models (but then again, I'm not theri child, I don't live with them day in/day out, so how would I know?) I hope that a lifetime's worth of setting a good example, praising good behavior, correcting misbehavior, etc. ultimately results in my kids turning out right -- although as we muddle through their teen years, there are days when my husband and I wonder if that day will ever come. I'm pleased to say that my oldest, at 17, is a lot easier to be with than at 15 -- which makes the issues with my current 15-year-old a little easier to take.....

(7) Miriam, October 29, 2009 12:59 AM

It all starts with family values

I strongly feel that it all starts with family values, which are sadly more and more replaced nowadays with television and stuff. If children know that for their parents it is natural behavior to give an elderly person a seat on the bus, pick something up that they dropped, keeping the door open for the person after you, then it will also be natural for them. Many parents however, leave educating their children in that respect to television, to the teachers at school. I am living in Mexico, an economically impoverished country, but family values are top priority here. Children (also and especially) teenagers do get up in the bus to make place for an elderly person, and it is just plain natural here to respect your fellow person and help them out when needed. It is not even an issue. Having lived in third world countries for the past 6 years I have come to see that where there are good family values there is no lack of compassion.

(6) chana sasson, October 28, 2009 12:01 PM

Before I even read the article, I was going to say: THE PARENTS, THE TEACHERS, THE PRINCIPALS AND THE LACK OF REAL TEACHING.

(5) Anonymous, October 28, 2009 1:39 AM

"Awareness vs. Sensitivity" - nurturing the Kemocha

How in touch with ourselves are we today? How often do we condemn ourselves, others etc. etc.? When the "self" is aware of who we are,where we come from & what is our mission in this world then it is inevitable to raise "sensitivity" thru this "awareness". The "kemocha" -- the 'yourself' -- of today is too fragile and distracted by so many issues & struggles that it has no time for building the awareness of "self" (i.e. a love and sensitivity of ourselves), how then can we apply it to others? If one is lucky to have parents who help their child develop good self esteem then the liklihood of awareness towards sensitivity for others follow naturally. It all starts with "Kemocha" = "Bezelem Elokim" -- the image of G-d , if this is in the right alignment (who u are) then parents who behave in this manner and bring up the children with this in mind, will have the merit of seeing many acts of kindness by their children.

(4) , October 27, 2009 5:59 PM

I am 92. Maybe I look like 92, but I don't feel like 92.I am always surprised by young people holding a door for me, run to pick up something I dropped and other instances of respect for elders.Maybe it is just the neighboirhood where you live.

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