Statement # 5
What's Wrong With Our Children?
... Or With Us?
Today's children are brought up in prosperity and great freedom. Yet there are concerns about them. Won't they slide off into immorality? Will they be able to cope later in life?
Most children live in relatively closed families where the television is
turned on a lot of the time, and there's not a great deal of conversation being
held. There is also a tendency towards the spoiling of children: giving goods,
rather than personal attention.
More and more, the idea arises of a much sterner, zero-tolerance approach.
Counter Balance rejects the idea of old values being forcedly imposed. We look for other values, being transmitted in a different way, an individual way. This is only possible within smaller schools and in families that provide personal involvement with every individual youth.
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Our children are being raised in prosperity. There's enough to go around for
everyone, even though its even distribution leaves some things to be desired.
They are also raised in relative freedom.
Schools are becoming larger. Personal contact is diminishing even more
because of this.
Young people have a lot of choices to make. Clothing, hairstyle, means of transportation and symbols are used to define which group they belong to. There are a lot of different identities to be tried on for size, and ample opportunity to support their identity of choice inwardly. There is an abundance of information and stimuli, but no clear cut framework within which to organize it. Instead, society is confronted with superficiality and spiritual emptiness. It's pretty much a matter of taking care of oneself, no longer guided by a god, but by economy, without a sense of community.
Aggression among youths seems to become more common. Causes are: boredom (lack of challenging activities) and lack of frustration-tolerance and self-control as well as lack of correction and guidance. The younger generation is not devoid of values, but has developed its own: "be tough, be cool, get your kicks and have a laugh!"
We do not want to go back to the old values that one was forced to obey. We'd much rather like to see different values being conveyed in a different way. Counter Balance is opposed to a zero tolerance approach. Our children deserve better than that.
In the way of Raising Children After Auschwitz obedience to authority is no longer a virtue. Nor is there one correct set of values in our multicultural society. The idea of putting up and shutting up is no longer an acceptable strategy either; it is better to express and share emotions.
Respect is the new standard for harmonious coexistence. Respect for being different, respect for life, nature, culture, animals. Respect for things as well; it's not right to immediately replace things that are broken, as if the old is without value.
Co-operation is the new value, considering others, communicating properly. To be honest about one's feelings and needs, and to listen to others.
It is then possible to have responsibility. This also means being prepared to answer questions. Spoilt children haven't learned to be responsible.
Respect, co-operation and responsibility imply self-control, self-guidance. This implies social skill. Why teach math, but not such an important skill? Self-control is not the same as obedience. You learn this through opportunity: by being able to make your own choices, with someone to watch over you, whether you succeed or not. Children don't learn this by staying inside, or by being driven around in cars, but by playing outside on their own.
How to transmit these values?
We plead for personal involvement of individuals with individual youths. A personal voice that appeals to your behaviour. Not only a functional approach. This is only possible at smaller sized schools. This is possible in families that provide boundaries as well as room for responsibility, communication and personal contact. It's possible in children's' homes where personal contact is a standard, that allow for a different approach and where people are not treated identically - because people aren't identical. It is essential for personal contact to listen to the youth, to their experience, their inner world.
There also needs to be room for the experience and expression of 'negative feelings', such as jealousy. This is different from trying to control the youth's behavior. It's not the same as leaving them completely to their own devices, either.
Values are conveyed by applying them on one's own life. This requires
self-control, co-operation and especially respect - for the child - from the
parents and other educators.
Respect for other people's differences requires a society consisting of