They say this about every generation.

But are today’s kids, perhaps, the rudest, most spoiled generation in history – all thanks to parents’ Gen-Xer tendency to AP?

Many experts say today’s kids are ruder than ever. And it may have something to do with popular parenting movements focusing on self-esteem and the generation that’s embracing them: Generation X, or those born between 1965 and 1977.

On paper, it doesn’t add up. After all, by many accounts Generation X may be the most devoted parents in American history. They are champions of “attachment parenting,” the school of child-rearing that calls for a high level of closeness between parents and children, Many Gen-X parents co-sleep with their children, hold them back from entering kindergarten if they feel their children’s emotional maturity is at stake and volunteer at their kids’ schools at record rates. Gen-X moms have been famously criticized by early feminists for dropping out of the workforce to care for their young children.

Yet, their kids are, well, rude. It may be that today’s parents are so fixated on their children’s emotional well-being that they’re teaching them that the well-being of others is comparatively unimportant, says Dr. Philippa Gordon, a long-time pediatrician in Park Slope, Brooklyn, an urban New York neighborhood famous for its dense Gen-X parent population.

Y’all know I am second to none in my criticism of AP practices and philosophy. And I do think that in general, AP parenting tends to produce entitled and demanding infants/young children more often than mainstream parenting does (though, from observation, the entitledness tends to diminish considerably once the child is exposed to peers on a regular basis). But I think Gen-Xers are far from the most neglected children in history, and AP is merely one manifestation of our society’s obsession with risk and advocacy for one’s ‘rights’, everyone else’s sensitivities be damned. As the article points out, we have become less polite as a society, and this is, presumably, reflected in the way we all parent. I don’t think Jerry Springer would have passed muster as a ’50s TV show, for example.

As my second son’s (non-AP) friend recently complained to me, “You always make me say ‘please’ and thank you’ before I get something!”. *sigh*


16 Responses

  1. Good article. Really made me think. How are these folks going to behave in 20 years when their epidural does not work correctly? I shudder.

  2. I absolutely agree. Interestingly, I do consider myself an AP mom – but with backbone. For example, I think co-sleeping is natural with young children, but there’s a time to introduce a child to their own beds between 2-3 years old. AP Parents, in their attempt to shift from fear-based discipline (“You’re going to do it or else I’ll smack your bottom”) to love-based discipline (Providing kids with boundaries and reasonable, related consequences), actually forgot the discipline part and eliminated boundaries altogether. Kids are very entitled these days – a lot of empty praise and getting stuff just because they look so darn cute. I think we have a bigger task to raise children with character in a very narcissistic, material world. In my work as a Parent Coach (yeah, when did we ever need those??), I help parents find the balance of parenting with love with an assertive, confident authority.

  3. I would agree our tolerance for bad behavior has gone up and not from just kids. Everyone has an opinion about how children should be raised and listening/ reading it all can be really confusing. Who’s right isn’t always clear.

    I would suggest that kids will have these tendencies to some degree or another and that adults have to find a way that works for them to deal with the behaviors. It’s a challenge to be friendly with a child as opposed to being a child’s friend. Parents get pulled in a lot of directions. I think most parents try to do the right thing.

    As a jr. high teacher, I taught manners very specifically at the beginning of the year. It took a while, but I really emphasized, practiced, and noticed the correct behaviors from my students. I found this very helpful.

    I’m also a big fan of Love and Logic. Lots of teachers like it and as a parent of an almost 3 year old, I really like it too. Basic idea is handing back problems to children in a loving way. It’s strict without anger, sarcasm, or meaness.

  4. Thumbs down for Susan Gregory Thomas. This article seems to confuse lousy parenting with attachment parenting. AP is not about permissive parenting, as the article suggests. The cornerstone of AP is emotional responsiveness, not permissiveness.

    I agree that many of today’s parents are trying to make up for the hours of unsupervised Scooby Doo time they had as children, but that really is not a result of the AP movement. The 8 ideals of attachment parenting say nothing about being unkind to others, being rude to adults, or Scooby Doo.

  5. I probably shouldn’t talk before I can boast about razing several responsible adults.

    It’s not a bad article, although sometimes Thomas overreaches. Do identify with Simon Cowell (sp?) or contestants on American Idol? Do the children simply see Simon is the kind of critical, honest adult they desperately need in their lives? And how did she get from Reagan era deregulations (which have nothing to do with the subprime crisis, btw) to permissive parenting?

    I agree with her about AP. Razing brats is not a stated goal of AP, of course. But it is an outcome of a too-permissive society of which AP is an extreme example. There is hope, though. I know quite a few parents of toddlers who started out AP-ing, but quickly figured out that it’s not working.

  6. I think it’s completely different.

    I think that, to the extent that you can say this is a real thing and not just run-of-the-mill crotchediness (you just know there’s an element of that too), I think it has to do with adults own denigration of adulthood itself. We’re ambivalent about being adults. People like to point out that children and adults now dress a like as they did in earlier times when there was less sense of childhood as being something special. Today, its the reverse. Today adults want to dress down because it’s adrag to be a grown up. One side is that grown ups wear “play clothes” to work but the other side is the chldren’s clothes with an “adult” edge. Essentially the boundries are blurred.

    If adults are ambivalent about behaing like adults – wanting to be more friend than parent, feeling awkward about setting limits – feeling the need to do things like reason with three-year-olds, it’s not at all surprising that children as a group don’t accord adults and adulthood with much respect. They might not even aspire to it.

    I haven’t figured out where AP fits into all of this except that I think it’s essentially a rejection of modernity and the enlightenment cloaked in the garb of pseudo-science. It’s not what AP parents *do* at all really – how people deal with their kids is just a preference, it doesn’t matter except to them – it’s more what AP as a philiosophy represents that is the problem.

  7. ‘I haven’t figured out where AP fits into all of this except that I think it’s essentially a rejection of modernity and the enlightenment cloaked in the garb of pseudo-science.’

    Very well put and perhaps an explanation why the AP set has so much in common with fundamentalist Christians, who are all about denying modernity. Both groups are really into natural or home childbirth, homeschooling, etc.

    The comment about fear-based parenting is interesting as I see AP as the ultimate fear-based system. It says if you don’t do this, this and this, you won’t be properly bonded to your child, when, in reality, the parent-child attachment is basically a given.

  8. haven’t figured out where AP fits into all of this except that I think it’s essentially a rejection of modernity and the enlightenment cloaked in the garb of pseudo-science.

    I don’t think that’s *quite* right, but I do think it is very close. A lot of the claims made by people who also say that they are APers, or homebirthers, etc., say things that are very informed by postmodernism.

  9. While I couldn’t say for sure, I would guess that while there might be some correlation between attachment parenting and rudeness I would suspect that it results more from the type of people that are drawn to AP and not caused by the AP philosophy itself. As several have already stated there is nothing in AP that should result in rude or undisciplined children. That said, I think the AP model appeals to many who also embrace all kinds of other irrational, ideologically motivated woo like homebirth, anti-vaccination, and homeopathy, all of which of course are not at all about the kids but often some contrived moral superiority for insecure people. These people are often completely self-involved and spend more time telling their kids that flouride in the water will kill you than teaching them how to be kind, empathetic members of society.

    AP, although growing in popularity, still represents a small subset of the parenting population. It can’t be blamed for much of this dwindling civility. I really think it is the increasing insularity of American parents who don’t see themselves as part of any community outside of there family. They become selfish people who often raise selfish kids.

  10. I do practice attachment parenting and I do it to teach my son real empathy and caring towards other people rather than fake put-on politeness. If he forgets a please or thank you here and there, but ultimately treats people with love and respect then I will have done my job as a parent.

    I remember growing up some of the supposedly well-raised private school kids that would be all charm and please and thank you in front of adults and then be rolling their eyes, bullying the overweight kid, and starting rumors as soon as the adults eyes were turned.

  11. Ehn, I’m not sure all AP-ers should be lumped into the same group, honestly. Most people I know practice some parts of AP (witness the plethora of Baby Bjorns!) and simply use what works for them, like most parents. Being ‘AP’ doesn’t mean being fanatical or cult-like, though if you want to see examples of those, sure, you’ll find plenty on MDC. It’s kind of like comparing all circus acts to the clowns, no? It’s somewhat unfair to the large majority of AP families who probably consider themselves both ‘AP’ and ‘mainstream’. Yeah, some people use it as a signpost a la ‘I’m a better mommy than you, nyah nyah’ but I really think that in the real world that is a small proportion of people who tend toward radicalism anyway that have simply allowed to congregate via the Internet. Most people are pretty practical about their parenting choices. Media hype and Jenny McCarthy influences aside, of course.

    I’ve made a lot of AP-type decisions for our family, simply because it happened to be what was practical and worked for us. More to the point, I don’t think any of this AP-choice-nonsense has to do with how kids behave or what makes a good parent, nor do I think that making AP-type choices for your family makes you a cultish weirdo. As one pp mentioned, AP doesn’t mean permissive parenting… nor does it mean that every parent follows the MDC stereotypes. I hear a lot of red herrings quoted here from the AP-cultish groups, but it sort of seems like the same generalizations are being made here about parents who make some of those choices out of a practical rather than a superior nature. Every parent tries different things and takes what works for them. The vocals on the MDC group are the extremists out there and don’t really represent the whole. Most of us have no problem sending our kids for time-outs. 😉

  12. Annie/phd – I hate to break it to ya, but AP doesn’t have the corner on empathetic parenting. I have noticed that when you practice empathy towards your child and don’t actively advocate reciprocity on that score (whether you call what you’re doing AP or not), you end up with a spoiled brat.

    new-here – as I said in the post, I’m not sure our current situation can entirely be blamed on AP. And just because you babywear, breastfeed or some combination of AP practices doesn’t necessarily make you an APer. But I think you’re way underestimating the popularity of MDC and its followers – not all of whom participate there, either. It’s not like Mothering magazine is about to go bankrupt, either. There is a lot of mainstream…acceptance, at least, to the underlying ideas of AP (permissive parenting, with the idea that a child is a delicate little flower that will be ruined for life by any adversity included), and IMO that’s not necessarily a good thing.

  13. I think it’s important to make a distinction between the things parents do – however they rationalize it and a parenting style as a body of thought.

    Personally, I honestly believe it’s really difficult to screw up being a parent.

    AP as a body of thought is another thing. I think it’s pseudo-scientific primitivism that moralizes individual choices. I think it’s regressive in its view of women, children and humanity in general. More importantly as in ideology it’s so incredibly divisive and sometimes a bit cult-like – under seige from “toxic” friends, family and others who aren’t AP.

    I think it’s possible to be critical of AP, in its rationale and implications of it as a body of thought while still defending the choices of individual families about how they lead their lives.

    What matters is not what you do, but that it’s right for you. Just get on with it.

    • I agree that parenting is very hard to screw up. Even a bad parent has bonds with his or her kids. One of my aunts was a really horrible mother, not physically abusive, but selfish and cold and completely out of touch with who her kids were, but they remain pretty devoted to her.

      I remember someone suggesting AP when I was pregnant. I looked into it and thought, no way, there’s too much reading to do. Also, I didn’t really see the father in the equation which seemed awful in my situation as my husband was thrilled with my daughter why wouldn’t I want him to have as much of a role as possible.

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