Older people like me enjoy talking about when we were kids. We reminisce about playing outside until after dark and paying a nickel for a candy bar. Then often the conversation segues into a lamentation about how those days were better than these days.
Were those days better and if so, why were they better?
I have tried to compare my life as a child of America in the 1950s and ‘60s to the lives of children today. The comparison is not based on any documented research but rather on what I remember to be the facts of then and what I observe to be the facts of now.
I grew up in a rural setting, the oldest of four children, with a mostly stay-at-home mom, and a dad who went to work five or six days a week. We kids went to school just as kids today do, and we went to church three times a week. We rode bikes and played hopscotch, but rarely alone. We played with whatever kids showed up to play.
We had everything we needed and many of the things we wanted.
We had grandparents and aunts and uncles nearby, and any one of them was free to discipline us. We knew personally practically every person who crossed our paths on any given day. We also knew our boundaries and when we were expected home for meals and bedtime.
We watched television on Saturday mornings and on some evenings when it was too dark or too cold to play outside. We also read books, played card games, put together puzzles, and did some household chores.
We got new shoes and coats when we needed them. Clothes were passed around between siblings and cousins, and we thought nothing of it.
When it came to buying or giving us things, our parents’ motto was “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”
With the exception of breakfast, which was staggered based on differing schedules, we ate 99% of our meals at home together at the table. We almost never ate at a restaurant.
We were unfamiliar with the term “fast food” and the drive-through window idea had not yet been conceived. The only “drive through” experience we were familiar with was when our Aunt Linda, when learning to drive, drove through our front yard fence.
We had one or at most two vehicles. When we went to church or anywhere else, all six of us rode in the same vehicle. I never had my own car.
In summer, the first thing our mother said after we were dressed and fed in the morning was, “Go outside and play.”
She did not say:
- “No electronic devices until after supper.” We had no electronic devices.
- “No lying around the house channel surfing.” We had two television channels.
- “No hanging out at the mall.” We didn’t know what a mall was.
- “No conversations with strangers.” Who was a stranger?
- “No spending your money on junk.” We had no money, and the general store sold nothing much except hog feed, groceries, and gas.
Without making any judgments, here are some differences between my world as a child and the world of the typical school-age child today as I perceive it.
- Most children do not have grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins living nearby.
- Most children cannot safely play outside unsupervised.
- Most children have moms and dads who both work or parents who are separated or divorced.
- Most children are surrounded by strangers much of the time.
- Most children have many electronic toys designed to be played with alone.
- Most children have spending money.
- Most children don’t go to church. Those who do probably go once a week or less.
Are any of these differences important?
You tell me.
6 thoughts on “What’s the Difference?”
As always you write very interesting articles. Your list of differences are very important.
Children need other adult to turn to for advice or to help keep an eye on them outside of school days.
You hear of kids disappearing everyday on the news so there is no way my grandchildren play outside without supervision unless it is in the back yard. If they play with neighbor children I know those parents and they know me.
Some parents, working or nonworking, married or divorced, are too busy being self-centered to spend time with their children.
Even neighbors are strangers. Adults are too busy to even get to know their neighbors or who their children spend time with. I grew up thinking strangers were people my parents didn’t know or talk to.
When left alone with these devises they don’t learn social etiquette or how to relate in any way to people, they don’t develop physically or emotionally. They don’t learn responsibility and they are watching things that aren’t age appropriate
They might have spending money but they probably aren’t taught how to handle it.
Unfortunately most churches today only have one service a week.
You could probably write a separate essay on each one of these.
Shirley, thank you for taking the time to send such a long and well thought-out comment. I am concerned about the same things you are. And yes, each concern you mentioned could be expanded into an entire essay. Know that even though our world is crumbling around us, God is still in control. Each of us must do what we can to protect, nurture, and teach the children in our own little worlds. I know you are doing this with your grandchildren. May God bless you and them.
Debbie, I believe all of the differences are important, and like Shirley mentioned, you could probably write an essay on each one of these. (Before I forget, just wanted you to know that I never had my own car either…you might even remember when we were teaching over 40 years ago at ICS, I would get rides with Kay Gantt!) Anyway, I’ll make some general comments.
First, I feel like children today are losing their natural gifts of imagination. When I was a young girl, I thought nothing of using my imagination if I was playing by myself – or – even with other children perhaps, because oftentimes we did not necessarily have many toys, so we used our imaginations, like making necklaces out of wild flowers or grass.
Second, I feel children are exposed to vulgarity and bad language at a much earlier age, and even with young children, not much is left to the “imagination” with just TV commercials alone, not to mention disgusting TV shows and movies. I feel our own children’s generation has become very desensitized, sad to say. So they think nothing of it that their own children are exposed to junk and unrefined media.
Schools/education have changed a great deal with privacy rights, discipline, and fear of litigation in today’s world. But then our grandparents probably said the same thing about OUR education.
I see a big difference in discipline and work ethic in today’s children and teens as compared to my own younger years. And manners, and respect of elders, and…
I am very troubled by many things these days and you have definitely hit upon some of these areas.
But I remind myself that it is not all gloom and doom–not with Jesus as our Savior and the power of prayer and the remnant that God always protects in our world today so that we can shed His light! Thank you for always writing such thought-provoking blogs–you stimulate my thinking and keep me on my toes!
Becky, what a wonderful comment. I know you are familiar with the current trends in education. People are shocked when I tell them that when I was in a public elementary school in the 50/60s, we opened each school day with a scripture reading. A friend of mine who writes children’s stories tells me that what many publishers of children’s literature are looking for today are stories about witches and wizards, environmental changes (save the earth), and freedom in choosing one’s sexual orientation and toleration of other people’s choices. Oh my.
I love your final paragraph. The only hope for this world is now and has always been Jesus.
Debbie, this is a constant temptation for me to worry about with two littles. (Love Becky’s comment as it reminds me God’s still in charge.) We sure don’t have it all figured out here, but one thing we don’t do is watch tv. We own one and watch kids’ movies from the library occasionally, but that’s it. Just tonight we adjusted summer “screen time” rules too: a half hour per day and if they want more they can pick weeds to earn minutes. Manners and respect are a work in progress…ask me in ten years how we did. 😳 I love having the kids home from school for the summer, though. I can spend unrushed time with them and “indulge” in teachable moments without panicking that we’re late somewhere. We’re flawed parents like all the rest, so our knees always have a reason to hit the floor. It is definitely a different culture now than how you described. Good to consider these changes.
Pearl, Your statement “our knees always have a reason to hit the floor” is so telling about you as a parent. I commend you and your husband for banning television almost completely. Establishing a moral compass for our children is always more important than providing entertainment for them, especially when we consider what today’s world considers “entertaining.” May God bless your family. Are you having much luck getting your children to pull weeds? 🙂