Saturday, 16 August 2008


What has happened to our children?

What is it that makes them so determined and so oblivious to the negative.

In my day, if my parent said 'no', there would have been a certain amount of argument to try to change their mind but we all knew that 'no' meant 'no' and pushing the issue too far would just make things worse.

These days, the word 'no' is the green light to signal a tirade of abusive recriminations on our parental abilities. It isn't just a case of being the worst parent in the world or that someone else's parents will give permission, it's a blow by blow list of our insufficiencies, accompanied by the mother of all strops and the hurled accusatory question as to why we hate them so much.

It really isn't surprising that so many of us parents cop out for the easy way by saying 'perhaps' or 'maybe' or 'I'll think about it' just to buy a little time and stave off for a few more days what we know is an unavoidable spontaneous combustion. However, it is a false hope, because all of those prevarications are actually heard as a 'yes' in our teenagers' minds and putting off the inevitable only leads to an even bigger eruption when it happens since they will have made all their arrangements on the basis of 'but you said I could!'

And, whilst I'm in grumpy old woman mode', where did all these sleepovers come from?

In my day, as a special treat, our cousins would come to stay for a couple of days in the summer holidays and, if we were really good, in the Easter hols too. We never had friends in the street to spend the night - well not unless our parents were babysitting whilst their parents went out and that didn't happen very often because grandparents tended to be the regular babysitters... or one of the teenagers from further up the street.

Two decades ago, I can remember my nieces and nephews having a friend to sleepover as a birthday treat. And then things started to change. Slumber parties came over the Atlantic, becoming the in-thing for British teenage girls and it all stemmed from there.

Suddenly, it was fashionable to have your friend to stay at the weekend or in the holidays (even if s/he lived just across the street) - when you were at primary school. And then these events became more regular and involving more children with two or three friends to stay and then the other parents returning the favour to the stage where children would be househopping several times in one week.

And, once they get to senior school, those children don't want to stay in their bedrooms if they haven't got televisions. They want to be downstairs 'sleeping' in the front room with a midnight feast plus access to all night dvds and no parental control over what they're watching on cable.

Which, of course, is where mixed sleepovers start to rear their ugly head and the need for propriety exerts the necessity of insisting that each gender is in a different room when they eventually decide to tuck themselves in, especially when the participants are under 16. At which point you have to say, well what's the point of a sleepover under those circumstances? They can stay until 11pm and then be taken home since they only live a few miles away.

It's a whole new world and a source of constant irritation for parents desperately trying to retain control... and failing miserably.


Loving Annie said...

it is VERY hard to raise kids today...including for the points you raised.

Anonymous said...

the reason the kids argue and pitch a fit when parents tell them no is because the penalty isn't stiff enough when they combust. They do my bride the same way but never ever ask me twice. The penalty is to stiff if they do, and they know that. They, like everyone else, will treat folks however folks allow them to treat them.
Pretty much they are trained that they might get their way if they throw down and act crazy. Prove to them it wont work and they will stop!

Osbasso said...

There are certain advantages to never having had kids...

Trixie said...

Urgh... sleep overs. My boys can only have that if they clean their room. That's never going to happen!

Hu said...

*giggles at Trixie* I told my daughter exactly the same thing for the same reason ;)

having my cake said...

Annie - You're telling me!

Sage - Absolutely, but they are expert manipulators and emotional blackmailers :)

Os - There are times... :)

Trixie/Hu - Now I like that idea!

Helga Hansen said...

I don't know why, but Son appears to have grown out of the sleep-over thing, which is just as well, as his room is an utter tip! Fortunately I don't have constant battles with the old "I want" as I have always told him from very young that "I want doesn't get". Instead Son has learned the art of negotiation, which is great (especially as his birthday is a month after Christmas, with no paydays in between!!) Do you think it makes a difference that he's an only child?

Anonymous said...

I have always made a point of being different. My children actually accept it and I think nowadays they consider it quite cool. So we don't do sleepovers, don't really watch TV - don't do any of that. People say it will make my children "odd" (not being able to talk TV for instance) but actually I think it just makes them individuals. But it is probably easier to do that in the UK where quirky is still seen as attractive and cool! But it certainly makes my life easier.

They still answer back and argue at every opportunity of course!

Good luck with it all. Parenting is all about muddling through I think!

Brian said...

Man you are putting me off having kids! Have you tried reverse psychology? Maybe they just need to get laid . Wait until they start college. Good luck!

Awesome Adam said...

No one really knows what's going on in the mind of a teenager so i'm trying to help out. This is my blog telling about the thoughts that go through my head so please check it out. My blog is watsinthere(dot)blogspot(dot)com the blog is titled The Cluttered Mind of A Teenager. Thanks for checking it out and tell me what you want to hear about.

( . )( . ) said...

I remember sleep overs, we used to have them all the time. Most weekends. It was good for mum because most of my friends didnt like staying at other peoples houses so it got me out of her hair every few weekends.

having my cake said...

Helga - I think a lot of the difference comes from the parents being firm and consistent right from the start. If kids notice any sign of wavering, even from the earliest age, they latch onto it and exploit it and the more you give in, the bigger the next explosion.

RB - Again, consistency from both parents. I tried quite hard to be very firm about what I did and didnt want but I could never have got my Husband to agree to those rules. He likes the quiet life.

Brian - I loved those! I knew they were good at the time but I had no idea exactly how accurate. I too have tried reverse psychology with similar results. The transformation of Kevin was priceless. Special mention for Kathy Burke who is just extraordinary as Perry. Loving the monosyllabic teenager in the last song :)

Adam - Im coming over to have a look, providing you promise not to slam doors, play loud music and shout at me :)

(.) Well, yes, there is that but every so often it becomes your turn to have a crowd of teenagers invade your home for 24 hours, helping themselves out of your fridge and leaving behind a mess of empty beer cans and fast food wrappers :)

Tom Allen said...

"What has happened..."
"Back in my day..."
"I can remember..."

Hark! The cry of a distressed older person! This sounds like a job for...

The Grey Geezer

Have no fear, Ms. Cake. I'll be firing up the Geezermobile any minute now. Just as soon as I can find my glasses. Oh, and now where the hell did I put my damn keys? And would you look at that? Some kids rode their damn bikes right across my new grass. Don't their parent's teach them about sidewalks?

Not that we had those high-falutin' bikes in my day; we had to ride hand-me-downs, but we were happy to get them. And we kept'em clean, too, not like these kids today who throw out perfectly good tires when they get dirty.

Oh, and that reminds me, I better stop at the bank and deposit my social security check on the way. And those damn drive-up windows that they've got - those tellers always push the damn thing out too far and it scratches my car. Now, back in my day...

ez cheese said...

I remember arguing NO with my father a very few usually resulted in an solid ass whooping...Needless to say, I didn't argue much

The Dotterel said...

I suppose I've got all this to come, although Sally and her friends have little sleepovers now and then - it's not become endemic (yet)!

Walker said...

Kids today want more than many of us can supply.
When i was a kid I got a 2 dollar ball.
Today its a 1000 dollar laptop and if you dont get oit for them you will suffer dearly from the constant whinning.