We used to call them Generation Y, but in recent years, a more popular label has been used to refer to post-1980s children all over the world, including Singapore. It’s called the “strawberry generation”. Here’s why: Just as strawberries look good on the outside but get bruised easily, so too are post-1980s children.
In practical terms, this isn’t pretty. Think spoilt, unable to withstand hardship, and self-centred. Many have attributed these traits this generation exhibits to two key factors: affluence and upbringing. You heard that right, upbringing.
Perhaps it’s time we take a hard look at whether we as parents have been responsible for “growing strawberries” in our own backyard. Have we as parents been contributing to this phenomenon?
Strawberry Trait 1: Lack of Resilience
Resilient people don’t wallow or dwell on failures; they acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and then move forward.
As parents, have we been too quick to jump to the rescue?
How do our children respond to setbacks and failures? Do they throw in the towel when challenges arise at school or at work, or do they press on in tough times? Here’s another tell-tale sign: They expect instant and quick fixes to problems and give up too quickly when help is not in sight.
As parents, have we been too quick to jump to the rescue? Do we instil the need to persevere through tough times? Have we been overly protective?
Strawberry Trait 2: Sense of Entitlement
Most of us are in a better position today to provide for our children than our parents were for us. As a result, our children have ample opportunities to go for enrichment classes, holidays, and birthday parties. Besides attending to their physical needs, we may also try and meet their emotional needs by praising them at every opportunity.
Has our parenting style contributed to this misplaced sense of entitlement?
Sure, there is nothing wrong in rewarding and affirming our children. But doing so without a good basis can actually breed an entitlement mindset. Or perhaps it has already manifested in another way, where they become disillusioned and bitter when they don’t receive what they desired. Has our parenting style contributed to this misplaced sense of entitlement?
Strawberry Trait 3: Poor Communication and Social Skills
Unlike us, our children grow up in a time where they learn how to swipe screens on handphones and tablets before they can even talk. In some cases, these gadgets have become very convenient “nannies” for our children, especially in engaging them and keeping them quiet.
Could our own frequent engagement with social media have played a big role in our children’s poor social skills?
But while information technology is a great help in learning, our children should be taught to use it in moderation. Addiction to social media, or technology as a whole, can result in a generation that is socially challenged when it comes to face-to-face interaction.
As parents, we need to monitor our own use of our gadgets. Like it or not, our children are constantly observing our behaviour and learning non-verbal communication strategies from us. Could our own frequent engagement with social media have played a big role in our children’s poor social skills?
In short, our children are not merely the result of nature, but very much the product of nurture. So what are some things we can do to address this?
We Need to Disciple Our Kids from Young
1. Let them learn from their mistakes
Writer and Christian educator Professor Howard Hendricks once said, “Every time you do a chore which your own children are capable of doing themselves, you make them a cripple.”
Excessive shielding of our children will do more harm than good. We need to give our children the right to fail. Let them experience the consequences of their choices—whether good or bad.
We need to give our children the right to fail.
Occasional lapses will not put our children at risk. Just like how we will invariably make mistakes in parenting, our own children will inevitably make mistakes in making decisions. But it is in learning from their mistakes that they become better decision makers.
2. Teach our children that their actions reap consequences
Effective and biblical parenting involves teaching and imparting “consequential thinking” to the next generation.
When we try to shield our children from the consequences of their own choices, we are doing more harm than good.
In Deuteronomy 6, the nation of Israel was about to possess the promised land and they had to be educated on God’s covenantal relationship with His chosen people. Moses did not mince his words in spelling out choices and consequences:
- If they obeyed God’s commands, they would enjoy long life.
- If they did what was right and good in God’s sight, all would go well with them.
- If they did not fear God and serve Him, God’s anger would be upon them and He would destroy them.
Similarly, we need to nurture consequential thinking in our children. Our kids need to learn from an early age that they reap what they sow (Galatians 6:8). When we try to shield our children from the consequences of their own choices, we are doing more harm than good.
3. Teach our children the importance of family and communication
With the prevalence of technology, most of us may be at a loss as to how we can curb or minimise our children’s use of their mobile devices. One father shared how he thought of a creative way to set healthy boundaries for his children.
One Saturday morning, just as his family was getting ready to go out for breakfast together, he issued a new rule: “Okay, let’s go for breakfast, but on the condition that we all leave our mobile phones at home!”
“Okay, let’s go for breakfast, but on the condition that we all leave our mobile phones at home!”
Not surprisingly, it drew howls of protest from his children, but he stood his ground. “By the time we tucked into our fried bee hoon and prata,” he said, “normal conversation had resumed.”
The following Saturday, this father explained why he wanted his kids to “fast” from their devices. “Family is a gift from the Lord, so we have to safeguard what is precious to us,” he told them.
By the third week, he said, there were no more complaints. “Instead, there was a quiet sense of anticipation that this was a special family time together—minus the mobile devices.”
We need to find mentors for our children
In addition to discipling our children according to biblical principles, we should also identify godly and mature mentors—individuals who can make a positive and lasting impact on our children.
Our children will start to seek acceptance and affirmation from peers when they enter their teens
While parents have the greatest impact and influence on our children in their developing years, our children will start to seek acceptance and affirmation from peers when they enter their teens. At this stage of life, the best and most ideal mentor for our teenage child is an older youth—someone who is a growing follower of Jesus Christ.
That does not mean that we can wash our hands of the task of bringing our children up in the way of the Lord. But what we should do is to identify, nurture, and challenge these older youths to be mentors to our children. May we strive to train up our children in the way they should go, so that they will not depart from it when they are old (Proverbs 22:6)!