Ron Taffel

Kids need to feel that an adult really, really means something – really cares about something and do something about it.

In early to mid 1990s started to see a change in the kids whom he saw and in their parents, who seemed to be getting really, really young. Post-boomer parents who grew up in their adolescent years in the 70s and 80s. The decline of neighborhoods, the rise of divorce, the decline of adult authority, the decline of organized religion. Schools started to turn into post-boomer schools as well.

Sensibilities of post-boomer generation is completely different. Previous generation (greatest generation) believed in privacy, authority, lack of backtalk. Boomers were just as certain they were right as the greatest generation thought they were right. Post-boomers just don’t know. Parents are completely uncertain what they feel and do not know what they know to be right or wrong. Kids feel entitled to say whatever they want to their parents and parents believe this is good. Post-boomer parents have a sense of entitlement and want it for their children. Our culture and schools have not caught up to this generational shift.

The kids of post-boomer parents are entitled, brash, and need an explanation for everything. Kids are acting out at earlier and earlier ages. These parents and kids are more alike than different, unlike previous generations. Also girls have more of a leadership sensibility and boys are more likely than in the past to take care of each other. Boys and girls are more likely to be friends with each other than in the past. Kids don’t rebel to individuate and separate, kids don’t act out to rebel because there is no authority to rebel against. More difficult to self-regulate in part because of the of the overwhelming amount of information coming to them at all times.

Schools have become the town center and the social center not only of kids’ lives, but also of adults’.

What major shifts are needed to deal with post-boomer parents and kids? How has the director’s role changed now that schools have become town centers?

Need to be centers of empathy. Can’t think of it as an add-on, but rather the heart of what we do in schools. Schools need to reflect the value of empathic action so that kids can naturally develop empathy by feeling it in the walls of the institution. Think of it as a basic human characteristic which is essential for children to feel towards other and to feel that others feel towards them. We live in a transactional culture: pay us and we will give you good college placement, not we will give you empathy. Should be a “convenantal relationship.”

Concerns of group:
  • Lack of imaginative play
  • Not enough time for play
  • Resume building of kids (Kindergarten cool)
  • More adult knowledge, but no more adult judgment
  • Not enough sleep – kids fight off sleep because it is the first time all day they have not been stimulated and they don’t know who to self-stimulate.
  • Not used to self-soothing
  • Short attention span (concept of focus is shifting)
  • Second guessing teachers (parents like this idea because it will help them be successful in a transactional culture)
  • Popularity has also been redefined – how quickly you can engage in the banter of dissing others.

Most parents underparent, they are logistical engineers or managers instead and it make them feel bad.

Take literature about temperament seriously. William Carey (Understanding Your Child’s Temperament), Jerome Kagan (The Long Shadow of Temperament)
  • New experiences
  • Transitions
  • Activity
  • Multi-sensory integration

What to do:
  • The more you understand a child’s temperament the more you can help them to shift it. Suggestion to keep child’s temperament log.
  • Need to move beyond circle time. It doesn’t create real conversation but rather celebrates narcissism and a child’s ego. The notion of circle time developed in the me-centered 60s and 70s. Instead, if children are actually able to converse and talk with one another, they do better in their academics and in reading emotions. They also better develop their ability to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • Kids need unstructured time to speak with adults. Kids open up in the middle of the most mundane activities. Create short two-minute talking rituals with children. Create common area for kids and teachers to gather and talk.
  • Don’t just read to kids but also tell stories of your childhood – that’s what they really remember.
  • Demand empathy for who we are by the kids. We have a right to reciprocal empathy, which is what really makes them grow. It is not just about teachers feeling what kids feel, but rather as much about kids feeling how teachers feel. Kids will open up when empathy is expected.
  • Think about the way we use praise. We have gotten students hooked on praise. Inauthentic, reflexive praise makes kids mistrust us, because they know better. Kids want and need realistic feedback, delivered kindly, but truly authentic. Story of kids sledding in a snowstorm: “Great sledding! The best sledding I’ve seen” 10-year-old says, “What do you mean? I was just responding to the lows of gravity.” Acknowledge effort.
  • Every teacher needs a mentor. Peer support groups for teachers should be a part of everyday life, as should peer support groups for parents. Creates an empathic bond between teachers, administrators, and parents.
  • Create communities between parents and schools. Most parents feel intimidated by schools, no matter how they speak to teachers. Educators feel that they are being handed parents’ kids to raise because of post-boomers’ lack of certainty. Community means creating greater empathic action between parents and schools. Parents need to know what it is like to be a teacher, and teachers need to know what it is like to be a parent. is Ron Taffel’s email. Be sure to put “Mohonk” in the subject line so that he knows where it is from.