Friday, May 22, 2009

Kids Today: Whining

Wow, it sure has been a long while since my last post. I guess that's just what happens when life gets super busy! Anyway, due to several observations and conversations I've had at school within the past couple of weeks, I finally have a subject worth posting about.

***Let me preface this post by saying that I am not talking about ALL parents of high school students (my aunts, for example, are great parents). Nor am I talking about ALL high school students (I have some students that are absolutely wonderful). I'm just exploring a disturbing trend I'm seeing in my students and what I think might be the cause. Also, no, I am not yet a parent, BUT there are some parenting issues that seem pretty commonsense to me. Anyways, here we go!***

I truly think something went a bit wrong with the generation of parents that came after my parents--those whose children are now high school age. I've been noticing extremely disturbing behavior patterns in the teenagers I teach. Two in particular were extremely aggravating today: whining, and talking back. In this post, I'm going to talk about the whining incident. I'll deal with the talking back in a separate post.

I hate whining...HATE it. The high nasal pitch, the facial expressions, all of it. They grate against my nerves. But what bothers me more is what is IMPLIED by the whining. Whining to someone says one of two things: either "I'm too tired to control my voice when I'm having a bad day" OR "my problem is now your problem and I expect you to fix it". The first is only acceptable in children ages 5 and below, and occasionally for the rest of us. The second puts the winer in the enviable position of having no responsibility for the events or responsibilities in their lives that they do not like NOR for doing something about said events or responsibilities.

Let's look at today's prime whining example. We'll call the student, Student W1 (for Whiner #1). Well, we started our last project of the year in class yesterday. It is a foldable, on which the students must write down the grammar notes I give them. That's right, I'm making a freaking copying exercise into a major grade. Why? So that they WILL copy down all the info they need for the final, AND to help their averages. Well, Student W1 spent most of yesterday talking with her neighbor, so she did not finish. I've made it clear that each day's notes must be finished by the end of THAT class to get full credit. Failure to do so results in a 50, unless the notes are completed the following day, at which point the grade is a 75. Today, at the beginning of class, I reminded Student W1 that she needed to finish. And what do you think happened?

That's right, she didn't. She ended up staying after class (which I graciously allowed AND wrote her a pass) and WHINED the WHOLE TIME about how she did not have enough time, and how she's a slow writer, and how she can't see the board well (by the way, she forgot her glasses AND refused to move closer--instead she was copying off another student's already finished notes). This student has been a talker most of the year, and like the times before this, here is what she was saying: "I can't believe you expected ME to FINISH. I had more important things to do than YOUR assignment." Then, when I take her to task, the whining starts, which says, "I can't believe you're taking ME to task. I shouldn't have to be accountable! I didn't like the assignment and didn't do it and don't want the consequences, so YOU should give ME more time/the grade anyway and stop insisting I be responsible."

Needless to say, I am out of patience with Student W1, and let her know that I was done listening to her whining, that she had two WHOLE CLASSES to finish when everyone else easily finished in ONE, and that if she didn't get her crap together, she would continue to fail. Keep in mind, Student W1 is just today's example. Granted, she's one of my worst whiners, but there are plenty of others ranging from only an occasional whine to almost daily.

So, why did I talk about the parental side first off in this post? Because I think that, if we are looking for the reason WHY these kids are whiners and WHY they see no problem with whining, we can find that reason at home. Let's start with the mentality behind the whine.

The parents of many of my kids don't seem to see the need to hold there children accountable for their educational success or lack thereof. If a student is failing, well, the subject is too hard, or the teacher just "doesn't like" their kids. The fact that a student does not turn in assignments, take notes, study at home, and bombs every quiz and test they take is never mentioned. Because, of COURSE, their wonderful child would NEVER fail at anything he/she CAN'T be their fault...something else must be to blame (ie, the teacher, the material, some sort of disorder, etc.) These parents are raising a generation of individuals who take no personal responsibilities for mistakes and shortcomings, but instead look around for someone or something to blame. And that's just plain scary. And admittedly it's worse than whining. But let's look at the parent's roll in NOT raising a whiner.

When I was young, and I would indulge in the occasional whine, my mother would calmly look at me and say, "I can't understand you. You're whining" and then turn around and get on with whatever she was doing. I got the message quick, fast, and in a hurry that if I wanted to have a conversation with my mother, I had better cut the whining and address whatever the issue was in a normal and calm tone of voice. The amazing thing? I've tried this technique with some of my infrequent whiners, and it's worked wonders!!!

But apparently parents today don't do this. Nor do they apparently simply tell their child to stop whining. I can only infer through what my students seem to expect, that when they whine, their parents capitulate to their wants so as to stop the whining. After all, why would they be whining to me (at the age of FIFTEEN no less!) if it did not work at home? This parental procedure leads to kids who think whining is acceptable, and also gives the "go ahead!" to the mentality behind the whining. Not to mention, the parents don't use the whining as an opportunity to teach their children to control their behavior even when frustrated or upset.

Anyway, to bring this post to an end, I guess I'm just frustrated with most of the parents of the generation I am teaching. Whining is only the first behavior I'm addressing--I'll write about the talking back, the throwing fits (FITS!!! at FIFTEEN!!!), and the ever-ready excuses later. But my observation of my kids this year has led me to a disturbing conclusion---apparently, when the time comes to teach their children important behavioral lessons, many parents are checking out. They're either too busy, or too busy trying to be the "friend", and the lessons don't get taught. And that has led, and is leading to, a whole generation who knows jackshit about personal accountability, proper interpersonal interactions, and how to interact with those placed in a position of authority over them. Ladies and gents, that paints a pretty frightening picture of the type of societal members these kids are becoming.

***Once again, I would like to point out I am talking about SOME of my students. I do have a select few who are hard-working, respectful, and demonstrate daily that they have a deep sense of personal accountability and discipline. It's just frightening to me that, out of the almost 150 kids I see everyday in my classroom, these good ones are by far the minority.***


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