Coaxing Kids to be Cool With the “Uncool”
Love doesn’t keep a tally, so I’ll just say that our nine-year-old son frequently tells me, “My friends don’t have to do that.”
Chores, yard work, extra division practice, typing tutorials …the reference to what his friends are doing (or not doing) provides the universal excuse to negotiate or avoid mom’s assigned task. At bedtime, I analyze my day as a mother and often pray for help to be better at my role. In these days of instant communication, slipping work ethic, decreased privacy and increasing conceitedness, I face persistent challenges to keep my kids grounded in values of hard work, self-sufficiency, humbleness and consideration for others. We can’t escape these cultural influences out here in farm country, and I assume we share these challenges with our urban and suburban counterparts who have similar values. Contrary to our son’s belief, I think some kids do “have to do that.” But, I’m afraid not enough.
Popular culture and mainstream media consistently throw darts at my day. They tell kids it’s cool to be athletic, own a cell phone at a young age, and voice their opinion on social media rather than possess the self-control to remain reserved. It’s cool to publicly showcase private moments. It’s cool to be entertained and on-the-go all the time. It’s cool to be successful, with success measured by fame, wealth and materialism.
Mike Rowe, former host of the TV show “Dirty Jobs,” deserves credit for publicly associating lack of coolness with the skills gap. Our culture generally lacks interest in and respect for physically demanding careers and thus don’t train for these jobs that now have employee shortages. I find that the analogy applies not only to uncelebrated blue-collar jobs, but that some accomplishments and
values also consistently fall short of the societal praise and celebration they deserve, such as:
- Privacy rather than publicizing your day on Facebook or Twitter
- Diving deep into a talent or 4-H project rather than playing every single sport that’s glorified in our nation’s school systems
- Work ethic, at-home parenting, domestic responsibilities or owning a minivan
Individually, we give value to what we prioritize. Often, I find that popular culture does not always align with our household’s values, which is fine except when counter opinions publicly marginalize our choices. I want our kids to uphold values that speak to them without society speaking for them. I want them to feel appreciated when there is no engraved trophy or even financial gain to recognize what they set out to accomplish. In the end, only they can be cool with what society deems uncool, and I hope they live a fulfilling life with chosen values that will shape who they want to become.