Kids running around the mall food court, kicking and screaming in the grocery store, or running laps in the church hall during coffee hour. "Kids have no manners today," we say. Though that statement clearly reflects some selective memory at work – as if kids were entirely well-behaved 30 or 60 years ago – there may be an ounce of truth to it. Po Bronson, in a recent interview on NPR's Tell Me More, says that the poor behavior of 4-5 year-olds is, for many kids, the expected side effect of a very good parenting strategy that will pay dividends in years to come.
I think there's this fear that kids today have no manners. And I don't know that they understand the scientific context of this, which is that we don't hit kids anymore, and that is great. And we don't demand strict obedience. We reason with our kids. We try to get them to think it through. But when they're 3, and they're 4, and they're 5, and they're 6, they're not really good at that. So the short term is that they maybe are going to be a little more restless around the table at dinnertime.
They might have a little more behavior issues than in – kids in the past, when they're 5 and 6 years old. But the long-term outcomes are clear. Kids are more independent-minded and more autonomous, and handle problems for themselves down the road. But American society is looking at the way our 4- and 5- and 6-year-olds behave and going, oh, my gosh, it's terrible the way that they're behaving – and not realizing this is perhaps the side effect of what is really, fundamentally, a good thing.