Kate Roberts Ph.D.

Savvy Parenting

Are Parents Practicing Traditional American Values?

Parents today are struggling to instill American values in their children.

Posted Jul 03, 2014

The Fourth of July is a celebration of America, and the ideals and values that are her foundation. However, are parents today instilling these traditional values in their children? Has our society, built on a hard worth ethic and responsibility of self, eroded to one rooted in materialism and celebrity?

Dr. Ronald Riggio wrote in his post “4 Psychological Processes That Are Ruining America” (December 2011) that America has developed a culture “intoxicated by fame and wealth” where “our individualistic nature leads us to have many egocentric biases — to exaggerate our self-importance.” However, the Declaration of Independence speaks of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and clearly our forefathers did not intend for the pursuit of happiness to be measured by fame or wealth. And yet the popularity of the Kardashians and other reality TV suggest that as a society Americans are brainwashed to believe that the American Dream can be measured by the wealth and fame of reality TV stars.

Americans have not always valued fame and fortune above all else. In his book, The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokow describes America's citizen heroes and heroines who came of age during The Great Depression and World War II and went on to build modern America. He describes this generation as united by common values — duty, honor, economy, courage, service, love of family and country, and, above all, responsibility for oneself.

Historically, American values consist of a strong work ethic, individual rights, freedom for all, and the possibilities of endless success should a person apply themselves and take calculated educational and business risks.

Many parents today seem lost when it comes to teaching their children these values. Instead of expecting their children to take on more responsibility as they increase in age, parents today make excuses for their children’s failures. Many parents are focused on preventing their children from experiencing disappointment and would rather say yes to unnecessary indulgences like computers, cell phones and fancy Xbox systems than face discontent in their child. Even as these parents recognize their children’s demands as outlandish and inappropriate, they succumb to the requests of a 9 or 10-year-old for an iPhone 5s, going against their own judgment in the process. Giving a child a phone designed for an adult does not make that child more responsible or independent.

Why do parents struggle to say “no” to a child’s unreasonable requests? Children have always demanded more than is necessary or good for them. Unlike previous generations, parents today feel they have to justify their position, research their responses, and explain their thinking before they can conclusively make a decision, especially one that involves the word “no” and setting limits.

In our current American culture where the Kardashians rule, the need for parents to act with confidence, authority and a strong sense of traditional American values is greater than ever before. Youth who are not equipped with life skills to navigate the complex and competitive working world of America and are instead occupied with superficial materialism and unrealistic reality TV, will not be prepared to take full advantage of all that is offered in the United States.

The complexity of life today, over-scheduling, the breakdown of the intact family and technology monitoring, including seven hours plus of daily technology use by the average child, contributes to parents’ difficulty imparting strong values and making tough parental decisions in the process.

Parents need to overcome their anxiety about disappointing their children and instead act with decision, common sense, appropriate limits and authority and without fear, as they raise the future American generation.

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