It all started with my generation—the “hippy generation.” Mine was the generation that rejected its parent’s values, beliefs, and worldviews; the generation that rejected the views of anyone over 30 and adopted a lifestyle characterized by drugs, free sex, and a philosophy of life that said “If it feels good, do it.” Before going any further with this narrative, a caveat is in order. I was in the hippy generation by age, but never of it by actions, beliefs, or values. While my long-haired contemporaries resorted to drugs, draft dodging, and rejecting the establishment, I had a crew cut, neither smoked or drank, joined the Marine Corps, and was the personification of establishment values. In fact, I originally became a Ronald Reagan fan because I liked the way he defined the term “hippy”: someone who has hair like Tarzan, walks like Jane, and smells like an ape. Good line from a good man.
I can remember as a high school student hearing adults tell their teenage hippy children, “You think you know it all now. Just wait until you have children.” The presumption of adults was that when faced with the daunting challenge of raising children, their hippy sons and daughters would finally understand why the over-30 crowd adhered to certain beliefs and methods. This, of course, turned out to be wishful thinking. Instead of becoming more mature when faced with child rearing, hippy parents simply applied their if-it-feels-good-do-it philosophy to parenting.
Hippies who became parents rejected their parent ideas about discipline and let their children do whatever felt good to them. Any fool could have told them that most of the things that feel good to kids fall under the broad heading of misbehavior. Place a bowl of candy and a bowl of vegetables in front of a child. Which one will the child choose to eat? Tell a child he can play computer games or do his homework. Which activity will the child choose? Tell a child he can lie in bed all morning or get up and do chores. Which option will the child choose? Let children do what comes naturally instead of firmly guiding them in the right direction and most will make the wrong choice most of the time. Children are not born with manners or the natural inclination to obey their parents, share with siblings, study hard in school, or do any of the other things that don’t feel good but are good for them. They have to be taught these things and teaching what runs counter to human nature requires the application of appropriate discipline.
This liberal approach to parenting has led to many of the social problems we see in American society today. For example, school achievement has steadily declined since the 1960s, declines that can be traced directly to how children have been raised. It is hippy generation parents who decided that school should be about building self-esteem rather than self-discipline. The parents of my day did not concern themselves one whit about the self-esteem of their children. In fact, children who made the mistake of expressing a high opinion of themselves would be quickly taken down a notch and taught a valuable lesson about humility.
It is hippy generation parents—those who rejected all forms of authority—who automatically sided with their miscreant children when they ran afoul of authority figures such as teachers, coaches, principals, and law enforcement officers. This is why we now have successive generations of people who think the rules don’t apply to them. It is hippy generation parents—those who thought they found enlightenment through drugs—who willingly allowed the public schools to drug their hyper-active children into compliant little zombies using Ritalin and other drugs.
So many of the social problems that America faces today can be traced directly to parents who failed to do their jobs in raising their children, parents whose children grew up thinking they were the center of the universe and could do anything they desired. Children who grew up in an if-it-feels-good-do-it environment become adults who think they can do anything that feels good to them. But the world does not work that way. Most of the hippies I knew as a teenager in the 60s should have foregone having children. The world would be better off if they had just bought a pet.