There seems to be an issue I have noticed with families these days; they seem to think that children learn by osmosis, at worst, or by lecturing, at best. I wrote an article about this a while back (that I am still shopping around!), but had not thought of handwashing back then. At that time, I had not felt that this is an issue that I believe stems from those of us in the boomer generation.
There is a lot that I do not like about my parent’s and grandparents’ parenting, nor would I condone now. But while they taught us through intimidation, fear, and corporal punishment, by God, they did teach us! I remember in both junior high and high school, getting swats for any infractions, mainly by vice-principals and coaches. While I was not happy, I was glad they punished me in school and did not call home, that would have been ten times worse!
I find myself now in the middle of the continuum for this punishment. Unlike most in the developmental field, I do not think paddling should be totally discontinued, but only used as a last resort and never with anger. Unfortunately, we boomers then took parenting to the other extreme, and the next two generations are now clueless.
Two things are missing from most parents these days, teaching and knowing their role. I see most parents these days just lecturing their children rather than teaching them; think back when you were a child, did you like being lectured? And as a teen, you actively tuned out your parents, so why do they think the next generation will like being told what to do? Next, too many parents want to be their children’s friend and not their parent. Teach and then consequence when children choose to ignore you!
In my article, I said, “Like most mammals, humans learn through example. It always amazes me that we would never think of teaching a toddler how to dress with a lecture; we merely show young children how to dress over many months. The same is true of tying shoes, learning to speak, and, while learning to bake a cake might not take months, nevertheless, we demonstrate each step. And yet, after a certain age, we tend to shift from showing by example to telling how to do something with, at most, a onetime, halfhearted demonstration. While we might walk in with our children to supervise them brushing their teeth, do we not tend to tell just them how to brush their teeth? And then after a few months, we only tell them to brush while glued to the television (or worse, our phones) and then express shock and dismay when we catch them lying about actually brushing.”
And now, I just realized, we do the same with handwashing! Just like brushing teeth, get your hands under the water with them to show them how to wash effectively with soap. Worse, while most parents lecture, they do not take the time to lecture “why!” Why do we brush our teeth, and why do we wash our hands after working outside, going to the bathroom, or before we cook if it has been a few hours since our last handwashing?
Along with not knowing how to parent, the younger generations hygienically challenged. A study in Great Britain showed that “Although 95 percent of people said they washed their hands with soap where possible, 92 percent of phones and 82 percent of hands had bacteria on them.” Worse, 1 in 5 phones had E. Coli (from fecal matter) on them! Forget the coronavirus; I might not ever shake hands with anyone ever again!
Parents in the fifties and sixties might have been over the top with punishment, but they parented less severely than the generations before them. And we did learn basic societal rules, both cultural, “please and thank you” and other societal norms, and basic hygene, how and when to wash out hands. I saw a funny meme on Facebook this week that said, “Now that we have the correct way to handwash down, next week, we will tackle using our turn signals!” I do hope that, even after this virus is history, we will continue to wash our hands correctly!