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Book Review: The We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids by Michael Unger, PhD

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In The We Generation, Michael Unger talks of parents who look at their children with utter frustration. Deep inside, they feel their kids are egotistical — turned in on themselves — unless they are outside their home standing on a street corner with their gang. Parents notice they often dress in odd ways, but not identically. They see that the more atypical a hairstyle or mode of dress is, the greater the admiration within their peer group, and this frustrates parents even more. Why are they so me, me, me?


What many parents don’t recognize is that they themselves are the very cause of their alienated children. They do not model a WE attitude with their kids. Parents are often so busy with their careers, their social network, the intricacies of their personal lives, that they assume their offspring will grow into mature adults just because they should — after all, their children live in a nice home, have few material needs if any, and attend good schools.


But having few material wants does not replace the want for genuine interaction within a family where both children and parents show compassion for each other’s welfare. Children are adaptable. When they feel their thoughts and feelings are not important; their “past, present, and future,” is of little consequence; their achievements, however small, are not recognized; they will gang together where all those things do count. It is often in a gang setting that the we, we, we, discussed in The We Generation is confirmed.


Unger stresses that “Compassion, connection, responsibility, citizenship” are part of the security cycle which must begin at home. Security to a child means she feels parents are genuinely concerned for her welfare. If a mother enters a room too preoccupied to notice her daughter’s raised hands indicating “Hold me,” at her own level, that tiny tot doubts her mother’s feelings for her. In her own infant way, she experiences no “touch” connection. There is no smiling face or warm huggie to greet her.


The We Generation explains how teens feel this security, or lack of it, in a different way. A father walks through the dining area. His teen son is gluing together a wooden model airplane. He waits for words of praise. Pop takes his golf clubs and leaves — maybe says a short “Nice job, son.” This dad has missed a grand opportunity.


He could have walked to the table, sat down, and watched his son. He might have asked to hold the model. Then, without criticizing his son’s attempts, this father could have offered sincere praise while placing his hand on his son’s shoulder. He might even ask, “When I get home this evening, will you let me help paint it?” Or, “Let’s go out tomorrow and get an engine for that thing.” This son is secure knowing he is cared about, and loved, and touched.


Kids mirror what they see adults doing. If a teen daughter consistently sees her father speeding, how can he hold her responsible for back-talk when she speeds, or when she comes home with speeding tickets. What’s more, if he blows his top because of the cost of the ticket, not because she was speeding, he is only reinforcing irresponsibility and poor citizenship.


In short, The We Generation is a good read for both parents and children. By using some of the book’s countless techniques for reconnecting with their offspring, children will recognize parental attempts to converting a me, me, me, attitude to a WE family affirmation. When both parents and teens read the book, teens can begin to understand that their folks are not old fogies at heart. At least now, they are trying to change their own attitudes which drove their kids to seek love and security away from home.


I would recommend this book to adults raising small children so they can immediately start to build security into their family interactions. I would hope parents of older teens would purchase several copies so all can read The We Generation at the same time and discuss it. As the book says, “Parents count more than ever.” Let’s re-create our children.

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