Relationally Starved?

I was sitting in church on Sunday listening to a person speak on various matters. Ok, let me start over.  I was actually running up and down the lobby of our church, chasing my two year old because he wouldn’t sit still in the sanctuary and wouldn’t cooperate in the nursery.  So I tried to listen to bits and pieces of the sermon via speakers in the hallway while giving my own sermon of “stop that, get up, come here, don’t mess with the water fountain, walk please, don’t bother that nice man, don’t bother that nice woman, don’t mess with anything that resembles a human or something they might sit on or otherwise find value in.” Amen.

Anyway, I didn’t hear much.  But I did pick up on a piece that intrigued me.  He made a comment about the generation of our children being “relationally starved.”   Now I didn’t hear all of his comments on this, so I won’t go into whether I agree or disagree with his take on how this equates to a child’s religious belief system. But I would like to give my two cents worth.

It seems everyone has an opinion about this generation of youth.  Unfortunately, it seems to me, most of those opinions aren’t favorable.  Think of the common, and sometimes most over-used excuses for our kids…. The single parent household, the family who has been a product of generational poverty, and my favorite, the two parents that work many hours and rely on a center to care for their children for most of the week.

Granted there are cases where those situations can cause very stressful situations for families… I’m not turning a blind eye to that fact.  But there are many cases where students have found successes in spite of difficult circumstances, and maybe even with the help of those circumstances.

The more I toss it around, I’m not so sure that our students are “relationally starved.”  I just think that relationships look much different today than they have in generations past.  Their relationships are more fluid and maybe a little more fragile.  It is obvious that advances in technology have changed the way relationships are built and maintained (it has for me).  This doesn’t mean that children aren’t in need of the same nurturing and love that we might have had, but there are other layers that we need to ask them about.  And I think that might be the key, ASK THEM!

Dad and son on farm

I firmly believe that the heart of constructivism is trust.  Trust stems from a relationship that is constantly monitored and cared for.  Kind of like farming- the field you ignore will be the field that gives you the most difficulty down the road.  But unlike crops in a field, our students can tell us what they need- let’s listen.

14 thoughts on “Relationally Starved?

  1. Nicely done. I wish the first post on my blog was as nicely constructed.

    I agree. I don’t know if I would assume our kids to be “relationally starved” either. Looking back to my childhood… you hung with the kids IN your “hood.” Really… not until we could drive on our own could we ever even mix with kids from the other high schools in town. And frankly, though we could, we rarely did even then.

    I think relationships really do look quite different than before. I remember wandering what my friends were thinking at certain times. Today, I don’t think kids wonder that for too long. They send a text and ask. That is, if they weren’t told already how and what that person was doing already. Kids are far more public and open that before. This is, of course, fueled by handheld digital technology.

    I don’t make value judgements on whether communications between kids… or the depth vs. breadth of their friendships, is better now or worse than before. I think it would take a 100,000 foot view to be able to judge that… and we are all experiencing this as it is happening. I think it will be some time before we can really sort out all of these changes enough to make reasonable judgements about them.

    Anyway… nicely crafted. Welcome to the fray.


  2. Thanks to Sean for tweeting about this post.

    I agree that kids’ relationships are changing – not necessarily better or worse, just different – and that listening is key. But I think the same is true for many of us older people, too – our relationships are becoming mediated differently and thus are becoming different. It’s all OK, so long as we remain aware of these changes and conscious of how we meet them. And recognizing what is changing for us should make us better listeners when we ask younger people about their relationships.

  3. This is a great post. Here’s the part I liked the most:

    “I firmly believe that the heart of constructivism is trust. Trust stems from a relationship that is constantly monitored and cared for.”

    So true. It is important on several levels for us as educators to develop trusting relationships with our students. I agree that it isn’t necessarily that students don’t have relationships with others, but that the relationships are very different from the ones we had when we were in school.

    Looking forward to future posts. Great job.


  4. What a wonderful post to read right before we begin our new school year. This is yet another reminder that we need to be trying make strong connections with our students.
    The reoccurring theme in your post is communication. Our kids are all coming from different places and it is our job to talk with them, ask them questions about their lives, and really LISTEN to their responses. To build a relationships we must communicate.
    Thank you so much for sharing!

  5. Relationally starved. I’ve met those kids. You can see it in their eyes. You can feel it with your heart. I often wonder what it really takes to make that connection — if you plant a seed of genuine caring and interest in a kid, you might never see it grow. You never know who waters it.

    So, do you still plant? Should we still water? We do. I think that is the key. Interesting thing about kids — they don’t come with the sign anywhere that tells us what they need. It would be nice if it said — “seedless,” or they came with a water gauge. Since they don’t, I think we have to plant and water as often as possible. And pull off the petals (they love me, they love me not) less often. It never ends well for the flower.

  6. I can certainly relate to only catch snippets of a sermon and roaming the halls of the church with an active 3 year old… I agree that relationships are changing, I remember pedaling around the neighborhood during the summer just to check in with what my friends were doing over the summer, but like has been said by others that just doesn’t seem to happen anymore. So I am wondering how their interactions are different than what I grew up with? Are their relationships more or less genuine than what we had? or do they seem to have just more acquaintance type relationships? There were a lot of kids I knew in my neighborhood, but still there were only 2-3 that I would consider legitimate good friends, so I guess my last question is that are relationships really all that different or is just that the media/means in which we engage in them different?

  7. Warning: Everything I write after 1a.m. is all stream-of-consciousness writing, so watch out!!!

    Nice post. Thought-provoking. It’s actually something I’ve been pondering for the past 6-9 months. I would agree that people today have access to a myriad of relationships primarily due to the advancement in technology. I have found myself having discussions over this very topic with several people during the last few months. While Sean didn’t want to delve into the fray of depth of relationships, that is where most of my conversations have ended up going, so I will go ahead and step into the untested waters and see if the undercurrent drowns me.

    Because the emerging generation is the most adept with new technology, as a whole, they are the ones who have reaped the greatest benefits from the technological boom that is cell phones, texting, IM, twitter, blogging, facebook, etc . . . Very few individuals would likely say people of previous generations had a greater number of friends than do our kids today. Likewise, sustaining those relationships has become much easier (skype, facebook) and the emerging generation seems to do it fairly successfully.

    My daughter, who is almost 20, gripes at me all the time for not being on my facebook more often. Honestly, the only reason I created a profile was so I could see what she was doing while she was away at college, but since she’s now back at home, why do I need facebook anymore? My daughter, on the other hand, chats with friends several times daily – 15 or 20 of them – rarely the same ones from one day to the next. She knows what is going on with nearly all her old high school friends, her old church youth group friends, her relatives in Colorado, Wisconsin and California and all the friends she made at college.

    My wife whole-heartedly loves the newest technology that is designed for connecting people. She wishes we would have had it after we graduated school so we could have kept up with all our friends once we left our hometown. Instead, for the 3 years we lived in Japan, we wrote letters to 2 or 3 of our closest friends and called our parents about once-a-month at $1/minute. I did have the opportunity to email back and forth to one of my brothers, but it was strictly text; nevertheless, I found it much more handy than snail mail (pretty cutting edge back in 1992).

    So what could possibly be the problem with this technology designed to link all of us closer to one another. More specifically, what has this technology done, or is it doing, to our kids that has had adverse effects upon them? . . . Nothing.

    What?!? (okay, here I go – sink or swim time) The problem doesn’t lie with our emerging generation or even their parents. The problem is embedded within our culture, as a whole. America, the greatest nation in the world (military, economy, consumer) seems to have forgotten, or has changed its mind on what really matters. Today, we are more mobile than ever and more independent than ever and we accept those qualities as good things – the more, the better. We have stretched it to the point where we believe we don’t need anyone else. We are self-sufficient and each person can do it all on his/her own.

    So here we are, doing everything on our own and what do our kids see. Well, they see us and what are we doing? We are so busy trying to do everything that a lot of it never gets done very well, and on top of that, our kids see all our relationships suffering.

    No time for family, friends, neighbors – too busy for that. How many people do you know sit down and eat dinner, as a family, without the TV on – heck, even in front of the TV? Ask around, the number will surprise you.

    How often do you get together with your extended family? I think the South Side does this better than most communities, but still . . .

    When was the last time you got together with some of your friends just to hang out – you and your family with them and theirs?

    Do you ever see your neighbors sitting on their porches in the evening? Do we even build porches large enough to be sat on anymore? Do you even know your neighbors?

    I believe our children have seen this and refuse to buy into our self-deluded fantasy. Our kids see what a mess we’ve made of things with the life we’ve built on our own, so maybe, when given a chance they’ll do it just a bit different. Of course, they’ll never say that.

    Yes, they want to make decisions on their own, without the authority – Mom, Dad, teacher, administrator or police officer watching over their shoulder, but they really want the advice of someone to guide/assist them. They’ve seen a life of solitude and the ramifications of that way of life. Even if it’s Mom and Dad teaming up to become an army of one, it’s still just one against the world. And the emerging generation – they aren’t so sure that’s the way they are going to go.

    In fact, let’s do the polar opposite. And that’s where we find our kids today – incessantly chatting, always online, finding another friend on facebook. The kids today are proving what humans have always known – we were meant to have relationships.

    The problem with far too many of these relationships is that they exist only within the context of cyberspace. Cyberspace friendships are not wrong, but if we spend so much time fostering those relationships, what becomes of the face to face exchanges?

    I had a student last year who was very withdrawn, even in a small classroom. She rarely interacted with any of the other students unless I made her. As I was talking with her one day, she began telling me about her friends in the Philippians and Taiwan. She said she loved the weekends because she chatted 12 – 15 hours per day Saturday and Sunday with people from those two nations. I asked her what was interesting about her friends and she said, “. . . well, they will just chat with me.”

    I went home feeling very sad that day. In my classroom and in the halls of Benton was a girl who just wanted to chat – longed for someone to talk with. She ached for it, yet no one seemed to notice, not even me. From that day forward, we began having daily conversations, yet prior to that day, she had to go half way around the world to find someone who would listen and respond to her. So, how many others are doing the some thing?

    Yeah, our kids aren’t relationally starved. They now have the means to go wherever they need to go – to the ends of the Earth, if necessary – to find relationships. But how sad is that? How many kids walk into their own home and instead of someone talking with them, Mom or Dad text them (I’ve been guilty of that). Do you think that adds a lot to the relationship foundation? How many kids do “their own thing” while Mom & Dad are watching TV or are on the computer? Is that building trust?

    I believe more than anything, this emerging generation wants to connect with others. In the absence of real interaction they will go to the backup plan. (Yes, there are always those exceptions and everyone gets carried with the latest-greatest mouse trap from time to time) But I would bet that if our kids are given the choice between virtual or real relationships they would stop texting for a time and ignore facebook for a while and begin sharing verbally, all the things they couldn’t wait to post as soon as they were able.


  8. Thanks Jaime. You know, the more I think about it the more I wonder how relationship building will differ in 5, 10, 20 years down the road. As we begin to stop playing catch-up and start redefining what “school” looks and feels like, relationship planning is going to have to be one of the pillars that we have to stand on.

  9. K’Lea, you are absolutely right. Asking students the questions is just one of the baby steps. The other crucial things is that we listen AND hear them… flashing back to a movie scene where one actor says, “Look man, you can listen to Jimi (Hendrix) but you can’t hear him. There’s a difference man. Just because you’re listening to him doesn’t mean you’re hearing him.”- White Men Can’t Jump. ANYWAY- Communication is hearing them-
    BTW- you excel at that!

  10. This blog begs to be be discussed because you have written enough to capture interest but have not written so much that you have said all there is to be said on the subject. So, since I am a counselor and relationships are definitely an area of interest to me, I have to respond. I have been thinking about the issue of relationships and the impact technology has had on relationships for a while now. So, in reference to the original question, “Is this generation of youth relationally starved?” And since I hate making broad general statements, I might have to just sit on the fence with this issue and say, “yes” and “no.” To me, it seems kids are becoming more relationally bonded to their peers than perhaps my generation was. I can see many reasons for this. Perhaps the most striking reason is that peer relationships are filling a void that might be better filled by loving, caring adults. As far as technology goes, social networking and texting seems to enhance these types of relationships. (It can also be a pretty potent weapon, but that is a conversation for another day.)

    When I think of starving, I think of those days when I have worked through my lunch. When I get home, I literally stand in my pantry eating handfulls of whatever processed crap I can get my hands on fastest. To me, this is analogous to those students who seem desperate to make connections with people. Some of them make poor choices in who they connect with (like me with a bag of cheetos in my pantry.) Some of them connect with us and we easily connect right back with them and we feel those warm fuzzies inside. Others bug us to death by hanging around our desks and in our classrooms when we need to be busy working on other things. Sometimes these kids drive me crazy but they also make me smile because I see them as the ones with a better chance of surviving. Thank goodness they are chosing us. Thank goodness they are reaching out to make that connection with an adult at school. Those who don’t reach out are the ones that worry me most.

    When Luke spoke of trust, he related that to asking kids what they need and then listening to their answers, and of course this all ties into constructivism. I hope that we can all talk less and listen more in the spirit of constructivism. Sometimes this requires us to un-learn what we think we already know. It always requires us to tend to our fields with diligence and concern.

  11. Wow. This sits me back in my seat a little. Its hard to look the truth this square in the eye. I need to think about this point of view for awhile. But, i wanted you to know that I wrote my post before I read yours and that after reading your post, I am moved but also speechless at the present moment.

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  13. I’m not sure I agree that the fast pace of today’s society, including our turn toward and even reliance on technology as a communication tool, has caused the breakdown. I live in the tech world every day as an educator and leader of other teachers, and it has broadened my own personal learning network, my ability to communicate with my students’ parents, and my communication with my friends and family. Still, though, my family sits down nearly every night at the table together and visits about the day we just had and those things that we’re excited, worried, or wondering about. We can live in the world of technology as a communication tool and use it to foster relationships rather than letting it get in the way of those.

  14. Есть единственный способ удержать
    глупую женщину, если уж тебя угораздило в нее влюбиться. Придумай за нее, чем ей заняться.

    искал тут

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