As a Parent of Gen Alpha Kids, I Promise: They Are Not the Worst in History
Dennis the Menace terrorized adults in the early 1960s. The kids on "Saved by the Bell" made life for Principal Belding total hell circa 1990. And the Plastics had no respect for authority when "Mean Girls" first came out in 2004. And yet, Gen Alpha — the kids of millennials, born between 2010 and 2025 — is being labeled as the most "defiant, disrespectful, and rude" kids in history.
TikTok creator and teacher Teresa Kaye Newman certainly isn't alone in sharing her opinion that today's youth are "entitled" and "lazy." As she said in a viral post that is meant to serve as a PSA for parents, "Your children are missing the mark on discipline, they're missing the mark on education standards, they're missing the mark on literacy, they're missing the mark on socialization."
I know this TikToker wasn't addressing me directly — but actually, she kind of was. I'm a mom of four Gen Alpha kids, and I'd argue that they deserve far more grace than is being afforded to them.
Here's the reality: today's children aren't that bad. If my Dennis the Menace callout wasn't enough to convince you, consider that since the beginning of time, kids have been testing limits. That's what kids do. And, news flash, kids make mistakes (so do adults, but we'll get to that in a moment). First, I want to point out the biggest difference between Gen Alpha and previous generations: nowadays, if a child is rude or misbehaves, we can always rely on someone to shame them or their parents on social media.
Kids need compassion, not condemnation.
We can also thank social media for pressuring our kids to live up to impossible standards of perfection that don't even exist. I mean, I'd implode too if my whole social standing revolved around whether I had a Stanley water bottle at the age of 10. Can we really blame kids for feeling overwhelmed by all the lofty trends they feel they need to adopt just to fit in? From endless makeup tutorials to body ideals that aren't attainable for 99 percent of young people, to shoes and clothes and accessories you'd need Kardashian money to afford, Gen Alpha is just trying to keep its head above water (a recent warning about the impact of social media from the US Attorney General confirms that). Kids need compassion, not condemnation.
I'm sad to think that anyone who had the luxury of growing up pre-pandemic, and before school shootings were monthly occurrences, would turn on today's kids. The stress and lack of stability these kids deal with on a daily basis is unimaginable for those of us who remember life before cell phones and, gasp, the days when you couldn't skip commercials.
Speaking of parents, we're facing unique pressures as well. Aside from our own unhealthy relationship with social content, raising a family has never been so expensive. My husband and I pay more now for our home, heating, electricity, food, cars, and healthcare than ever before. Like many Americans, we are a two-income household, and having to work long hours can mean less time to spend with kids doing homework or eating dinner as a family.
But like generations of parents before us, we are trying our best day in and day out. Many of us strive to raise our kids to be respectful and hardworking, and I assure critics out there that I know a lot of truly amazing young people at my kids' school, on their sports teams, and out and about in our community.
A final word on the topic: I also feel for teachers. Like today's kids and parents, they are dealing with their own set of unique pressures. From attempting to get students' attention in a world saturated with viral content, to overcoming learning loss from the pandemic, to coping with their own fears about school violence, you have to admire the many dedicated educators doing their part to help raise responsible, kind, caring, and ambitious citizens of the future.
The takeaway here is that these kids do exist — we just need to look a little deeper at each individual and the challenges both they and their families face, rather than denouncing an entire generation in a six-minute TikTok.