It makes me feel old to use the phrase "kids today" (I'm 33) but I'll use it anyway...
It seems to me that many (not all) kids today don't have any work ethic. I started volunteering when I was 4, working when I was 12, went on the books when I was 14 and I was working full time by the time I was 17. I worked some crap jobs, but I did what needed to be done and I didn't bitch and moan about it. It was what was expected. In my last office job, I managed the interns and wow! let me just tell you that I've never worked with a group of people who were more lazy and who had a higher sense of self importance than these kids. They were absolutely shocked that they were expected to work during their (PAID!!) internships. And, not only work, but do crap work too. I usually had to fire at least one/semester before they learned. And I'm not a bad manager. I'm not one who thinks that interns are crap and should be stuck in a corner filing all day. I went to great efforts to ensure that they got to work on cool projects. However, if grunt work needed to be done, they were expected to do it. Immediately and without complaint (at least within my hearing). I had interns flat-out refuse to make copies for me and bind presentation books. They were given a choice which they had 5 minutes to consider: Start making the copies or start packing their desks. It was pathetic. And I blame their parents for not teaching them better.
My cousins are a prime example of how bad parenting can ruin kids. I have 2 cousins, ages 13 (K) and 15 (S) who are just horrible. They've gotten better over the years, but they're still mostly horrible to be around, and their parents admit it. One is lazy, whiny and a big cry baby and his father (J) coddles him and gives him everything he wants because he doesn't like confrontation. For example, the older boy (S) refuses to eat anything but fast food, preferably McDonalds. During holiday meals he'll throw a fit if someone doesn't bring him a happy meal and will refuse to eat. So, instead of letting him go hungry, my cousin (J) drives over to McDs and gets him what he wants. Every time. Now me, my response would be: "this is dinner. If you don't like it, don't eat, but this is all there is today so you won't have anything until tomorrow if you don't eat now." It will only take a couple nights on an empty stomach for them to learn to eat what's given to them. The girl, (K), is a consumer goddess. This year for Christmas she got a $500 Coach purse...along with about $1000 worth of other crap. Now I ask you, what 13 year old needs a $500 purse. When I asked her, she was happy to inform me that this was her 4th purse. She also has a Gucci, a LV and another Coach that she'd gotten for other presents. All told, she probably has $3k worth of bags...at 13. Since my cousin J works as a delivery driver, I have zero doubt that he's gone into serious debt to finance this crap for her.
It drives me nuts. Seriously nuts.
I spent a year as an au pair for a family in Switzerland and it just amazed me to be around those kids. They had rules and followed them. They were expected to play outside with their friends, not sit inside and watch TV. In fact, they were only allowed 1 hour of screens (TV, game boy, computer, etc)/week. If they wanted to watch more, they could earn it by doing extra chores, reading a chapter in a book, doing pages in school workbooks and other things. They received an allowance of 5 CHF/week which they could save up to buy something special if they wanted (computer/game boy games, etc). For a special treat (happened 3 times in the year I was there) they got McDonalds. Every other meal (except for maybe 2-3 that I remember) was eaten at home, at the dinner table, with the entire family present.
Now, I'm not saying they were perfect. They had their whiny moments and their just plan PITA moments, but so do all kids. But I was never embarrassed to take them out in public. I knew I could go to the store, to a museum, to the park with them and they'd behave. And if they didn't, we went home and they lost their screen privileges for a week. The problem is, it took effort to get them "trained" that way and many parents don't have the time/desire/knowledge to put in that effort.
Many in my generation grew up as latch key kids, eating dinner alone in front of the TV with minimal parental supervision...so should it be a surprise that we don't know how to be good parents? One of the best things that happened to me was working for that family because I saw a different way to raise kids and manage a family and I liked it and intend to follow it if/when I have a family of my own.
Anyway, this became kind of a rant, sorry. As you can see, it's something I feel strongly about because it's ruining our kids and the future of our country. If you raise a generation of kids who won't work, who's going to manage our future?