“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” – George Orwell
Disclosure: I am part of the Millennial Generation (or Gen. Y) – (Born between late 70’s and early 90’s)
When I have serious discussions with friends and family members who are part of the Greatest Generation (WW2 era: born between 1901 and 1945) they will occasionally blame the Millennials for the majority of the problems that are occurring in the world. They say that it is our inability to have common sense when it comes to savings and decision making. This seems to be a common concern among older generations. There is a lot of truth to this way of thinking, but I think that it needs to be analyzed deeper.
This recent financial crisis has been a slap in the face for my generation. Many of us have come out of college and cannot find a job. It has been a shock because we have always had a system where we could continue on to the next step with minimal effort. That is not the real world. The world will knock you down and keep you down if you don’t work hard and take responsibility for yourself. Our parents (Baby Boomers: 1943 – 1960) may not have been the best at teaching us that, but it is simply generational. Their parents were extremely hard on them about being frugal because they had been through the Great Depression. They saw how bad things could get and wanted to prevent their children from experiencing the same struggles. However, as with most situations, when a child doesn’t appreciate a certain aspect of how they were raised they vow to never do that to their own children. The result seems to be that they were too lenient. It was not a mistake they could have predicted, but problems did occur. No one should be pointing fingers because everyone did what they thought was best for their children.
“Each generation wants new symbols, new people, new names. They want to divorce themselves from their predecessors.” – Jim Morrison
The Millenials have been raised as a generation of tolerance and enabling. We are rarely shown the dark side of life. Our culture continues to transition into this way of thinking where kids cannot lose in sports or get bad grades. C is no longer an average grade. Teachers are forced to change their grading curve because parents become angry with them. This is the way that our generation has been raised. Our parents thought they were doing what was best for us by protecting us. Unfortunately, it just enabled us.
On the flip side, through the protection and love that our parents provided for us, they have created an extremely compassionate generation. Millenials want their job to be more than just about money. They want a cause or a purpose to work for. It was very difficult for our parents to determine the impact that their parenting style would have on us.
However, it is time for the Millenials to step up. I am not sure if this financial crisis had enough of an impact on our psyche to change the cycle, but I hope that it did. Either way, it is time for us to stop making excuses. We can no longer hope that someone is going to hold our hand through life. We need to take responsibility for what we do. That applies in all areas of life: how hard we work, how we treat people around us, how we take care of the environment, etc. The world does not revolve around us anymore. It is harsh but it is true.
I think the WW2 generation has it right to some extent. Our generation has made a lot of mistakes that we are not trying to take responsibility for. But that is the way we were taught so I don’t think it solves the problem to point at a single generation. The major mistake would be to not learn from the past and let the cycle continue.
It is time for parents to give tough love to their children. It is time to show them that you can lose and the world is not a perfect place that will always take care of you. Let your child get last in sports or get an F in class. It may cause TEMPORARY pain for them, but it will teach them a far more valuable lesson in the long run. We always think that these small activities that our kids take part in are just small parts of their lives but that is their WHOLE life. The only world they know is sports, school, birthday parties, friends, etc. That is why they are so devastated when they lose, fail, don’t get picked, or aren’t part of the “cool group.” The parents that allow their children to go through these situations and teach them how to cope with the big problems in their lives are setting their kids up for success. They are teaching them to deal with what seems like huge issues in theirs lives before they are actually huge issues. Allow them to learn these skills when their world is still small. Don’t protect them away from this vital skill. Would you rather have them learn this when their whole world is marriage, mortgage, careers, and bills?
I understand that the financial crisis and many other issues that are world faces run far deeper than this one issue of enabling. However, this is a major contributing factor and will continue to grow, if we don’t do something about it. Each generation needs to do their part to learn from the wisdom and mistakes of those that came before them.
“We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or to make it the last.” – John F. Kennedy
Greatest Generation: Give the Millenials some slack. Please be willing to see that our current situation is in some ways just a result of parents trying to do what they thought was best for their kids.
Baby Boomers: Give your kids the tough love they need if they are a millennial that hasn’t grown up.
Millennials (myself included): Stop blaming others or the system for your failures. We have been enabled our whole lives. Rise to the challenge and show that through our creativity and compassion, we can do incredible things for this world, if we are willing to put in the effort.
Do you think that Gen. Y needs to be more responsible? Do you think the Baby Boomers need to give more tough love?