re: Are we raising a generation of helpless kids?

As a short response to your question: no you are not, but your negativity is not appreciated.

Born in 1994, I am on the tail end of the millennial generation and I’m proud of it. I’ve grown up with the internet (though I still remember the obnoxious sounds of dial up) and the only dial phone I ever used was a toy. My parents had cell phones for most (all?) of my life and I’m currently on my second iPhone.

My generation has been called many things, among them: narcissistic, moochers, spoiled, and lazy—Time Magazine even blames us for stores opening on Thanksgiving. I won’t deny that those traits exist in my generation, but I would argue that they exist no more than in any other. I have seen all of these traits in the generation before me, and I expect to see them in the one after me.

People are people.

Generational classifications offer a way to discuss what people as groups experience as they take on the world. However, it also acts as one more way for us to put each other into boxes.

The idea that an entire generation is helpless is inane.

This article talks about a girl who melted down over a C- on a test, resulting in her mother demanding to speak with a teacher. To pretend this kind of behavior is wide spread is sensational and, quite honestly, cynical.

If we are going to base our assumptions about an entire generation on a single anecdote, let’s take my first failed test. In sixth grade I got 40% on a spelling test and, believe me, I was not happy. I cried to my mother who responded, “Well, I guess you’ll study harder next time.” I went on to get an A in that class.

Throughout my time as a student, I have been expected to take responsibility for my own grades and schoolwork. My parents would only look over papers if I asked them to and never offered to do my homework for me—I can’t even imagine what they would have said if I had ever asked.

I’m not trying to say that my parents took no interest in my education. They attended parent teacher conferences and gently reminded me to keep doing my homework when I got caught up in Project Runway marathons.

In a long tradition of putting down the next generation, millennials are just the most recent disappointment. It is easy to make sweeping statements about large groups of people—especially when we are not a part of them.

Goodman’s article includes a tidy list of where our parents went wrong. The first is telling children to dream big, something my parents told me. My dreams got me pretty far. I go to my first choice school for my first choice profession, and I work hard to achieve my dreams.

My parents never pretended my life would be easy. They never told me I could make it without capitalizing on family connections. I do not pretend my success did not come without a certain amount of luck and help from my parents.

All of that does not make me, or my generation, helpless. It makes us people. Some of us are helpless, some helpful. Some of us are kind, rude, or mean-spirited. However, constantly hearing how lazy and helpless we are only makes succeeding that much more difficult. Even in the face of this kind of negativity, I, along with many others from my generation, will surpass succeeding and thrive.

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One thought on “On my generation’s reputation

  1. Ms. Goodman’s anecdotal broad-brush is obviously ill-informed. Her “sources” are other unscientific opinion pieces, including one that traces back the supposed advent of “helicopter parents” to a solitary event. There are differences in the generations. We learn differently, and we certainly socialize differently, and these differences can be, and have been, scientifically demonstrated. But to claim one generation is lazier (or more hard-working) or less self-reliant (or more so) than another, only serves to echo opinions espoused by my parents’ generation about mine, and probably my grandparents’ about my parents’. Your generation is likely to do what mine and those before mine have done: bump around in the dark, getting some things right, and some wrong, and then one day, your generation will look at the generation to come and think “Wow, they are so ill-equipped.”

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