The world is in an interesting place on many fronts, including the transformation of an entire generation of millennials (18-34 years of age) and the kids who follow. While being credited for the technological shift in communication and media (going from printed newspapers and transistor radios to social media and cell phone cameras), one of the challenges today's millennials face is social and personal responsibility.
Academia has certainly contributed to what is now known as the "Cupcake Generation," a generation of young people who want their "cake and eat it too." They are being described as "self-centered narcissists" whose "mommies gave them everything they ever wanted," without any accountability or responsibility.
This is a generation where no one has to truly compete and in the end, everyone's a winner and medal recipient - all in favor of not hurting anyone's feelings, making anyone feel rejected or a "loser," and making sure everyone "feels" like he/she is a winner.
While this sounds good on the outside, it is detrimental to this generation. Adversity forges character. And while no one wants to go through challenges, let alone wish some of our experiences upon our children, we are raising a generation of wimpy, self-absorbed children, who believe they are victims when their feelings get hurt or their ideals questioned.
These are the same kids who barely pass high school, yet are given scholarships to institutions of higher learning, only to leave college $50K in debt with a worthless degree and no life skills. Many of them are forced to return home and live with their parents, simply because they are clueless as to how to survive on their own and compete with adversity.
Employers are struggling to hire a new generation of hard working, responsible, respectable, and professional work force simply because they hardly exist.
Parents who hand their children everything without cost or consequence have created this generation of entitled individuals who feel they don't need to contribute to society, but expect society to provide everything for them.
We see this in the growing number of people going on welfare and taking advantage of government assistance. One 24 year old, single mother with 3 kids, told a Chicago reporter, "Why should I go to work? I get free food, low rent housing, charity assistance, and free education and a monthly paycheck that is more than I would make working at McDonald's."
Without regard (let alone gratitude) to the hard-working taxpayers who ARE working and paying taxes so she can get all those benefits, this young woman is a fine example of what is wrong with the Cupcake Generation.
And parents are not the only ones at fault.
The government has increasingly aided in giving life to this generation's entitlement mentality by increasing welfare benefits, fostering a civil society of disrespect for elders, cops, military, and anyone who disagrees with their points of view. The Cupcake Generation is set up for failure and demise.
Technologically savvy, this generation is sadly void of interpersonal skills. Their so-called friends are nothing more than Facebook or Twitter acquaintances, with whom they communicate via online messengers and texts in the wee hours of the night. They are not prepared to have their feelings hurt or to be told "no," because they have been protected and pampered most of their lives.
Ask one of them, and they will deny their inability to carry out healthy relationships, hold a decent job for any period of time, or compete in the professional marketplace. Why? Because in their eyes, they have always been told how wonderful they are. They have always had everything handed to them for free. They feel they are victims in most circumstances and blame everyone else for their problems. They are vocal and opinionated, often without filter or tact, yet cry and pout when their own feelings suffer a blow.
While these are sobering and harsh realities for this generation, it is time they take responsibility for change. Instead of relying upon others, including the government, to take care of their needs and wants, this generation of millennials need to look at the generations before them.
Forged in the fires of adversity, men and women of the Greatest Generation (World War II and Depression survivors) knew how to survive and thrive in spite of their circumstances. They didn't have boxed Pillsbury cake mixes or prepackaged suppers. They didn't have robotic laundry facilities or microwaves for speedy cooking. Everything was done with laborious effort!
While I am all for technology and the amazing advancements made in that realm, I am also all for going back to the basics and teaching this generation what is truly important, such as interpersonal relationships with people who are not a virtual avatar on some social media account. Teaching our children how to actually take ingredients and make them into a meal rather than search the freezer for a frozen heat-n-go dinner, reading a book rather than being glued to an electronic device, and exploring artistic endeavors that enhance and foster talent rather than filling in a virtual coloring book on an iPad, are all so important to reversing some of the damage we have created with this generation.
What seemed like a means of protection and done with best intentions is now proving to be detrimental to their success. We are the generation who created this mess and we have to be the generation to correct it.
Here are a few tips to implement right away:
1. Have a technology fast - designate at least one day a week where everyone gives up technology. No cell phones, televisions, game consoles, iPads, NOTHING! Get a box and collect all devices in the morning and keep them stashed for an entire day. You'll soon realize how addicted everyone is by their inability to act normal and the constant whines, begging, and pleading for you to put them out their misery.
2. Create alternative activities - join in family activities that requires everyone's participation. Whether it is reading a book together, having conversation about a specific subject, going on a family outing, hiking, or cooking together, make this time of interactivity focused on building or enhancing relationships with one another.
3. Learn something new - often children don't realize they're interested in things such as gardening, astronomy, history, writing, acting, carpentry, mechanics, cooking, sewing, quilting, artistry, or other activities because they've rarely been exposed to this activity. Once tried, often they discover a passion and interest they didn't realize they had. Or at the very least, they learn they don't like something and cross that experience off as a lesson learned. But, learning something new is adventurous, inspiring, intriguing, and often a memorable experience for all.
4. Volunteer and serve together - giving of your most valuable asset, time, is a great way to help this generation see what responsibility is really all about. When their only idea of what homelessness looks like is a weathered old drunk sitting on the side of the street with a shopping cart, they'll never hear the stories of how he got to that place. Often by volunteering at places like a homeless shelter will give them exposure to stories that will leave them inspired, engaged, and realizing how very blessed they are, all while teaching them how to give and serve others without expectation of something in return.
5. Communicate - have conversations with one another. Learn what makes this generation tick and engage in activities that not only expose them to another realm, but also participate in activities that they may want to expose you to. After all, learning from them is as equally important as teaching them your values. You may find they share the same ideals but simply communicate them differently.
6. Stop handing them everything and setting them up for failure - when I was 15, I knew getting my driver's license was just around the corner, and I anxiously awaited for that moment. Knowing I would want a car of my own, my parents and I had a discussion. They told me that I would have to work and buy my first car with my own money. They offered to pay for the insurance (because it was cheaper as part of their policy than to get one on my own at that age), but gas, maintenance, and everything else was my responsibility. At first, I thought it was harsh. But, I did just that. I worked hard and saved $800 to buy a car from my uncle. I loved that car and I took great care and responsibility with that car, largely because I knew how hard I had to work to pay for it. This lesson taught me the value of a strong work ethic, and I will pass that same value on to my children so they appreciate what doesn't come freely.
And to those who are part of this Cupcake Generation, I say, now is the time to make a change. Even if you weren't raised in a family that required responsibility or accountability, it's time you realize your future is going to be faced with many challenges, and you are not equipped to handle what life will throw your way. Therefore, it is vital to your own success that you reach out to mentors and the generations before you to learn from their failures and successes, values and ethics, in order to prepare yourself for reality. Otherwise, you may face reality like a head-on collision, and you'll be the casualty.
You may think you have it all figured out and together. But, trust me when I say, you don't! We all thought that same thing at your age, but looking back, I guarantee everyone will say we didn't have a clue!