Millennials seem to have a bad rap. Many, especially baby boomers, tend to say they walk this planet with a sense of gotta-have-it-now entitlement and a lack of work ethic. They’ve also been referred to as lazy, addicted to social media, and carefree. But is this really the case, and if so, is it their fault? In my opinion, millennials didn’t really have a choice. They were born into a “everyone gets a ribbon” world and they’ve always been taught that it’s okay to lose, as long as you tried your best. While trying your best is a childhood lesson that should be instilled on all the youth of America, I believe that taking away that burn from losing, or not coming first, did a disservice to these children (now young adults). Millennials were also brought up to believe they should “follow their passion” and that they could “be anything they wanted to be”, which again, is a great lesson to be taught under the right circumstances. But, telling children they can accomplish “whatever they put their mind to” isn’t great advice unless you’re willing to back that up by coaching them to see the value in hard work, putting them through the school of hard knocks, forcing them to earn what they want, and teaching them that sometimes you do fail.
Are the parents of these millennials to blame? I don’t think so. It seemed to be a “thing” or a “trend” that parents were following lead by child psychologists, daytime TV, magazines, and talkshows such as “Oprah” and parents were just doing what they thought was best for their kids. Parents of millennials wanted to put their children in a protective “bubble”, never allowing anyone to hurt their feelings or make them feel “bad”. Of course we don’t ever want our kids to feel sad or bad, but sometimes there are life lessons that come from skinning your knee or being pushed down by a mean kid at school. With all that being said, I don’t think anyone “messed up”, however I think it put these young adults in a situation where they have a lot of catching up to do.
It’s funny, because I’m sitting here writing this thinking, “…By definition, I AM a millennial”, but when I compare myself to other millennials, especially those much younger than me, I see many trends and personality traits that I somehow don’t have. I don’t think I personally am the “typical” millennial kid, but don’t take that as an arrogant thing to say. I have my own faults and things I wish I did differently growing up, but I just don’t see myself sharing many of the traits I’ll mention in this article. So do you want to know what I REALLY think of millennials, the traits they possess, and what I think they need to do to get “caught up”? Read on.
Millennial Traits Explained:
1. Millennials Want Everything RIGHT NOW! Yes, they do, but they’ve grown up that way. This generation grew up with personal computers, Google, internet, and mobile phones. My goodness, they CAN get everything right now! This is great because they’ll never have to visit a library ever again, but it also means they have no idea how to use a glossary or table of contents of a book, the Dewey Decimal System at libraries, or how to appropriately craft a “works cited” page for their research papers. How do you explain to a millennial that Wikipedia is not legit? They don’t get it! Believe me, I saw this first hand as a middle school teacher.
2. Millennials Want a the Dream Job STRAIGHT Out of College. Their parents told them, if you go to college you can do anything you want. Yes, this is pretty true, but something crazy happened between the years that their parents went to college and these millennials did … everyone started going to college! Now a college degree is the norm and you need to have A LOT of extra stuff outside of just having that degree to look appealing to companies who are hiring. Gone are the days of breezing into your favorite school or job because you have a 4.0 GPA. Aside from excellent grades, extracurricular activities, volunteer hours, sports, band, musicals, languages spoken, and academic teams are becoming requirements to get into colleges and universities and more importantly, to get that “dream” job. While in college you must study hard, get good grades, continue with the liberal-arts lifestyle, and oh yeah, you need to find a way to get (say it with me) “work experience”! Yes, you must actually prove that you can get, hold, and keep a job before companies are willing to offer you one. How do you go about doing this? You work! You take time away from hanging out with your friends and you replace it with a crappy, pay-your-dues kind of job. It’s not always fun, but it gives you experience OUTSIDE of the classroom, which is invaluable in this day and age. The real world is REAL and it will come knocking, so as millennials (and parents of millennials), it is in our best interest to get our ass into a part-time job and get some experience!
3. Millennials Are After the “Experience” (and I don’t mean work experience). As I mentioned before, this generation was brought up where the losing team still gets a trophy and that it’s the “experience” that mattered most. This is not always the best approach. Kids need to learn that failure is a part of life and I believe the earlier we squash this, the better. When I look back at my own life, I think I’ve learned the most from the times I’ve failed and felt really terrible about it. I recently read a book written by an author whose father asked her on a regular basis, “What did you fail at today?”. It seems odd because we so often want to ask our kids, “What was fabulous, fluffy, and beautiful about your day?”, but when we challenge them to tell us about what they struggled with or failed at, it makes the conversations a little more meaningful and allows for more teachable moments. The real challenge here is not for the child, in my humble opinion, but it’s for the parent who needs to be ready to handle whatever the child is willing to throw at them and use it to demonstrate how the child can use this experience to handle other adversities in their future – a real parent is courageous and willing to do this, a scared, lazy, absent parent would shudder at the thought of this conversation.
4. Millennials Communicate With Their Elders in An “Open” Dialogue. I’m not really sure when this happened, but “respecting your elders” somehow became uncool during this millennial time. In fact, the “elders” (or parents) seem to want to be seen as “cool” and therefore started becoming more open to discuss all areas of life with their children, even areas that used to seem taboo. Our kids now know when we need a cup of coffee, are on our periods, had a bad day at work, or even want or NEED a glass of wine. Kids are drawing pictures of mommy holding a martini glass or drinking her “mommy juice” because they see it and talk about it first hand. Since when was it acceptable for our kids to know EVERYTHING about our lives? It’s not. I believe that this open dialogue is what is hard for the baby boomer generation wrap their head around. Gone are the days where we don’t sass back to our parents or curse at them, if you’ve ever seen any of the troubled kids on Dr. Phil, you know what I’m talking about. Blame it on social media, blame it on our children having access to our lives like never before, but do keep in mind, as you’re sharing something intimate or personal with your child, that it could be influencing their decision making and life choices as well. And finding humor in our bad parenting choices, is not always funny.
5. Millennials Feel Entitled. Reality shows like “My Super Sweet 16″ or “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” may have helped millennials believe that they too deserve the trendiest clothes, the best makeup, the sexiest cars, and the wildest parties without ever “earning” them. I mean they deserve it right? Their parents work hard so they can have this nice stuff … yeah. Many millennials travel the world and “experience” life before they’ve even gone to college – how do they pay for it? Their parents! I get it, many parents of millennials grew up during tough times and they want to provide a better life for their own children; as a parent, I really do understand this. However, millennials these days tend to live rich lives on a very broke budget – they have the newest iPhones, clothes, gadgets, fake boobs, computers, Playstations, etc. but have never had a job! Ask them about their resume and they have NOTHING to show. Ask them about work ethic? They don’t get it! They know their parents work hard, but that’s about it, they haven’t experienced it for themselves. While parents are busting their ass to provide for their kids and trying to do the “right” thing, it’s actually backfiring them and teaching them the complete opposite lesson! And we sometimes wonder why our kids don’t “take care of their stuff”, well, if you aren’t personally invested in something, it doesn’t have as much meaning. Make THEM work for it and they’ll be singing a different tune.
The points I make here are not to degrade millennials or parents of millennials, as I said before, I, myself, am one (by definition). After years of experience as a middle school teacher, personally knowing a lot of millennials, and becoming a parent myself, I’ve experienced many of these traits first hand. I can honestly say that millennials are really an awesome generation of people. They can grasp new ideas and concepts faster than any other age group (my toddler son can attest to this) and they can build and create new, great things more efficiently than any other demographic. They definitely have the world in their hands, but they also have a bad rap – but that doesn’t mean we can’t easily take some steps to rectify our reputation. I believe we, as millennials and parents of millennials, can readjust and quickly see some drastic improvements if we are willing to step up our game, take life into our own hands, and get a little fire under our ass to prove all the nay-sayers wrong.
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Great points Sara and well written.