Today’s Generation Gap: How Will Today’s Children Cope?

How do children learn to cope with the ups and downs of life?  They learn to cope by experiencing the good, the bad and the consequences from an early age.  They learn from having to find their joy in situations that are less than optimal.  They learn from parents who tell them to figure it out.  I am concerned about this generation’s ability to figure it out, to see the bigger picture and to cope when the rest of the world doesn’t care about their likes, dislikes, successes and failures.  In generations of the past, we were not taught to expect other people or institutions to bend to the will of the individual. Today, many parents seem to choose trying to make each child happy all the time over teaching them the life lesson of coping with all that may come.  If childhood prepares you for a tougher adulthood, what will happen to children who didn’t have to figure out their way through their desires or needs not being the center of everyone’s universe?

From the time I was young, I remember my parents telling me to find the best in situations that I didn’t enjoy.  My mother loves to tell the story of when I was in 2nd grade and had a teacher who didn’t groom in a particularly American way - She didn’t shave under her arms.  I had never seen such a thing and it upset me.  I vaguely remember also thinking she was mean but I focused on her personal habits.  I told my parents that I couldn’t go back there.  I was determined to quit school.  They told me that I could not quit school at that age or for that reason and I had to make the best of it. I found a way to survive by focusing on other positives like my friends and my good grades.  I learned to find the good.  Today, the school would have received a phone call from a parent wanting their child’s class changed or the teacher directed to groom differently.

I remember being taught to speak respectfully to authority when I disagreed and to listen to their response.  When I was in 7th grade, I received a grade that I thought was either wrong or unfair.  My parents told me to speak with the teacher.  I groaned.  My father told me to respectfully ask if the teacher could explain my grade.  He refused to call the school.  He told me this wasn’t his grade and I had to learn to do this because someday I could have a boss that I needed to speak to about my work.  He told me to look at it like practice for being an adult.  Today, parents of college students are calling professors to complain about their children’s grades. 

In the past, parents who hovered or who spoke for their children were called overbearing, overprotective, over-the-top.  They were “over” the bounds of where parenting should go.  Today, they are called helicopter parents as if they merely hover.  They don’t just hover.  They set up an unrealistic viewpoint of the world.  Please prepare your children to be responsible for their own peace of mind.  Teach them that a positive outlook has to come from within.

The world is not a kinder, gentler place than in the past.  It is, in some ways, more competitive and pressure filled.  By never letting children be disappointed, sad, frustrated, upset, bored or suffer consequences, they will not be ready for adulthood.  The symptoms are already among us. I have a colleague who calls today’s teens “Generation Entitled.”  Bad news, kids.  The world owes you nothing.  You are in charge of your happiness and unhappiness.  You have to figure out how to stand on your own two feet in a world that doesn’t really care about your comfort and preferences.  I only feel badly that so many of you weren’t given the opportunities to figure out how to cope, accept and find the best in situations from the time you were very young.  It would have been so much easier for you….

This article is the 4th in a series about Today’s Generation Gap.  Click on the titles to read past articles:

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