Last Sunday on “60 Minutes” a segment aired about a new generation taking over for the baby-boomers, called the “millennials.” These are the young people born between 1980 and 1995 who grew up raised by doting parents who said they were “special” and “unique” and “winners.” They belonged to little league and soccer teams where there were no losers and everyone got a trophy. In their family, they came first. Allowances were automatic and expected. They are tech-savvy and texting, and they have all the toys.
Now they’re coming into the workforce, bred to be praised and not able to take anything but “yes” for an answer. Corporations want them for their technical knowledge, but they have to bend to keep them. They can’t tell them they have to live & breathe the company, can’t say they’re disappointed when they’re not up to snuff. Instead, management is being told by the corporate gurus that they need to talk to them like therapists– no harshness, just supportive. Stay late or work weekends? Forget it. Give them lots of praise and “perks”: Parties and tchotchkes and food, games and activities. Let the work days be arranged around their other commitments. Don’t enforce dress codes. They grew up with the expectation that they will always win, they will always be rewarded– even just for showing up. There’s no more “gotta pay your dues.” There are more jobs on the street now than young people. If they don’t like your tone, they’re out of there. Too many rules? They’ll walk.
And it’s not as if they’re stressed about paying the rent or mortgage. Half of college seniors today move home after graduation, so it’s easy to opt out of a job they don’t like. The shame of living at home in the old days doesn’t exist anymore. Parents are agents, phoning HR about evaluations, etc. It isn’t unusual for kids age 26 still living with their parents.
A representative of the millennials spelled it out bluntly. “We’re not going to settle like our parents. We’re going to keep trying new jobs, 3-4 a year, until we get it right.” They live in the fantasy of the dream job, and the firms scramble to come up with ways to keep them. The teeniest rewards given by companies pay big dividends. And the kids expect to be able to wear what they want—piercings, exposed tattoos—and instead of authoritative figures teaching them the realities of the world out there, the figures themselves are accommodating the kids. Rewards, rewards, rewards.
It’s a perfect storm we have created to put these people in a position where they suddenly have to perform as professionals and haven’t been trained.
The story was discomfiting. I consider us a good Latter-Day Saint family– (FHE, daily prayer, doing something churchy at least four days out of the week– but we’re also a very permissive one, and it makes me wonder if the more restrictive ways of the old-style family is the “right” way, or just the way it was.
My wife and I have one child, age 11. She has a phone, she wears Abercrombie, she takes piano, karate, cotillion and three different kinds of dance classes. She usually gets the DVD she wants when it’s released, is allowed to stay up as late as she wants on weekends and has never been grounded. Fact is she’s usually hard-pressed to get a “no” out of us. On the other hand, she’s an “A” student, never whines about having to do something, earns her allowance, is polite to parents, considerate of her peers and never disappointed us with her choices or behavior (barring a momentary sulk about a tiff with a friend). She asks for blessings, doesn’t have to be reminded to pay her tithing, bears her testimony unprompted and is usually correcting me.
I know it sounds like I’m trying to paint my daughter as the perfect child, but she isn’t. She wears her heart on her sleeve and can be pretty obnoxious when she’s feeling daffy.
Actually, I had very permissive parents, too– more so than my wife & myself– but I think a lot of that has to do with me being a boy and the world in which we lived. I took buses from East Millcreek to downtown Salt Lake at 12, just to hang out, and during the summer my parents didn’t care what time I came home as long as I never brought angry parents, a trashed car or the police. I could illustrate further how felonious my parents were, but suffice it to say they were a lot more permissive than I’ll ever be.
The thing that troubles me is, my daughter seems to be on the course she should be, but will that sour when she turns, say, 14 because we weren’t more restrictive in her younger years? Like a beanpole who suddenly becomes fat after years of McDonald’s. I would think by now I’d see forebodings of that hell spawn. So far, so good…
For what it’s worth, I asked her today what she thought about everyone getting a trophy regardless if they won or lost. She said that was the dumbest thing she ever heard. *sigh*… You know what, Dad? You’re doing okay.