The Problem with Millennials…

A couple weeks ago, as we were driving home from who knows where, my daughter started a conversation with me about millennials and the unfair treatment they receive in the media and the greater society. The impetus for this discussion was a spot run by the morning radio deejays in which they spent their air time slamming the entire millennial generation. I had heard the radio spot that morning, but as with much of what the morning deejays say, it only registered as background noise.

The truth is, the deejays were not being very kind in their talk about millennials, which seemed odd since this generation likely makes up at least a portion of their listening audience. The gist of their discussion centered on how millennials have become notorious for being lame and useless, lazy and entitled, and living in their parents’ basements. The deejays claimed these young adults don’t want to work; they whine all the time; they expect rewards for showing up; the list goes on…. The deejays even had people calling in to tell their own stories of dealing with this particular group of individuals. To be blunt, the feature was rude, and demonstrated more about the adults who were perpetuating the generational stereotype than it did about millennials.

My daughter then raised an incredibly insightful point. “Mom, it was your generation that made millennials this way. Your generation was the one that raised us and gave out the trophies. You can’t now blame millennials for expecting to be rewarded.” This parenting truth of is one I see played out often as I go about my job, a job that involves working with millennials.

[Let me briefly say, I am not now—nor have I ever been—a helicopter parent. I have increasingly allowed, encouraged, and even required my children to make their own decisions and to take responsibility for those decisions. Have I failed in more ways than I’d like to admit? Absolutely. But I would definitely not be considered a coddler.]

Perhaps my own aversion to coddling is due to the fact that I have been working with young people in one capacity or another for most of my life. I have dealt with more parents than I can count, and I have seen parenting behavior that makes me cringe. Every now and then, I experience parenting that is worth writing about, but I usually keep my thoughts to myself.

But on this day as I drove, my daughter’s words hit me as the raw truth. We cannot expect children or young adults to behave in a way that we have not trained them to behave. If we have done everything for them and constantly protected them as they have moved through the world, of course they are going to wind up back in our homes where they feel protected, comfortable, and … well, at home. And then there’s the fact of the frightening economy into which we are attempting to launch these newly minted adults—many of whom are already drowning under the weight of student debt.

So for a moment, think back to your own youth. Remember when you were a teenager, and your parents—their friend, the world, etc.—complained about you and your friends? When I was a teenager, we (as a group) were supposedly lazy and mooched off our parents. Sound familiar? Maybe young adults haven’t really grown lazier and less motivated, but adults simply need a place to lay blame, and throwing young people into one stereotypically lazy group is easy.

What would happen if we started treating kids as individuals rather than lumping the entire generation into one humongous group? Maybe the fundamental problem with millennials is not millennials, but rather our attitude toward them and our lack of expectation for them. Perhaps, we have forgotten what it is like to be young and floundering as we pursue our dreams. Perhaps we have forgotten that with increased responsibility comes increased independence, and we fail to give kids enough responsibility to facilitate positive growth and development. Most importantly, we have forgotten that when we are senior citizens, today’s young people will be our surgeons, our lawyers, our politicians, and the creative minds that will effect positive change in the society.

So it is my belief that young people need two things: opportunity and mentorship. When I was young and just starting out, someone had faith in me to do a job and to do it well, and they gave me a chance. [As I look back, it was more like a string of someones who recognized that I was good enough, smart enough, skilled enough to do the job.] We owe it to these kids to give them the same chance to prove what they can do.

As a teacher, I have experienced the incredible passion, determination, eagerness, and conviction that millennials possess. Take a chance on a young person; reach out and offer your support. My guess is, they may need some encouragement and guidance along the way (as we all do), but there is little doubt the time you take will be worth it.

{Photo illustration by my amazing daughter}

15 thoughts on “The Problem with Millennials…

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting! I consider myself deeply fortunate to be so immersed in this generation, both at home–with my own three teenagers–and at work with other people’s children. 🙂

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  1. I am in my mid 40s with no kids. My nephews are not typical because they both have serious mental health issues. I’ll admit that my husband and I have complaints about how our friends raise their kids (“helicopter parents”), but it is not fair for us to judge. I do have to say that based on what I see on TV and how they are portrayed in the media they do seem to have negative attributes. But I suppose when I was their age I had my fair share, too. However, I will say that I was much more independent than I see the youth being.

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    1. This generation has grown up in a different world than we did. They can do many things without leaving their homes. When we needed to do research, we had to go to the library. When we applied for a job, we showed up at the establishment. Now, these things are done from home, and this is where good mentorship comes in. Even though you can apply for a job online, you will increase your chances of getting the job if you show up and introduce yourself. Parents, mentors, etc. can easily encourage greater independence. However, I also want to point out that in my work, I see a great many young people with full time jobs to pay their way through college, and they are also contributing financially to their families and giving back to their communities in one way or another. Some are even more independent than their parents. From what I see, I believe the future is in good hands. 🙂

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  2. What a brilliant post and I agree with Zachary above, very well written. As a mother of 3 young adults daughters, I agree with everything you touched on. I will look forward to reading more of your posts, Tracey 🙂

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  3. Excellent thought piece. I am a 58 year old Baby Boomer with no kids but I do remember my Dad singing “What’s the Matter with Kids today.” My parents were born in 1930 and survived the Great Depression, WWII and Jim Crow so in some ways I guess I did drive them crazy sometimes but they were never coddle me nor my brother and my brother has Autism. We both had household chores, were expected to behave properly but most of all we were trained. We had to be neat, clean, polite to our elders and respectful. Even after I got out of the Army I had to go get a job. My Dad purchased interview clothing for me but there was no way he was gonna allow me to lay up in the house being lazy. I was spoiled in the sense that I did not have to pay rent but I was expected to contribute to the household in other ways. Children that don’t have any “Home Training” are going to be out of control. What you allow will continue. I used to work the day shift as a museum guard and parents/teachers let their kids do all types of unacceptable behaviors in the museum then look at the guards funny or get angry because we won’t allow little Susie/Johnny to paint the Picasso! Rude kids are products of their parents. Now I work the night shift so I don’t see these Trust Fund Babies. Some people are just birthing little Freddie Krugers, Jasons and Chuckies into the planet. When my nieces and nephews (cousins) were little and I babysat them I was kind and indulgent in many ways but they also knew not to cross that line with me so they did not. At least I can say that before my parents died they told me how proud they were of me and the woman I had grown into. How many parents will be able to say this on their death beds if those spoiled brats even bother to take care of them when they become old, sick and infirm. Something for parents/guardians to think about.

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    1. It is definitely a very different world than it was when we were growing up. Kids need to have very clear boundaries–and there need to be consequences for when those boundaries are crossed. We cannot expect our children to be productive members of society if they have never been productive members of a family or a peer group or a school group. This is the foundation for everything else in life. Thank you for the very insightful comment!

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  4. I think the real problem is that people constantly label each other as something and then feel entitled to judge the other person based on said label. The problem is not how millenials are and it’s also not how the previous generation “not trained” them (as far I know millenials aren’t a dog breed but ok). The problem is that people always feel the need to trash others for no good reason. Shitty ass Dj’s have nothing better to do than to spread crap about a whole generation (which is the biggest one right now and there’s nothing they can do about it, not that they’d ever want to) and some kids feel entitled to blame the previous generation as a means to fend off the shit talk. All the DJ’s do is talk. They don’t attempt to make the millenials or the world better or do they? They might as well just go and drown themselves in the river because they’re useless just like their pointless morning show. It’s true, the talk really does reveal more about the trashers than those whom they attempt to trash.

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