The Entitled Generation

A lot has been written about the millennial generation: they’re spoiled, entitled, soft, unable to deal with simple social situations, etc. A with any stereotype or generalization, there is a kernel of truth in what they say.

Statistics and studies are beginning to detail how this generation has a higher incidence of depression and social anxiety. Simon Sinek recently pointed to one that showed more and more millennials are taking leave from college due claiming depression. In fact, the millennial generation is on track to have the highest percentage of members with mental health challenges. You have to stop and ask why. Why are so many millennials so unbalanced?

It’s a complex issue that has no simple answer.

Helicopter Parents

My generation, Gen X, is the generation that bridged the ‘simpler times’ of the Boomer years and the social media/internet generations of the millennials.  We were the first generation to grow up with home video games, home computers, cable television, and the internet. The technological expansion really exploded as we entered our teenage years. MTV was a staple in our lives and we had computer classes that went beyond playing Oregon Trail in the back corner of the classroom.

As these things became more pervasive in our lives, materialism started to take over. Designer clothes and shoes became status symbols. We all saw the shiny objects and started pestering our parents for them. Then, as we became parents, we wanted our kids to have the things we never did.

The same goes for kids’ activities. After schools sports, dance classes, scouts, etc. were privileges when we were growing up. Most families in my neighborhood had their kids enrolled in maybe one activity. Today, kids’ activities drive the family schedule. Not only has the number of activities kids are involved in exploded, so has the cost. More and more time and money are being required by these activities just to belong and participate.

In order to afford these things, and to provide in general, parents are working longer and harder to “keep up with the Jones’”. Combine that with an overwhelming activity schedule and it’s no wonder the disconnect between kids and parents is wider than ever.

Entitled Little Shits

Now, if you listen to the millennial generation, our generations, Gen X and the Boomers, are responsible for everything that’s fucked up in their lives.

As with 99% of situations, there’s more than enough blame to go around.

Kids today can get nearly everything instantly via the internet 24/7/365. Want to see a movie? Download or stream it. Same with music, no more trips to the record store. Don’t want to wait for the next episode of your favorite TV show? Binge watch! Forget going to the store for something you need, just order it online and get it delivered same day via Amazon Prime.

The millennial generation has lost the appreciation of delayed gratification. If they can’t have it now, they don’t want it. If it takes sustained effort, they quit. If life presents a challenge, they crumble.

A society of instant gratification has produced a generation that ‘literally can’t deal’.

Back In My Day…..

When most of my generation was growing up, our neighbors had the same social status as our family did. We wanted the cool toys, but also understood that they were expensive. Eating out or even runs through the fast food drive through were treats, not regular occurrences.  Prior to cable TV, our knowledge of the world outside was limited to how far we could ride our bikes or visits to where our relatives lived.

Today’s kids literally have the entire world in the palms of their hands. Combined unparalleled access to the entire world with instant gratification and what can you get?

A generation of entitled little shits.

Now, to be fair, not all millennials are this way. Yet, to be realistic, there are enough so that this will be the defining characteristic of their generation.

Kids today see what everyone else has and the ‘perfect lives’ of their peers in their Instagram and Facebook feeds. This can cause them to feel that their lives are  lacking and that their parents are depriving them of a ‘normal life’.

Stories abound of kids losing it because their parents won’t buy them the expensive car for their 16th birthday or the newest iPhone on the day it’s released. Some of these stories have made their way to viral videos on the internet or, in tragic cases, to the nightly news reports of kids becoming violent and even killing their parents over such trivial things.

More and more the millennial generation sees their self-worth being measured in likes, shares, clicks, and comments. The prevalence of social media is creating a narcissistic generating lacking genuine self-worth and instead living on borrowed confidence.

What’s A Parent To Do?

So, how does a parent counter the entitled narcissistic behavior that seems to pervade their child’s generation?

  1. Say No Without Explanation
    We’re working longer and harder than our parents did. A life of high stress and overwhelming exhaustion makes it seem like giving in to your kids is easier. It may be in the short term, but in the long run it teaches them that they can wear you down to get what they want. Also explaining undermines your authority by indicating a parent’s decisions are open to debate. You’re the parent. Period.
  2. Teach Them Life Isn’t Fair
    Because of social media, our kids see what everyone else has and if they don’t have it or can’t get it they claim that life isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair. Teaching them that they don’t automatically get what ‘everyone else has’ is hard but necessary. Keeping up with the Jones’ reinforces instant gratification and diminishes their ability to be grateful for what they have.
  3. Hold Them Accountable
    The biggest challenge is accountability. They’re responsible for their actions and their choices. Absolving them or minimizing the consequences only teaches them to be feel more entitled, like the rules don’t apply to them.
  4. Teach Them To Apologize
    Another difficult challenge. When everything is everyone’s else’s fault getting them to understand and accept that their actions hurt other people is challenging. Teach them empathy and underscore the lesson that they don’t get to define whether or not they hurt or insulted another person.
  5. Be Consistent
    This is hard for any parent and for our generation it can be a damn near impossible task because of the millennial attitude toward authority and experience. Therefore remaining consistent can be a huge struggle and the temptation to let things slide to maintain the peace may seem an attractive option. As a result you end up undermining your own authority because at times there are no consequences. This is one I struggled with most of all during my time as a single parent.

Parenting In The 21st Century

The gap between generations has never been larger. Our generation is a bridge generation and, like most of the world’s infrastructure, we’re being stressed to the point of failure. To all you parents out there struggling with raising entitled or narcissistic children know you’re not alone. We can and will get through this together.

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