Generation Z

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While paging through the May 2009 issue of Ladies Home Journal, I came across an article titled “Workplace Wars.” The author, Carol Mithers, wrote about the cultural clash occurring between the Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964); Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980); and Generation Y or “the Millennials” (born between 1981-2000.) A small but shrinking percentage (about 8%) of the workforce is composed of the “Matures” (born between 1922-1945.)

Mithers speaks candidly of the various workplace differences that crop up when four generations with very different perspectives of the world work together. One paragraph in particular struck me:

Then there are the Millennials-at a whopping 83 million, the biggest generation of all. Millennials are techno-kids, glued to their cell phones, laptops and iPods. They’ve grown up in a world with few boundaries and think nothing of forming virtual friendships through the Internet or disclosing intimate details of themselves on social networking sites. And, many critics charge, they’ve been so coddled and overpraised by hovering parents that they enter the job market convinced of their own importance. (emphasis added)

The article continues:

Cultures also collide over such basics as how to work, what hard work means and what it takes to get ahead. For people in their 40s and 50s, dedication to a job usually means coming in early, staying late and doing nothing else during work hours. To young workers, who’ve been multitasking their whole lives-instant messaging friends, while watching TV and checking MySpace, all while doing homework-a single focus is a waste of time.

I was born is 1980, and as such skidded into Generation X by the skin of my teeth. I was raised in a rural area on the East Coast that could probably be considered a little behind the times. I was raised in a strong Christian family with my step-father, mom, brother and adopted sister. My step-dad is a carpenter and his hands bear the scars of exhausting hard work. My mom is now an insurance agent, but cleaned houses when we were school-aged so she could be home with us. My parents are extremely hard workers.

My parents modeled tough love, a strong faith in God, integrity, hard work and dedication to the family. I learned a lot from them. Specifically, the high value they placed upon family.

I wonder what my children, and their generation will say about us, their parents? Will they say we were always too busy multitasking to truly pay attention? Will they say we cared more about productivity than people?

I certainly hope not, but I find myself being pulled toward the computer to check my email or update my blog when the kids are awake (I try to save my computer time for nap time.) I find that I get frustrated with all the messes and although I try, it is hard to relax when my environment is messy. Perhaps I value technology and productivity a bit too much?

My other concern is in over-praising or coddling my children.

“…they’ve been so coddled and overpraised by hovering parents that they enter the job market convinced of their own importance…”

In this day and age, technology is so easily utilized, that we have our children’s entire lives recorded in blogs, virtual scrapbook pages, on You tube and dvd recordings. I adore my children, and am so glad that I have blogged about their lives as a way or remembering and preserving our memories…but at what point does it cross the line? Is it possible that in this documentation we over-inflate our child’s sense of worth, there by doing them a disservice when they enter the job market?

I would love to hear your thoughts on Generation Z…what are your hopes and dreams for the emerging generation? What values/beliefs/hopes do you wish to pass on? What would you like to see change? What values from the “Matures” and “Baby Boomers” would you like to see continue in our society?

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10 thoughts on “Generation Z”

  1. Very interesting post, indeed. Before the kids were born, I worked in a high school and two colleges, and thought I might vomit if I had to have one more panel discussion on the damn millenials. :-)

    The helicopter parents are the hardest part. The students couldn’t do anything on their own, and the parents (and child) thought it was appropriate to be on the call with their daughter when speaking to the admissions office…. FOR A DOCTORAL PROGRAM.

    I’m hoping we can swing back away from some of that, though it’s hard to say whether or not we’re actually doing that.

    One thing I do try to work on is, when I praise my kids, I try to make it specific. “Good job cleaning up!” as opposed to “you’re such a good boy!” I think it’s more meaningful if it’s more specific. I also try not to go overboard. I like to acknowledge them for good behavior and all of that, but try not to make a huge deal out of something. Especially as it becomes a more “expected” behavior, I try to tone down the praise. Does that make sense?

    I don’t mean to sound harsh, of course. I think my kids are the coolest/smartest/most wonderful thing there ever was. But I also know that they need to learn *actual* achievements, including both successes and setbacks.

  2. I’ve heard one trick in terms of avoiding over-praising children, which is to acknowledge what they’ve done without actually using any super-special adjectives.

    Like if, say, your toddler comes to you with a craft he’s done. Instead of cooing “Oh, you’re such a good boy! This is so beautiful!”, talk in specifics about what he’s actually done: “Wow, you’ve used lots of colours! And I see two big buttons!”. You’re ackowledging what he’s done — and doing it very deliberately and specifically — but you’re not inflating it.

    (Full disclosure: this analogy came from Pamela Paul’s book Parenting, Inc., which is a must-read.)

  3. Interesting post. I agree that it is possible to over-praise your kids, either out of a genuine belief in their overall brilliance, or out of a conviction that doing so will boost their ego and self-confidence – but I don’t think that using technology like blogs, photos, videos etc necessarily contributes to this. If you are the sort of parent who goes overboard, you would have been that sort in any generation, not that you would have become more so due to technology that facilitates blogging and videos etc. It is a moot point, whether generationally parents tend more towards over-praising or away from it; I personally believe it’s mostly an individual thing which might vary only slightly across generations.

  4. This is a great post that has given me a lot of food for thought. I think I need time to compose my thoughts before commenting. But please know I was thinking about this all night!

  5. I hope to pass on some of the values and beliefs to my kids, that I grew up with. I was born in 1970. No one helped me with homework, I was not in any organized sports unitil age 12. And I turned out fine! I think parents today have a huge and probably harmful tendency, to be way too “hands on” with the little ones, and sweat too much about being involved in too many activities which suck up all the family time and everyone is super busy and super stressed, and QUALITY of life gets lost.
    Back in the old days, kids were PART of the family, not the CENTER of the family. In the child-centered family, the parents are asking for trouble. I try to be mindful of having balance in our lives but don’t always do a good job…

  6. I try to be careful about “overpraising” but sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the little things. I want my daughters to be confident, but not arrogant. I will say that since I work retail part-time I work with a lot of high school and college students who think they’re “too good” for the job. I have a college degree and spent 10 years in a “professional” industry… a small fact which seems to surprise many of these “millenials.” They don’t always realize you do what you do to take care of your family. But maybe I had that same attitude when I was younger, who knows.

  7. I think alot about this, too – glad to know I’m not alone. The town we chose to live in is very family-centered and has terrific schools – some of the best in the country. But what comes with this is a town full of helicopter parents who think the only way children should see one another is via playdates scheduled a week in advance to be sure they don’t interrupt any one of their child’s 5 extracurricular activities. At age 5!!

    The hovering, the over-scheduling and over-praising, the keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ is a bit scary for me. I want my kids to be independent, to play outside, solve their own problems, create their own fun, make their own friends. I fear it will be hard to find like-minded parents here, parents who believe you don’t need to give a kid oodles of “good job”s and “wow, you’re so smart/strong/fast/etc”s. And I really don’t want to spend the rest of my life in some offspring competition. I didn’t have kids so I could compete with a bunch of strangers over developmental milestones and report cards.

    So, I guess my hope is that we can find a happy medium for Generation Z. Gen Y isn’t all bad but there are a lot of aspects I can do without. I would like to keep the technology part though, thanks! (That’s the Gen Y in me talking)

  8. Nicole you have described my living situation exactly…we must live in the same area. I’m older than most moms and I have younger kids. I think about this over praised, over scheduled world constantly. We live on a street where the moms are coming and going so fast and so often that it’s almost dangerous to play outside…not to mention the fact that their kids are NEVER outside playing. I think it’s a status symbol for some to be able to tell other moms about how busy their poor kids are.

    But probably the thing that bugs me the most about the current state of things is the over protected kids. So many times I hear about some kid doing something really idiotic and then their parents defend them beyond all reason. When I was in school, if I did something wrong and the school called my parents I knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the punishment from my parents would be way worse then anything the school could dish out. (Luckily for me I was a pretty good kid…not so with my two older sisters).
    Now it seems that parents go to great lengths to defend their kids when they rightfully should be punished. It’s the case of trying to correct one problem (over punishment) and creating another (no punishment)…with the result maybe being that these kids think there are no rules they need to follow.

    Great post with plenty to dwell on…

  9. This is something I think about a lot. I, too, want to avoid the over-scheduled, over-praised brat syndrome with my kids. My mom and my MIL are both jr. high teachers and they say things have gotten so much worse in the last 30 years. I don’t want to be part of that problem. And I want my kids to be good citizens.

    So far, my husband and I are doing the following with our 29 month old twins to help further that goal. It may be inadequate in the end, but it’s all within our power right now: 1) No TV. I think advertising to kids is pernicious and very hard for a parent to counteract. I also put a lot of stock in studies that link screen-time to attention problems later. 2) No rushing academics. If my kids learn to read in 1st grade (like most of us and our parents did–I was born in 73), I think they will have as much of a chance for success as kids who had flash cards rammed down their throats at age 3. Not to say they get no exposure to numbers or the alphabet, but we’re not rushing it. 3) No rushing sports. I’m not signing them up for toddler gymnastics, soccer, anything. I just want them to play outside and get dirty. The one exception might be swimming, just because it’s a safety issue. 4) Lots of sleep. We don’t miss naptime or bedtime for any reason–if a fun activity is scheduled at a bad time, we just don’t do it. There will be plenty of time for that later, when it’s appropriate. 5) To the extent we can, no nonsense discipline. Tantrums result in being sent to their room or time out. Broken rules mean lost “privileges” (even if a privilege is just not being able to color or get into the sandbox). Later on, they will have chores.

    I know a lot of things will be out of our control really shortly, and I also know how hard it is to keep it going when you’re tired and worn down. I also worry about what goes on in schools. If I had the stomach for it (I don’t), I’d think about homeschooling. I just have to trust that high expectations at home will counteract peer pressure, media influences, etc. and that we will stay strong enough not to cave. In the end, I think parenting this way will make it easier, rather than harder. Fingers crossed!

  10. Wow, what a great post- and such wonderful responses! Indeed, the over-indulgence can be a problem. I was born in 79, in a family with loads of kids, loads of chores, and very little indulgence, so working with a millenial was a big shocker for me. At one job I had we used to stay late one night a week for team meetings to address recent issues that had arisen. We all wanted to just come up with plans to address these issues and be on our way, except for the millenial member of the team. He’d say things like “Why are we here?” and I’d say “To address issue X and issue Y,” to which he’d respond “No, I mean, why are we here on this planet? What is our purpose?” This kid had been way over-indulged.

    My husband was born in 77, and he once told me about a time when he was a kid and having trouble at school. The trouble was not that he had any difficulty learning, or that there was any stress in his life. The problem was just that he was being lazy. His teacher called home and said just that, “S is being very lazy and has to re-do his homework from the last two weeks.” Can you imagine a teacher saying that today? Well it worked, he got back on track when he realized he wasn’t fooling anyone. He never pulled that crap again, and earned his PhD by age 25.

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