Today’s Kids: Spoiled Rotten or Stressed Out?

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It seems like just about every day in my Facebook news feed, I see articles about how parents have turned the Millennial Generation into a bunch of entitled, whiny, helpless brats who can’t make it on their own. So-called helicopter parents are ruining their children, so the theory goes, by doing too much for them and making them feel as if they should have unlimited success simply by virtue of their vaunted existence.

I can see some truth to this opinion. As a member of the parents’ Facebook group for my son’s university, I see some eye-roll-inducing questions, such as, “Where can I find the syllabus for my child’s college class?” Hello! You are not in college, dear parent. Your child is. Unless you want to reenact the plot of Disney’s The Goofy Movie: 2, in which Goofy decides to go away to college with his son Max, you might want to loosen the apron strings a bit.

On the other hand, numerous articles, documentaries, and school-sponsored presentations have been warning us parents that we are stressing our children out too much with our sky high expectations. Both my local elementary and high school districts screened the harrowing documentary Race to Nowhere, which posits that we are over scheduling and literally killing our kids (Children’s suicides are described in the film) with our demands that they take honors and AP classes in order to get into the best colleges and universities.

So which is it: coddling or killing? Maybe it’s a touch of both. I do see a lot of children (my own included) not getting enough sleep because of homework and extracurricular activities. Recess seems to be disappearing from elementary schools under the theory that cramming more of the 3 Rs into kids will make them smarter. At the same time, parents are being charged with neglect for allowing their kids to walk places by themselves. In my household, I’m embarrassed to admit, the kids have no routine chores and have come to rely on me for homework help, laundry, rides, money, and just about anything else they might need – with little incentive to figure things out for themselves. In the words of a neighbor’s child some years ago: “26 is the new 21.”

Yet I don’t think our Millennials are doomed. To those who say kids have it too easy and don’t know what adversity looks like, I would invite them to attend a sixth grade class in a middle school. Believe me when I tell you that kids encounter plenty of adversity in their day-to-day existence. And to those who worry we are expecting too much of our kids, I would argue that today’s world is very different from the one in which we Baby Boomers and Gen Xers grew up. More than ever, kids need advanced skills if they are to find a good job and make a living wage.

What I would like to see are forward-thinking corporate and governmental policies that support parenting and families as our nation’s most important assets and hope for the future. Paid parental leave, adequate childcare, health care for all: These are some of the things I believe will help children grow up to be the next “Greatest Generation,” not in terms of being better than previous generations but in terms of having parents who truly cherish and believe in them and expect them to live up to their fullest potential.

 

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