How extraordinary that these oh-so-familiar words – “When I was your age” – now have a completely opposite meaning! There was a time when parents often exhorted these words to induce guilt, motivation, and/or reason in their children to excel. Today’s generation of parents is the first perhaps in history that can’t realistically expect – across the entire generation – that their children will do better than they themselves did. That is a powerful statement, but I believe it to be true to the core of my being!
My parents completely expected me to do better than the one-year of college my mom completed and the high school diploma my dad received. My parents expected me to graduate from college, and pursue something that might involve using my brain instead of my hands, as my father had done his entire life. My parents expected me to make much more money than they did, though they knew inherently that money was not an end in and of itself OR that money was any assurance of happiness.
I hope my children come close to the “success” I had in my life (professionally). I hope they do much better than I did when it comes to their family lives. And, in my fantasy life, I hope they do much better than me on both fronts. But, I’m a realist and the world is a more difficult place than it was when I was their age: in almost every way.
Getting into college didn’t require a 4.5 GPA, an off-the-charts SAT score, and lettering in multiple sports, along with numerous charitable activities in my day. I went to schools with grades from high school and a SAT score that wouldn’t get me in the front door of consideration today.
By the time I entered college, at the tender age of 16 (another story), I already had several jobs, from newspaper boy to camp counselor. I had a savings account full of money I had earned — NOT only from birthdays and my Bar Mitzvah — which is the only source of savings my boys have so far in their lives.
I had NO adult competition for all the jobs I had during the summers between college. Now, the line of adults competing for minimum wage jobs is literally unprecedented. The word “outsourcing” didn’t exist when I was a young adult. We actually manufactured things in the United States, and China was a very poor communist country in constant turmoil, and Detroit made the best cars in the world.
My older son, at 20, has had a handful of short-lived jobs. He was a delivery boy at a local pizza joint. He had a few “day” jobs at college, helping with Open Houses and such. He also got the run-around, in truly unprofessional ways, from several places that promised to hire him. One of these was a franchise and I was so incensed that I contacted the head office to complain.
How do our kids apply for a job today: mostly online. How much feedback do they receive on their applications? You know the answer: none.
Are there creative ways to find a job in today’s economy/job market? Of course there are. But, are all our kids “creative” and as assertive as is needed today? Do many of our kids have parents that might help them “get in the door?” Sure, some do and those will have a leg up on many others without such access.
Couple all these changes with how we boomer parents have raised our children and how our society and government have changed, and it’s become a recipe for failure. Boomer parents have raised a very spoiled generation of kids. Our government doles out “entitlements” on mass levels that are also unprecedented. When JFK notably said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” in his inaugural address, that was the sentiment of the time.
Can you imagine ANY politician saying those words today, let alone a Democrat?
So, our kids face a tougher economy, a tougher time getting into college, and a tougher job market — BUT they are raised to believe they deserve IT ALL. This is completely counter-productive to their best interests and sets them up for disappointment and failure.
Add into the mix the proliferation of drugs – the legalization of marijuana and its increased potency – and you have another deterrent to our kid’s successful futures.
A final thought. Did you know that something like 85% of college grads come back home to live after college – for extended periods of time? Did YOU know any friend that came back home to live after college, except for a visit?
The world is indeed tougher. We parents are not helping our kids by coddling them. They need to know the harsh realities of today’s economy and the sooner we teach them, the better.