How is this generation of adolescents different?
The mere mention of the word “millennial” carries such incredibly negative imagery: struggling young adults, crippled by laziness and entitlement, fighting stagnant battles in virtual reality in their parents’ basements with little motivation for the battles that really matter, in the outside world. It’s particularly debilitating imagery for young men in late adolescence, because it carries a sense of hopelessness, an expectation of failure. Men in our society, despite the millennial imagery, still have their worth measured in terms of financial success and ability to “provide” for their families. When they fail to meet that societal demand, we assist them in their failure by scoffing at the ridiculousness of the millennial generation.
Yet, where did this entitled, lazy generation come from – and do they exist at all? I suggest there is some truth to the notion, but it is limited, and it comes from a loving place. A generation of parents focused on supporting their childrens’ needs, ambitions, and interests, and strove to provide them with opportunities that the parents themselves wished they had been offered. This quest has sometimes led to excess and has fostered entitlement. More often, however, I see a generation desperate to please their parents and society and yet not knowing how to accomplish that. When they were bullied as children, they dutifully followed parental instruction and reported it to the appropriate authority figure. When they couldn’t get a math problem right immediately, they sought help from the appropriate math tutor. They not only held Mom’s hand when crossing the street, they stayed entirely inside fences to play, wore helmets to do anything, and backed away from taking any otherwise normal risks. That translates into a lack of ambition during the cusp of adulthood, and it delays the conclusion of adolescence.
As to the extent of their existence at all – allow me to extol the virtues of the millennials – indeed, to provide a defense of them – in my next entry. Assuredly they are capable, intelligent, and have unlimited potential…but we have to help them recognize that even an uphill climb is not insurmountable, and is assuredly worth attempting.