Cummings: Parents create selfish millennials

Kelsey Cummings

More than two-thirds of students paid for their Spring Break trips this year, according to a March 20 article on the Iowa State Daily’s website. Instead of asking their parents to pay for their week of fun, students worked overtime and saved up enough money to foot their own bills. At a time when today’s young people are being described as dependent, careless and “helpless,” this statistic seems to contradict some of those strongly-held beliefs. Perhaps this generation isn’t as helpless as previous generations seem to think.

Though a couple years old, one Huffington Post article laments the loss of the independent person, an argument that is still made today. Many, including the woman who wrote the article, believe that today’s young adults are spoiled by technology’s instant gratification, making them lazy and unwilling to work to the same degree as previous generations. However, this writer mentions one factor many others fail to point out: parents. As parenting styles have shifted from teaching to “hovering,” the millennial generation (those from about 14 to 34) has taken the brunt of the blame and the consequences.

As stated in the article, new dangers that have arisen from our changing society have grossly enhanced parents’ protective natures. But being constantly protected has put millennials in a dependent position, one that’s not easy to get out of if neither party changes their behaviors. Yet parents are unwilling to take some responsibility for their children, choosing instead to complain about youth antics and how the millennial generation has fallen so far from the one before it. Parents need to instead focus on how to help their children become less “helpless” rather than focusing on the fact that they are.

Though any number of factors could have contributed to the alleged selfish, demanding personalities of today’s young adults, some common factors include parents sitting in on their child’s job interview or doing their homework, allowing children rewards and praise without work, and letting them be too unrealistic when it comes to their wants. Despite what some parenting manuals may say, it’s OK to let children fail sometimes. Family psychologist John Rosemond said, “We need to let our kids fail at 12, which is far better than at 42.” Letting children make mistakes and work for themselves is one of the key components in instilling that self-reliant attitude that many parents aspire to teach.

But all these concerns that older generations are raising — Will millennials be independent enough for the workplace? For the real world? Will they lose face-to-face connectivity and communication skills? Will they make it in today’s economy? — are all valid and worthy of address. Millennials need to take charge of their futures just as much as their parents need to allow them to do so. Becoming independent is perhaps one of the main milestones college marks and without that skill young people will fail to survive in the real world. But in order to get there, more than one generation must make a change.

It’s apparent that at least some of today’s young people are making an effort to adopt an independent lifestyle, starting with making enough money to pay for their own Spring Break trips. And while that may be a small start, for many it’s a needed start to get their lives on a more productive and adult-like path. Others have been living independently for a while, paying their own apartment rent, getting jobs and even starting new families far removed from their current ones. The millennial generation cannot be generalized under one stereotype, nor should it be punished as one.

It’s not uncommon for older generations to complain about the antics of the younger. But it’s also not uncommon for the older generations to also be somewhat responsible for the younger’s antics as well. Just like the conservative silent generation had a hand in the radical, hippie lifestyles of many baby boomers, so do millennials’ parents have a stake in what happens to them. It’s not enough to merely recognize that one generation might be different from the next, but each generation must seek to understand the other and the relationship between them. Because is it truly fair to berate the millennial generation for being helpless when it is not completely their fault for being that way?