There’s little more that puts a smile on a parent’s face than when their child finally admits to them “You were right.” As children, especially teenagers, we’ve all been through this. In fact, for many of us our parent(s) flat out told us “You’ll thank me one day.” And depending on your level of immature youthful angst you muttered something under your breath as you walked away or you instinctively knew they were, indeed, right.
But for most parents, the day of reckoning usually doesn’t come until well after their child has moved out, married and had kids of their own. Then they realize for example, “Oh that’s why Dad got so ticked off when I left the lights on.” Which is something that I realized and admitted to my Dad several years ago and a reality my brother has since discovered now that he has kids of his own.
Though my son has yet to understand why lights left on or dishes left out can push a variety of buttons, he inadvertently admitted something to me that he learned while taking a leadership class. As it turns out his generation can easily be called “The Special Generation” since apparently the up and coming generation that will soon be our leaders think of themselves as something special.
I could have told you that years ago just by my own observations. But now today's leaders are teaching even warning future leaders about some obstacles they will face which includes dealing more or less with an attitude of entitlement by their peers. There are many reasons for this, one of which I blame on passive parenting – something I have previously written about. When I asked him why his generation feels so special he emphatically said “Because you let us do whatever we wanted.” It was said with a smile and without blame. But he was right but also wrong as I told him “Not me!”
But the fact is, kids these days clearly have a sense of superiority. Studies are starting to flow in on the effects of Facebook and I believe with the invention of MySpace and now the world domination of Facebook (Google has recently thrown its hat into the ring) teens and young adults have an increased sense of “I matter” because their entire lives and opinions are open to, well, everyone. Perfect strangers become “friends” these days when in the past it would have been “Nice to meet you” and both parties would have parted ways and in many cases never seen each other again. Today, they are added to a list of contacts that only further emboldens a false sense of belonging and relevancy.
The erroneous sense of adulation social networking has provided coupled with a passive generation of parents has only created this false sense of specialness. Believe me, I am no model of expert parenting as I went along with the teenage birthday parties that rivaled that which an eight year-old should only get or being an active human ATM machine every time money was needed. I somewhat successfully ended that after a year or so. But as I watched parents act more like buddies and pals to their children rather than offering discipline and direction, when necessary, I began to wonder if I was off the mark.
I personally struggled with filtering what worked and what I didn’t think was necessary in my own upbringing. I’ll readily admit my generation’s parents were much harder working and exemplified what it means to save for a rainy day forgoing the need for unnecessary luxuries. I’m not so sure that’s the case today as I have scratched my head countless times wondering how long people can play “Keeping Up with the Joneses.” This mentality no doubt trickled down to the household children who, in turn, played the same game with their friends, often succeeding at the game because of the “generosity” of their parents which only exacerbated their sense of being something special.
I was never brought up thinking I was something special. Now, I believe all kids, adults too, should feel special but there is a big difference in feeling special and thinking you’re something special. As the year progresses, I’ll be interested to hear how one member of the Special Generation deals with other members of the Special Generation. Despite whatever trials and tribulations my son will be dealing with as his “specialness” clashes with the “specialness” of his peers, I think in the end he will end up feeling more special because hopefully he’ll learn he’s not something special.