Millennials often receive the brunt of many jokes. They’re entitled and opinionated. But the first valid question is, are they, and second if they are, what made them this way?
There is a plausible explanation for nearly everything on this planet. Sure, there is always the exception, and odd occurrences will happen when the stars align. Nevertheless, we learn from a young age about cause and effect. Unfortunately, many times we search for details of what happened after the fact. Sometimes it’s natural because the cause can only be determined after the effect is presented. Yet, determiners often reveal themselves throughout the process with a blind eye turned to them. Keep this in mind as we thoroughly assess the burnout generation, Generation Y, otherwise known as millennials.
Millennials get a consistent lousy wrap from the media and generations that preceded them. They’re lazy and too sensitive, they say. This generation, those born between 1981-1996, are viewed as wanting the world, often having larger-than-life dreams but not willing to work for them. So the question is, why are they viewed in this light? Well, let me start by saying I am a millennial.
I think I have tendencies from several generations, but by default, my status as a member of our society is millennial. Of course, that doesn’t define who I am, but it gives people a general sense of what to expect from me as a person, considering my era. After all, the time period you’re born in, whether you’d like to admit it or not, plays a tremendous role in your life’s journey.
There’s always a sense of “my generation had it harder than, or is better than yours,” from previous generations. Some of it is pride. I mean, who wants to believe their generation is worse off than those from the past. Especially considering, generations should learn from the mistakes of those before them.
A topic of discussion for another time is why so many adults take pride in “having it worse” than other generations. Why is there a sense of pride in your upbringing being much harsher than your children’s? Isn’t that how it should be? Shouldn’t you do everything in your power as a parent to ensure your child has a better childhood than you did? But I digress.
Either way, perception is often reality. Millennials are perceived as wanting everything handed to them. Why? Is it because many of them receive participation trophies as kids? I believe awards should be given to those who’ve earned them by going above and beyond. There is a struggle, though, because you don’t want to make any child feel less than.
This is frequently where the disconnect between generations lies. Many baby boomers and even Generation X members believe millennials, and now even Generation Z members, are too sensitive and emotional. The problem is, years ago, many parenting styles were insufficient, or even worse, cruel. Many children were abused throughout the mid 20th century, and a supreme awareness or care of adolescent psychology wasn’t prevalent.
Remember, each generation dealt with different issues than the one before it. In this way, we’re not pointing fingers at baby boomers, rather, discussing why parenting styles became the way they did during that time. After a string of many wars in the United States, the country had an industrial boom, and many parents began to work. For some families, it was the first time a mother worked a job. The reality of both parents working long hours to barely scrape by was evident and left many children, baby boomers, home alone to fend for themselves, having to grow up rather quickly.
This type of home environment had pros and cons. The pros are simple; children often had to learn how to become productive members of society without hand-holding from their parents. This gave them a sense of freedom, one not typically seen in younger generations. The cons were that, well, providing an immense amount of freedom to children can be dangerous. The key is finding a balance.
As we further examine millennials, we must ask, what hand were they dealt? Much of them had more tightly controlled upbringings than their parents, but not in the way you may think. Many baby boomers would say their parents were much sterner, and they would never get away with some of the things children do nowadays. That may very well be the case, but millennials were watched more closely than any generation before them in many respects. Think about it, programs like D.A.R.E., which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, were forced upon many millennials.
Terms like “stranger danger,” which refers to the potential that any stranger could be dangerous, became prevalent in the 1980s. Moreover, many millennials parents faced rising inflation levels and couldn’t provide the same quality of life they had growing up. The response? Well, let’s just say many parents started prepping their children, millennials, for their future earlier than ever before.
You’d see parents training their kids to play a sport at 5 in the morning, hoping they’d become professional athletes. The majority of parents repeated this process academically, constantly pushing their kids and letting it be known that anything short of straight A’s in school was unacceptable. The focus shifted from enjoyment to accomplishment. Many parents did so out of fear. Fear that their child wouldn’t make it as far in an ever-growing and more educated world. Statistically speaking, a bachelor’s degree in the 1990s meant more to employers than it did in the 2010s due to sheer numbers.
But the expectations were set, and many children, unfortunately, never met them. Large in part, millennials were and still are judged on how far they’ve gotten either academically or in their respective careers. Part of millennials burning out stems from this feeling of never being good enough. It also stems from the advent of social media, where people constantly compare themselves to others and feel they can’t escape from it, which is a topic in and of itself. Still, many millennials collectively judge themselves by how their peers view them or how productive they can be, not the life they lead or their character due to this pressure of expectations.
Once again, it’s not that it was their parents’ fault, as they, too, were dealt a specific hand and had to make do with what they were given. Yet, there comes the point we must stop in our tracks, take a step back, and reflect on the generational cycle. If all we ever do is compare generations, nothing will change. Also, if all we say is, “well, every generation endured different problems,” the cycle of competing and comparing generations will continue.
What our society needs to do is better understand each generation. Take some time and do your research before making a backhanded remark about a baby boomer at a family dinner. Before you allow yourself to automatically think every generation after you had it easier, try to understand them and the societal issues that plagued their lives growing up. Take the positives from each era and put them together. After all, we should learn from our mistakes. Understanding starts with compassion. Please give a little to your fellow human because regardless of generations, we’re all just that, human.