TODAY contributor Amy Langfield recently reported on a new study, which describes the current generation of high school students as materialistic and unwilling to work hard. The study compares the values of today’s teens with those of the baby boomer generation (those born 1946-1964) when they were teenagers. However, according to the study, the baby boomers may be to blame for the attitudes of today’s teens because children learn about the value of a dollar from their parents… And their parents are the baby boomers. The study even states the boomers are responsible for “creating a culture that breeds narcissism and entitlement.”Ouch.
As I read this article and pondered the statistics, I have to admit, I wasn’t surprised by the results. I’ve worked with hundreds of teens over the past ten years, and many do seem to harbor the attitude of “the world is my oyster and I don’t have to lift a finger to be successful.” While parents have an important role in shaping their children’s moral values, society is also quite influential; the study claims economic situations, media, and political messages play a substantial role. In my professional opinion, this multi-faceted blame game makes perfect sense. We live in a society that lives and breathes ease and convenience. Fast food, fast cars, technology and gadgets abound. With a simple finger tap on our fancy phones, we’ve paid a bill, said “happy birthday” to mom, and ordered cupcakes for the third grade picnic. And of course today’s teens don’t work as hard as the baby boomer generation; it’s just not possible because time doesn’t stand still. Many of our teenagers today can’t walk to school because it’s too dangerous, and even more can’t find part-time jobs because they’re all taken…. by their parents, or their friend’s parents who were laid off and can’t find real work due to our economic climate.
And what about those of us who don’t yet have teenagers? What will happen when we have teens? Will the trend continue, with adolescents becoming increasingly greedy and lazy? By gosh, I sure hope not. Hope, however, is not enough. As a parent, it’s up to you to instill personal responsibility in your children. Parents have little control over larger factors, such as the economic and political climate of society, but you can suffuse personal responsibility in your children, and you can start today. Research shows the number of choices young children are asked to make directly correlates with their level of responsibility in adolescence. So instead of saying to your child, “Gabe, put your coat on,” ask Gabe if he’d rather wear his red coat or his blue coat. Give him the chance to make a decision and trust in himself. It may seem trivial now, but when your child is faced with important, life-changing decisions in adolescence, he’s more likely to make a solid choice if he feels confident and capable due to a childhood filled with making up his own mind. And as a parent, when your child becomes a teen, you’ll trust him to act responsibly (most of the time) and you’ll spend less time arguing because the choice will be your teen’s own decision instead of a demand you forced upon him.
So will the next generation of teens continue down the path of materialism and gluttony? Not if I have anything to say about it. What do you think?