Children These Days

Stop me if you’ve heard this rant before:

“Ugh…children these days are so spoiled!  They have no respect for their elders and spend too much time on their smartphones and iPads.  They’re getting pregnant and doing drugs.  They lack discipline, and it’s all those participation trophies and weak parenting that’s to blame.  These kids need a good spanking!  Back in my day, if I stepped out of line, my dad would give me an ass whuppin’!  And I turned out better for it!”

Sound familiar?  I’ve heard this quite a few times, or at least some version of it.  The basic gist of it is that everything was so much better “back in the day”.  You’ve probably heard this mentality before.  Maybe you’re even one of those people who have this mentality.  If that’s the case, then I have some unfortunate news for you.

The facts don’t support it…

One of the biggest components of this mindset is, of course, a perceived epidemic of rebellious behavior.  And while yes, the purpose of the teen years is to push the envelope in a sense, most of the time what people are talking about are drugs, alcohol, and sex.  But the thing is, kids these days are far less likely to do any of these things than they were back in the “good ol’ days”.  According to an article by the New York Times these types of behaviors have been declining for decades.

Some interesting numbers for you:

  • In 1980, about 60 percent of high-school seniors had tried marijuana and roughly 9 percent smoked it daily.  Today, only about 45.5 have tried it and only 6.6 percent smoke it daily.
  • 72 percent of high-school seniors in 1980 said they had recently consumed alcohol, whereas in 2011 that number had dropped to a historic low of only 40 percent.
  • In 1988, half of boys aged 15 to 17 had experienced sex.  By 2010, that number fell to 28 percent.  Same goes for teenage girls, dropping from 37.2 percent to 27 percent.

In the end, what this all means is that the story of an out-of-control generation of kids just isn’t accurate.  In fact, according to the research, today’s kids are better behaved then their parents were at the same age.  But the real question is why?  Why are kids these days so different?  What shaped the changes in their behavior?

Well…there’s no easy answer.  Like everything in life, the reality is that it’s a complicated issue.  The New York Times article points to some helpful possibilities:

“The last three decades have included a rise in the drinking age to 21; a widespread fear of H.I.V.; and legal challenges that stymied tobacco marketing. And while cellphones and Facebook have created new ways for teenagers to stir up trouble, they may also help parents monitor their children.”

The article also points out that today’s teens still found ways to rebel with things like sexting, but still reasons that every generation is subject to harsh scrutiny by the previous one.  And I think that’s the important lesson here, that every generation thinks they know what’s best and that the generations after theirs obviously don’t know what they’re doing.  In all this fear about smartphones and iPads, we forget the fact that the science simply isn’t there yet.  We dismiss the fact that some of the science even says that these things have beneficial effects on kids.  Because, clearly, we know what we’re doing.  Our way is the best, and damn every other way.

But, if I may, I would like to point to a possibility not raised in the New York Times article.  I would like to suggest that maybe part of the reason children are better behaved and generally more responsible may have to do with moving away from one simple thing: the idea of corporal punishment.

I can hear the protesting now.  “But I was spanked and I turned out just fine!”  Maybe you did.  Maybe you’re a perfectly fine, functional human being.  Or maybe it affected you in ways you can’t really see or understand.  I talked a long time ago about corporal punishment, and I’m going to link you to the same article I used back then.  As it turns out, spanking your kid may have detrimental effects on their brain development.  As the article says, “the sad irony is that the more you physically punish your kids for their lack of self-control, the less they have.”  Most people assumed that spanking led to compliance in children.  But that’s not necessarily true.

“What is spanking associated with? Aggression. Delinquency. Mental health problems. And something called “hostile attribution bias,” which causes children, essentially, to expect people to be mean to them.  This bias makes the world feel especially hostile. In turn, children are on edge and ready to be hostile back, ” the article says.

I’ve felt for a long time that spanking was more for the parent than it was for the child.  Think about it for a second.  What’s easier?  Getting to the root of why your child is misbehaving?  Or simply trying to beat it out of them?  Parents are human beings too, and sometimes they don’t have the time or the patience to deal with a child that’s acting out.  In such situations, it’s very easy to turn to the physical approach because it seems like it has immediate beneficial effects.  But, as the science says, there may be a lot more going on underneath the surface that we can’t see or understand until it’s too late.

Let me be clear, I’m not doing this to crap all over the previous generations.  My generation is old enough that I’ve noticed people my age donning the same mindset.  I’ve even caught myself doing it every once in a while.  Like I said before, every generation thinks they know what’s best and are afraid when things start to change.  I think it’s worth understanding that every generation sees the world a little differently.  And I think it’s worth remembering that it’s not necessarily a bad thing…just a different thing.

No one is perfect.  Children are going to act out in some way or another.  But that’s just part of growing up.


Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week.

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here or follow me on Twitter here.


Is the “Millennial Problem” Really a Problem?

Millennials, am I right?  Those dang kids and their digital screens and their vidya games and such.  It’s all terrible.  Everything’s terrible.  Society’s going to hell in a hand-basket.

Oh please, enough with the doomsday speak.  Baby boomers were once called the “Me generation” and got accused of giving rise to a culture of narcissism.  Sound familiar?  Gee, it’s almost like every generation thinks the generation after theirs is entitled and bratty.  How about that?

These days it’s all about the “evils of technology”, like in this article from the New York Post.  It starts with a story about Susan and her six-year-old son John.  She starts letting him play Minecraft (OH THE HORROR) and eventually it takes over his life to the point where one night she finds him in bed playing the game in a near catatonic state with bloodshot eyes.  The article goes on to talk about how technology is dangerously addictive, yadda yadda loads of fear mongering bullshit.  I’d just like to point out the obvious here and say that the article has ABSOLUTELY NO CITATIONS aside from a link at the end to buy someone’s book.  You’d think with all these amazing studies totally proving their point that they’d actually be able to, I don’t know, LINK YOU TO THEM.

My favorite line from the article has to be this: “Yet even if a child has the best and most loving support, he or she could fall into the Matrix once they engage with hypnotic screens and experience their addicting effect. After all, about one in 10 people are predisposed towards addictive tendencies.”

I can’t be the only one that found that funny, can I?  It’s so ridiculous!  Of course it’s not the mom’s fault for being a pushover and letting her child continue to use it even though she has serious concerns.  Obviously it’s the technology.  Technology is the devil.

But what really confused me was the ending to this story, which reads “Four years later, after much support and reinforcement, John is doing much better today. He has learned to use a desktop computer in a healthier way…”.  Wait what the hell?  You just spent an entire article telling me about how technology is sucking kids into the goddamn Matrix, but then at the end technology is okay as long as we use it in sparing amounts?

You literally called it “digital heroin”.  YOU LITERALLY CALLED IT “DIGITAL HEROIN”!

Okay, now that I’ve gone completely off the rails, let’s start again.

The whole anti-technology thing is just one complaint people make about the millennial generation, which is also my generation.  We’re supposedly lazy, entitled, and narcissistic.  Yet somehow, we also have a serious problem with low self-esteem.  Huh, I thought that whole “narcissism” and being entitled thing meant that you had an inflated view of yourself.

But hey, what am I saying?  It’s not like there’s this pervasive culture of older people who constantly like to complain about-

Oh wait, what’s this?  It appears to be some kind of digital…recording thingamajig.  Just between you and me, I think they call it a “video”.



Go ahead, take a watch.  I’ll wait.

Oh hey, you’re back already?  That was fast.  You know what?  I bet you didn’t even watch the video.  Or at the very least, you only watched like one or two minutes of it then came back here.  Honestly?  I wouldn’t blame you.  That snarky comment about millennials wanting “free food and beanbags” about made me want to punch something.

I decided to watch this video after I read an article on Cracked about it (I really do reference Cracked a lot on this blog).  I think I remember seeing it pop up somewhere in my Facebook feed but I didn’t really pay attention to it.  And now that I’ve watched it, I kind of wish I had just left it alone.

You see, Simon Sinek is that kind of guy who likes to sound important.  He uses big, fancy terms like “acculturate” to sound cool when he could have easily used other, less pretentious words.  No, he wants you to know that he’s smarter than you and that, therefore, you should listen to him.

He breaks down the so-called millennial problem into four “characteristics” as he calls them: parenting, technology, impatience, and environment.  And in all four of these, he describes millennials in sweeping generalities.  We’re impatient and we want instant gratification.  We have trouble in relationships because we’re addicted to our phones.  We were constantly told we were special and given participation trophies.  Oh god no, not participation trophies!  Not those!  Oh wait, what’s that?  There’s actual science that says that rewarding effort might not be a bad thing?  Ah but what do those scientists know right?  They only created the technology that led to the computer that you’re now using to read about their work and scoff at them.  They don’t know nothin’.

Sinek then compares using social media and phones to drinking alcohol and gambling.  He says that these things trigger a “hit” of the chemical dopamine, which he describes as numbing and addictive.  Oh my god, EVERYBODY PANIC!  The dopamine is destroying us all and tearing apart the fragile fabric of our-

Wait a second…isn’t dopamine just the chemical that helps regulate emotions?  Here’s a tip: just because it has “dope” in the name doesn’t mean it’s inherently dangerous.

At one point, Sinek says millennials are standing at the bottom of a mountain, and at the top are things like fulfillment and job satisfaction.  Oh goody, simplistic mountain metaphors!  It’s what I’ve always wanted!  Anyways, he goes on to say that millennials often don’t see the mountain.  They just see the peak.  Because apparently we’re so dumb we don’t understand how mountains work.  Well I guess he wouldn’t be a viral sensation if his stance on things was “eh, they got problems just like anybody else”.

I have to say though, one of the most infuriating parts of the video comes about eight and a half minutes in.  He talks about meeting all these idealistic people who have just graduated college and started a job.  And he talks about how they tell him they want to quit, to which his response is “you’ve only been here eight months”.  Only eight months?  That’s obviously not enough time to tell if the job is a right fit for you.  No you should totally stay there for at least five years.  Only then you can decide that the soul sucking drudgery might not be worth it.

I like how the audience laughs at every joke he makes, like it’s the funniest damn thing ever.


Ha ha ha he's so right ha ha ha those dang kids don't know what they're talking about!

Ha ha ha he’s so right ha ha ha!  Those dang kids don’t know what they’re talking about!


I also like how Sinek simplifies things by not paying any attention to the real issues.  Like how millennials are saddled with insane amounts of student loan debt.  Or how they can’t work a minimum wage job and go to college without taking out federal loans.  Or how the cost of living is much higher now than it was forty years ago and United States households overall are poorer.  No, it’s all because we’re so entitled and want instant gratification from our Facebooks and our Twitters and our Instagrams.  It must be nice knowing you can generalize an entire generation and people will go along with it.

And then, after ten minutes of millennial bashing, Sinek says it’s not our fault, it’s the company leaders who need to change and fix the problem.  We were just “dealt a bad hand”, as if that washes away the aforementioned bashing.  Wait, who is this guy again?  Hmm…well apparently his Facebook has this to say: “Described as ‘a visionary thinker with a rare intellect,’ Sinek teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people. With a bold goal to help build a world in which the vast majority of people go home everyday feeling fulfilled by their work, Sinek is leading a movement to inspire people to do the things that inspire them.”

So in other words, he’s a motivational speaker/leadership consultant?  Ah crap…

Yep.  He’s that same type of guy who would show up at your school and try way too hard to make you think he was relatable and “cool”.  He would tell you all about being “dynamic” and “vibrant”, or whatever other buzz phrases were floating around at the time.  And of course, since his expertise is on leaders, he just HAPPENS to come to the conclusion that this whole “millennial problem” is the fault of CEOs and other company leaders.  He might as well turn to the camera, hold up whatever his latest book is, and say “it’s in stores now!  I’m a total sellout, but you’ll buy it anyways!”

Now let’s get to the point: there is no “millennial problem”, there’s just millennials.  We’re just like any other generation trying to find their way in the world.  You can’t just write off an entire group of people like that.  And I’m sorry to have to say this, but the 1950’s weren’t exactly the golden age of America either.  People only think that because advertisers have spent the last half century drilling nostalgic images into our brains.  I won’t lie, there are some among my generation that get absorbed in their phones and their social media accounts.  But the thing is, most of those people are in high school and maybe college.  By the time we graduate from a four-year college, most of us are aware that constantly looking at your phone isn’t going to fly in the working world.  Because guess what?  We are capable of observing and learning what the world around us expects from us.  We don’t need some “leadership consultant” to tell us how to live our lives.  But then again, maybe I’m just not vibrant or dynamic.

Sinek is right about one thing though: we were dealt a bad hand.  Things cost more and jobs pay less.  So no, we don’t think we deserve everything.  Most of us just think we deserve a chance, which is more than a lot of older folks seem to be willing to give us.  And if you don’t like my attitude or think I’m being ungrateful, then you can take some of the advice you so lovingly passed down to us as we were growing up:

Deal with it.


Thanks for reading!  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week!

You can like the Rumination on the Lake Facebook page here.