As the nation moves forward from the results of the Presidential election, the other day while listening to the news, I was disturbed by the story of another election. A school principal subverted the democratic process of student elections by holding up the results. The principal did this based on the fact that too many children from the minority sector won their election races. In this particular school, the minority of the students are white; white students make up only 18% of this school’s population.
The children did the right thing voting for the person they liked the best, regardless of race, creed, or color. Yet the principal held up the results of this election for one week, trying to decide whether to nullify its election and call for a “re-do,” so that more of the other children could get involved – or to create new and extra positions, so that no one felt left out.
This exemplifies a disturbing trend in our society. One in which, even the philosophy behind student elections, teaching the democratic process, is destroyed, in order for everyone to feel warm and fuzzy.
Meet the Millennials
Today we have a whole group of young people that we call millennials – men and women ages 18-33, who have higher rates of depression, stress and suicide, than any generation before them. A group in which, many have difficulty coping with the normal stresses of life. For example: structuring time for work, recreation, employment, graduating from college, and dealing with the emotional ups and downs of relationships. Even managing minor conflicts creates stress for some millennials.
Psychologically, millennials may appear to be spoiled or narcissistic. Though narcissism may be playing a small part in some millennials, the bigger problem seems to be their inability to handle the average stresses in life. Coupled with sluggish job economy, high expectations for academic achievement and the inability to make it on his own, the millennial often underachieves.
You can have the highest IQ in the world, but if you can’t get your act to together, you can’t function. You can’t find that inner resource to motivate you towards successful goals. During the Revolutionary War, for example, children as young as nine years old in Europe were fighting in armies and being sent to the New World with little money in their pockets, but a lot of hope for a better life. For example, John Adams brought his ten year old son with him to France and gave him a job, as both a messenger and assistant, with real obligations and real responsibilities. That young man, John Quincy Adams, later became the President of the United States.
So what’s causing this lost generation?
You‘ve heard a lot about helicopter parents who overprotect their children and oversee and involve themselves in all the joys and disappointments in their children’s lives. In the real world, if a child is not frustrated by his parents, in a loving and responsible way, then not only will he not ever learn about commitment, obligation, and responsibility, but also the world as the potential to then frustrate him, in a much more callous, cynical, and dangerous way.
Children who find their best friend in their parents, have a problem. When children are so pampered and protected that they don’t get to try things out and test themselves against their environment, then they have a problem growing up, making decisions, and coping with stress.
These children may bring their parents to college interviews, job interviews, and give up easily, throwing in the towel, if his/her job doesn’t meet his/her emotional needs. As a result, some of these millennials feel paralyzed, dependent, and incapable of action, reporting higher levels of anxiety, stress and depression.
By neglecting to frustrate children in the safety and security of home, helicopter parents have made their children unable to deal with frustration, while needing instant and constant gratification. This trend is disruptive to Erickson’s model for emotional development, where he stresses the importance of navigating the stages of autonomy and confidence successfully. The end result of such interference by parents who over-protect their children is leading to a dependent youth unable to cope and unwilling to try.