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Is It Parenting Fail If Today’s Youngsters Feel Entitled To Enjoy Life Sans Responsibility?

Posted: March 8, 2021

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People in every generation strive to be better than the previous one. Where is the current generation and how do we look at it?

Our needs change with financial status. Does that mean that our values, such as commitment, hardwork and integrity, change too?

I have noticed a certain pattern of behaviour in some of the young people today. It made me think hard about the kind of world we are living in. The pattern disturbs me, alarms me, and disappoints me. I see it rising but hope that it somehow gets contained.

A successful career, but…

Sometime back when a young girl came across my decision to follow my passion for writing and turn it into a second career, she was intrigued. Her reaction to my choice triggered a thought process and I want to explore the reasons behind it. It isn’t as though everyone in the current generation thinks like this young girl, but for some odd reason, I have come across quite a few such people.

I am a successful career woman doing what I love. I chose to teach and have never regretted the decision. When a few years ago I began to write and blog, I didn’t know it would evolve into a second career. It began as a hobby and transcended it. While I continue to teach, I am also looking at ways to get my works published. I am passionate about it and am putting in crazy amounts of work, ‘burning the midnight oil’. Like teaching, writing as a career is a choice I made even though there’s no visible ‘need’ for me to work such long hours at this stage and age of my life.

Why work when you have everything?

The young girl wanted to understand why I could not take things easy. Why couldn’t I ‘chill’? After all, I have everything going well for me already in terms of money, social position, recognition, and a husband who supports me.

I tried my best to explain that teaching is my first love and writing is an expression of my creativity. Yet, I couldn’t get through to her. I wasn’t convincing enough. I ended up feeling that she thought I was quite stupid. According to her, I don’t need to work at all. I just need to enjoy life which I am not doing by working so hard.

As I looked around with the concern that was put in my path, I observed that many young people share her viewpoint. They love to party, shop, hang around with friends, go on vacations and have a good time in life. Working isn’t their first priority. To them, life is meant to be enjoyed, and not wasted on simply working hard. If our generation tilted towards all work and no play, this one is going the other way. They firmly believe that we got it all wrong by not enjoying all the ‘good’ things of life, in a way. Working makes sense to them, working too hard does not. I worry that given a choice, they might choose to not work at all considering it is the easier option. The consequences of such a choice might be hard on them, especially for girls. Depending on a husband for everything in life may be just too attractive to let go of.

Perhaps I am a victim of the ‘generation gap’. I am unable to understand such a mindset, accepting it is all the more difficult. It is a way of thinking, I believe, that makes the younger generation a sense of entitlement without putting in the requisite hard work. It appears to me that there are several reasons, such as peer pressure and social media, that lead to such a line of thinking.

Influence of peer groups and social media

Peer pressure is not new. When one feels the pressure to do something that’s considered cool by a peer group, saying no becomes difficult. Everyone cannot go against the flow. So, when many people are seen to be taking things, or life in general, easy, it is quite natural to get swayed in the wave. In this day and age, social media influences everyone’s life. Being visible on any form, from Instagram or Facebook to Snapchat or Twitter, is a big deal for young people. They spend a lot of time and energy updating status, posting pictures, perhaps sharing every delta of their life to the point that it has become a compulsion. They obsessively track the number of likes and comments as if it is a yardstick of approval.

People work really hard for recognition and approval. With social media presence, this becomes relatively easy. There’s instant gratification, there’s a high that follows. The need for recognition as per Maslow is taken care of, and yet, a little work is done.

Parents are responsible too

Another important factor to such behavior is, I believe, parenting. It may sound harsh but perhaps we, the parents of this new generation, are responsible for this state of affairs. In the process of satisfying their needs, we messed up their upbringing. We didn’t raise them the way we were raised.

I agree, times are different. Yet, I believe certain values are not and should not be affected by changing times or circumstances. They have stood the test of time and will continue to be valid tomorrow as well. Core values like commitment, consistency, honesty, integrity, dependability, hard work and perseverance cannot and will not be out of fashion. These are a must-have for a successful and purposeful life. I see that these have been reduced to mere words, and aren’t practiced as they should be. We, as parents, haven’t passed it on to our children and not they cannot get to it.

Today, people cannot relate to having a purpose in life and working diligently and consistently towards it. At max, they aspire for the joy of having a good time. That’s it. They don’t identify with the joy of an accomplishment that comes after a long struggle. How then will they see any point in hard work? Money is the biggest compulsion to work. Passion or hobby are not such great motivators. We have ensured they have a comfortable life. The psychological safety and social esteem is taken care of. Self-actualisation might not be a need for everyone, so people today have no intense desire to work.

I don’t believe we walked the talk

There is another way in which I feel we have failed as parents. We have not been able to walk the walk. While we want our children to have the right values and beliefs, we have not been able to show them the way. We must not forget that we must lead by example.

Our parents worked hard to raise us and made no bones about it. They were strict with us; we had to follow the rules and regulations and live a pretty regimented life. Material comforts like cars, ACs, vacations, dining out were far and in between. Vacations were not common and were limited mainly to places within the country.

Going abroad was a once in a blue moon thing, and that didn’t happen with everyone. We were always told that if something expensive was to be bought, then we had to save for it, and it could only be done at the cost of something else. We knew that everyone needed to work hard if they wanted something. The same set of rules applied to everyone. If we, as children were told to behave in a certain way, then our parents showed it to us by themselves behaving in that way. But have we done that? I don’t think so.

Our parents took pride in the effort they put in to acquire something. Our parents openly admitted if they couldn’t provide for material luxury. It wasn’t seen as an act of failure on their part. It was ok to express the inability to fulfil a demand. Meanwhile, we ran after material things, and before the child aspired for something, we gave it to them.

Thus we are guilty on two counts: Over-emphasis on the need for material things, and serving these things on a platter out of love for our children.

Also, I notice that nowadays parents love to flaunt their children’s achievements in a big way. A small win or a good grade or anything is treated as though they have set foot on the moon. They will want the whole world to know about it. Yes, you are happy, you are joyful, and you want to share that happiness, that joy with your friends and family but hold on! Have you considered what this sharing can do to your child? All that praise may actually go to the child’s head and may do more harm than good.

So while I may not like what I see around me, I understand and accept that we the parents have led to a lot of this. We have somewhere failed in our role of being good parents.

Moderation is the key

Everyone needs to understand that moderation has to be the key in everything. Indulge your children, do stuff for them, but don’t go overboard. Teach them to be humble and caring. Most importantly teach them the value of working hard. Pamper them, love them but don’t spoil them. Make them aspire and long for things. Delayed gratification is one of the ways of teaching children the value of things.

Today both parents are working and have just one or two children, especially in metros. So they have the means to make everything available. But they don’t have the time for their children. So many times they try to compensate by making material things available, in a way assuaging their guilt. And the children are getting the wrong message.

So while it may not be that widespread, this trend is on the rise. If we wish to fix it then as parents, we have to step up our game. We have to introspect and correct the problem from our end. I believe that if that happens, the children will be in a better and stronger position to face the bitter realities of life.

Published here first.

Image source: a still from the film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

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Aside from being an educationist teaching at the university level for the last 28 years,

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