Millennials will be just fine – at work and as parents, too

Everywhere you turn, there is an article about millennials. It’s as if suddenly they were dropped from a spaceship onto planet Earth and we are now trying to figure out how to deal with them.

You have “11 Tips to Managing Millennials,” “A Boss’s Guide to Managing Bratty Millennials” and “How to Harness the Power of a Millennial Workforce.”

And then there’s this office conversation: “Those millennials! I can’t deal with them. Who do they think they are? They don’t have a clue how to work.”

Millennials, shimennials. Stop whining about millennials – we created them, now deal with it.

They are our kids. They didn’t learn their behavior on their own. We raised them that way. That’s how life works.

Yes, many might say, “I never told my kid to be lazy or act entitled.”

But you did, probably unintentionally.

When children are raised in an environment of having all problems solved by someone else, of someone helicoptering above them and stepping in to guide every move, of getting a trophy for just showing up, of someone who hauls their butt all over the region or nation to play sports, the unintended consequence is spoiled, entitled and undisciplined behavior.

You reap what you sow.

BOOMERS WERE QUESTIONED, TOO

Of course, not all millennials are created equal. And they will be just fine. Just like we are – the baby boomers.

Remember the talk as boomers entered the workforce? “A bunch of pot-smoking hippies, living in communes.” “Who do they think they are, talking about our country like they do? I fought for their freedom.” “They don’t have a clue what it’s like to have nothing like I do, growing up in the Great Depression.”

And we turned out just fine. So will the millennials. We just need to figure out how to work together.

BE A PARENT

Parents of millennials first must acknowledge that they blew it. Trying to be our kids’ friend instead of their parent was the biggest failure.

We shared conversations with them about other adults that were inappropriate, rarely made them work around the home and solved all their problems instead of letting them find a solution.

We didn’t support adults in charge of our kids (teachers, coaches) to discipline them, we went on a self-esteem kick to make them feel good about themselves and we dropped our lives to drive them everywhere.

And we wonder why millennials think they should get something simply because they ask for it?

INSTANT INFORMATION

Consider the impact of technology. These kids have grown up with instant access to information.

Instant, as in “I click, I get.”

Technology also has democratized access to information. So when a millennial says he knows the salary for a position should be in “X” range, it’s because, in fact, he knows.

Click and thou shall receive.

RIGHT PRIORITIES

So, we’ll have to muddle through this generational change in the workforce, and we will.

Remember, millennials are human beings.

They get out of bed like everyone else, they want to build a better planet for their kids, they want to love and be loved.

Fairly basic stuff.

LESSONS FROM BOOMERS

Now it’s the millennials’ turn to raise the next generation, to build the workforce that one day will work for them.

They can learn these lessons from us:

(1) A child’s character is built in the family. And it happens early. What you do matters. It makes an impact every day. Model the behavior you want to see. Oh, and love ’em.

(2) Your children don’t need a friend. They need a parent. Be one. Have a handful of rules in your home, be consistent and repeat often.

(3) Let them struggle. Don’t solve every problem they have. Let them experience the emotion and exhilaration of accomplishment that come with solving a problem. These moments are building blocks of personal growth.

(4) Don’t live your life through your child’s life. Don’t try to become the jock or most popular person you never were through your kid. Don’t base your own self-worth on the accomplishments of your children. Be proud of them, but don’t confuse your identity with your child’s.

(5) Discuss things that are age appropriate. Don’t talk about how you don’t like a teacher or other parent to your 10-year-old. You are teaching them to gossip, be disrespectful and disregard authority.

(6) Limit activities to age appropriate and occasion appropriate. If you go to an exotic location to celebrate eighth-grade graduation, what do you do for high school graduation? They assume they receive adulation at every turn in life. Real life isn’t that way.

(7) Share time together as a family. Have dinner together. Get outside and play together. Talk to one another.

(8) Unplug from technology. Learn and teach the art of relationship. As great as technology is, one downside is that it lets us hide behind the screen, type things we would never say in person and create a less-than-civil mindset. Technology has taken away the skill of relationship, crucial conversations and dealing with conflict, sadness and hurt.

(9) Your behavior will mold the values that your kids develop. Be purposeful. Don’t just talk values; live them.

(10) Make your home safe – not from the outside world but safe inside. Safe to learn and grow and be loved. It’s a chaotic world out there. Have your home be the rock your child can depend on.

(11) Don’t let the kids become bigger than your marriage. Your example of commitment, love and respect for one another and others will make the biggest impact on your kids, bar none. One day, the children will be gone. Don’t wake up to a stranger in your bed, or it will be too late.

Tom Garrity is managing partner of Compass Point Consulting LLC in Hanover Township, Northampton County. He is a certified coach with Gazelles International and a certified exit planning adviser with the Exit Planning Institute. Compass Point provides growth and business transition consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses. He can be reached at 610-336-0514 or tgarrity@compasspt.com.

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