I am mom to three millennials and after years of not understanding their random behaviour, often clenching my jaw, shouting, screaming and going totally insane, I have learned some very valuable things. I recall the expression “they are wired completely differently” while on a conference on marketing to children, years ago. So, what exactly does this mean? The children of the so-called Generation Y or Millennial generation grew up in a world of technology. I remember Keegan being able to sort a printer issue out before the age of 5. They have used cellular phones since a very young age and have been playing games on various devices for even longer. They have grown up in the age of social media and they have any information at their fingertips. When I was in school, we would go to the library to research for a school project, encyclopaedias were the source of information and I would meet friends to study at the library. Children today have any and all information immediately on whichever screen they choose. They have grown up in a world of instant gratification and to me this is the biggest reason for making this generation vastly different and incredibly frustrating, for me anyway.
Most Millennials grew up with two working parents or a single parent, this makes them attention starved and unfortunately many of them spoilt with material things instead of personal attention. They are over entitled, through no fault of their own but rather because of the times that they were born in. I can go from zero to boiling in seconds when a child does something wrong but when I punish them I become the “bad guy”. They get unruly or act out because they have acted in a way which triggered a punishing reaction from a parent. For instance, I shout at the guilty child and that child then ignores me or even worse, rebels and acts as if I have done them an injustice for punishing them on their wrong doing. You don’t have to look far to see a poster of missing child on social media, often because the child has run away from discipline, like being grounded for failing a term.
Millennials also lack focus because they are constantly focusing on a number of things at once. Rushing through things and not concentrating because there is so much going on in their minds and not doing things properly or thoroughly. They don’t take criticism well because parents have tip toed around “their feelings” and a hiding is not allowed. Parenting that worked when I was a child, does not work today, that is the bottom line. Punishment for bad behaviour as it was when I was a child is unacceptable today.
Having driven my blood pressure up on way too many occasions, I have had to change strategy completely. When my parents used to ground me, it was a fate worse than going hungry and a sure way to keep me in line. Grounding today does not work. Children are quite happy to stay at home. TV’s, Playstations, cell phones, Wi-Fi, everything cool is at home. Not seeing their friends is not an issue at all because WhatsApp has replaced face to face conversations.
I have watched my children and their friends all looking at their phones while “socializing”. I have confiscated my children’s phones on many occasions. The problem then is that they move to the next screen. From tablets to TVs, they will find a screen and unfortunately it is impossible to remove all screens. I find taking a cell phone from a teenager is incredibly traumatic and does work as a form of punishment for a while. I normally end up having a problem because I couldn’t get hold of the child and the child couldn’t get hold of me and plans had changed somewhere along the line and everyone gets left in panic. Gone are the days of the blue “ticky box” that we would drop coins in to call our folks on the landline. I remember my dad having a pager at work and I would call the landline and the receptionist would page him my message. It was safe to sit outside school or loiter around the shops, today our children are locked behind security gates and have to tag in and out of the school.
Parents today are playing a whole different game to our parents and grandparents. Honestly, I grew up with morals, respecting my elders and I would say very well grounded. I love learning and always have. Although I pushed the boundaries, I knew exactly how far I could push and when to toe the line. Toeing the line was part of growing up, and punishment was part of learning. Growing up we had strict boundaries and rules and beside pushing the odd boundary, we quickly jumped back into behaving because discipline was a serious thing. When my dad spoke we quickly dropped the attitude and listened. My dad had rules, including no tattoos and no smoking and to this day I have no tattoos and I don’t smoke. Growing up, although I would not always appreciate the boundaries and rigid rules and strict father, I can honestly say I turned out really well because of the moral grounding that I was given by my parents.
Being a mom today has been a major wake up call. Honestly it can be really scary at times. After many a kid’s conference where I was taught all about the new generation, one would think that it would have come easy to me. Hell no! This generation is a totally different ball game. Killing them is not an option and obviously illegal unfortunately. giggles
Firstly they do not listen, trust me standing on my head and whistling through my bum doesn’t help. Shouting, screaming and losing the plot goes over their heads. They are completely self-focused and do not listen, they talk a lot, often about themselves. They are self-centred, and everything is about them. Sadly, Depression and stress is drilled into their heads at school and elsewhere and so they all speak about being depressed when they have no idea what depression is. Criticism is a no go, they can’t deal with it at all and they can’t give it either. They are all about multitasking and my opinion is that they don’t apply proper attention to anything whilst “multitasking”. “Mom, I am multitasking”, “No, no my boy, you are wasting your time not getting anything done properly”. Of course, my opinion falls on deaf ears. These children are masters at switching off and blocking parents and teachers out. They are the always right about everything, they have the ability to argue their point (no matter how incorrect they actually are) there is no winning an argument with them even when google proves them wrong, they will find a list of excuses why even google is wrong. Instant gratification is the most important thing in their lives, they need it and they need it now. They live in a world where everything is at their fingertips, fast food, fast cars and fast paced lives. They live in a fake world of social media; human interaction has diminished. Relationships consist of WhatsApp messages and ‘Face Time’. Hiding behind their phones, they ask the girl they like out and best of all they use WhatsApp to break up with the boyfriend or girlfriend who they have lost interest in. Dates are a rare occurrence and if they actually happen they are spent mostly staring at their phone. Having said all of this, my children aren’t as bad as some and they all have wonderful and diverse personalities.
This is what I have learnt:
1. Ensure that your Millennial takes responsibility for their actions. Do not bail them out or make excuses for them. If they mess up, they must take responsibility for it. Guide them on how to correct the mess they have made but do not correct it for them. Stand by them when they mess up but insure that they take control of fixing the mess that they made. Every mess they make is a lesson for them.
2. Be honest with your Millennial child – these children are capable of understanding. Do not hide things from them and talk straight up about everything. Keep an open door of communication. Remember these children have access to anything and everything and this is very dangerous, ultimately you would want them to come to you to discuss things that may lead to them getting themselves into dangerous situation.
3. Positive reinforcement is the way to go but do not sugar coat the nonsense. This generation reacts badly to negative reinforcement and I find that they almost just switch off and ignore it. Positive reinforcement without spoiling them is key.
4. Rewards for good deed or good marks.
5. Punishment for bad behaviour – I have found that taking privileges away is a good form of punishment. Phones, Wi-Fi passwords, Netflix, PlayStations get taken away and chores get dealt out.
6. The children in my house all cook, clean, wash their own clothes and make their own lunch. They earn their keep and if they don’t, they are not allowed to visit friends or go on outings. Give them responsibilities.
I have found that my children are completely different and to respond to different punishments in different ways. One may respond to being grounded and another to having screens confiscated. What works for one child does not necessarily work for the next. Being aware of changes in your child’s behaviour is important so that small issues don’t become big issues. Grow their talents and allow them to be individuals, don’t compare one child to another, acknowledge what each child is good at and help them where they need help.
I don’t think there is a perfect way to be a parent but grow with your children and find your way as you go. Give yourself a pat on the back and a break now and then, after all being a parent to a millennial is no walk in the park. Love and support your children and give them space to be who they are.