No one looks the way I do.
I have noticed that it’s true.
No one walks the way I walk.
No one talks the way I talk.
No one plays the way I play.
No one says the things I say.
I am special.
I am me.
Gen Y members were born between 1978 and 1997 and grew up singing that nursery song. Today many parents and psychologists wonder if songs like that were not big mistakes.
In the 1980s world of child rearing, the catchword was “self-esteem.” Unconditional love and being valued “just because you’re you!” was the prevailing philosophy. In practice, it involved constantly praising children, not criticizing them under any circumstances, emphasizing feelings, and not recognizing one child’s achievements as superior to another’s. At the end of a season, every player “won” a trophy. Instead of just one “student of the month,” schools named dozens. Teachers inflated grades from kindergarten through college: “C” became the new “F.” No one ever had to repeat a grade because staying behind caused poor self-esteem.
The result of these child-rearing practices has been a measurable increase in narcissism and a generation that has a deeply embedded sense of entitlement. OK - Now what?
Therapists who work with troubled teens often talk about their sense of entitlement as a major hurdle in the struggle to help them. Teens feel entitled to their life-styles, no matter how self-destructive. If a parent reared her child with the attitude “I don’t want to interrupt his happiness for even one moment,” the teen will have a hard time establishing the discipline and willpower necessary to work through addictions and behaviors such as alcoholism, substance abuse, promiscuous sex, mismanagement of anger, compulsive shopping, and so forth.
The advice from experts is for parents to “toughen up” by following some general guidelines:
Put limits on spending by giving your teen an allowance. When it’s gone, there’s no more until next time.
Let your teen face the natural consequences of his behavior. If he bangs up your car, let him pay for it.
Teach your child to apologize to others, to understand their point of view, and otherwise demonstrate “emotional intelligence.”
Watch how you use praise. The late prominent educator John Holt warned parents that praising a child is a massage to parental egos: building up the child becomes a form of building up yourself. Give specific praise for a specific piece of work or action. For example, tell the child, “You did a great job on that picture,” and not “You’re a great artist.” Don’t use praise to manipulate as in “You’re so brilliant, you could be a doctor.”
Let children earn self-esteem from working hard and achieving in a real way. The bad news is that most Gen Y parents will NOT be able do these things.