When Our Parents Criticize Us, They Insult Themselves


More pejoratives have been cast against millennials than almost any other generation. We have been called everything from entitled to snobby, lazy, flighty, and coddled. There are certainly individuals who are worthy of all these insults, but they are hardly appropriate for an entire generation of people. We deal with it for a few reasons. First, most of us are just out there doing our thing and we don’t pay attention to those who are just trying to bring us down. Second, we understand that every generation maligns the one that comes after it. Third, and perhaps most importantly, you raised us not to let things like this hurt us.

That’s the point here. When our parents’ generation criticizes our perceived lack of drive, ambition, or will to succeed, what are they really saying? Who gave us the clichĂ© “participation trophies”? We didn’t ask for those. You, as our parents, uncles, and aunts, handed them to us. You thought they would be good for us, and that they would become part of a healthy and well-balanced childhood. In many cases, you wanted to be different and more involved parents than your parents were. None of these were bad ideas, really. But they were your ideas, and if you make fun of us for having a participation trophy, aren’t you really just making fun of yourself for giving it to us in the first place?

The qualities you ascribe to us did not magically appear out of thin air. Those of us who lack ambition may very well never have been made to work for anything as a young person. Perhaps their parents never told them to get a summer job. Maybe their parents sent them to summer camps all the way through high school, rather than giving them a taste of the real world before casting them into its cold clutches. My parents certainly didn’t do that, and I consider myself to be a relatively well-adjusted adult as a result. Then again, my parents never lambasted millennials for being lazy or entitled. Their kids weren’t snobby or pretentious. They knew they were good parents, and thus they had nothing to make fun of.

Baby boomer/Gen X parents, take a hard look at yourselves and ask why you view us as such failures. Do you honestly believe that your parenting was an unmitigated success and we developed these negative qualities starting the minute we turned eighteen? That’s just not how developmental psychology works. Of course, I admit that this line of reasoning is not perfect. Some people are just beyond the reach of good role models. But most of us are not. The truth is that many of our parents could use a same dose of the personal responsibility that they implore us to cultivate. It may just be the case that some of our qualities are your fault. After all, nobody’s perfect.

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