Is it wrong to blame the parents?

Christien Louviere blogs here about the generation of Americans that require "praise inflation" in order to function in the workplace. We all know I don't have kids, right? So let me talk about this as a friend of people who have kids, as a people manager, intense people-watcher and as a dog owner (it will make sense, I promise).

It's been relatively recently that I have developed friendships with people that have kids; not for any particular reason, just that my friends started having babies within the last five years or so and I have developed new friendlships with people that have older kids. I am an only child and we moved around a lot when I was younger. I spent more time with adults than the average kid. Plus, I was afraid of getting in trouble when I was young. Yeah, I was pretty much afraid of any kind of discipline, partly because parents spanked back then and partly because I don't like to disappoint people. What can I say, I am textbook.

It's been my observation that many parents would rather befriend their children than help them build a foundation for a good adult life. Of course, none of my friends are like that. It's just stuff I mostly observe in the checkout line at the grocery store. Yeah, that pretty much makes me an expert.

When I read that article, I was thinking that the parents that coddle their children are setting them up for failure later. The parents are afraid to parent when it gets hard so they do what they can to make it easy and that is not fair to the kid. Life, including childhood, is full of disappointment. Parents need to teach their kids how to accept disappointment ("I'm sorry, honey, but you don't get a trophy if you don't win. I'll be right here rooting you on when you give it another shot"). That way, their kids don't have a meltdown at the faintest sign of real-life disappointment. I'm sure it's harder in practice than sitting down at a keyboard and writing about it but parenting is what you sign up for when you have a kid and I don't think anybody thinks it is easy (which is one reason why many of us choose not to do it!).

OK, this wasn't meant to be an essay on parenting. Like I said, I don't have kids, but I do admire some of my friends who are exceptional parents (Cheryl with her young kids and Suzanne with her older, almost adult to adult kids). Anyway, the reason why all this parenting stuff has any relevance at all to what I write about here is the fact that when the coddled kids reach adulthood, the rest of the world gets to deal with them. And the workplace is THE place where reward and disappointment happen. Admit it, you are thinking about some formerly coddled child that you have had to deal with in the workplace. We ALL have.

When I think about how I respond to employees (my reports as well as co-workers), I can definitely say that when I praise someone, I am being sincere. I really don't have it in me to be insincere. When someone is struggling with something, I can be encouraging, but I refuse to be fake. Praising someone for showing up to work on time? I don't think so. It's kind of the laws of supply and demand that make my praise worth something. I don't lavish it on everyone excessively but when I do, it's real (not that everyone is waiting around for my praise). If someone is seeming to need the praise, I try to diagnose what is going on and how I can respond in a way that is real and comforting. That is not always easy, but a "I have total confidence that you can do this!" goes a long way.

I recall having conversations with managers in the past about how I like to be rewarded (and unfortunately, Cuba Gooding Junior is dancing through my mind right it to me!). People respond to different things and it seems that in this article, I could be classified as an old-timer. I think it's good to understand how people like to be rewarded and then use it when the person deserves to be rewarded. I, for one, would completely avoid eye contact with a confetti wielding reward fairy walking down my hall.

I think about the times in my career when I have grown professionally and disappointment (or failure) plays a role in many of them. I would tell you that I wouldn't change any of those situations, but that would be a lie. I would change a few of them that I found particularly painful (specifically, when I felt unsupported by a manager). At the same time, I have learned some incredible lessons from the situations where a manger didn't swoop in and praise me for some false reason, just to motivate me to carry on. Figuring out how to deal has been a valuable experience for me. I have appreciated managers that encourage me because of who I am but give me feedback on what I could do differently.

This topic kind of intersected with something that I have been thinking about with regard to my dog, Jonas. I know that dogs aren't kids (or vice versa)...I am not someone who buys outfits for their dog or even lets him sleep in the bed (white sheets + hairy black dog = not going to happen in my house). But if we just think about "beings" and how they respond to praise, I can tell you that I have not been the best doggy mommy. You hear different philosophies on dog training and in the interest of disproving old adages, I am going to teach my old dog some new tricks, or at least how to behave himself. Jonas is aggressive toward other dogs and he's missing out on some fun puppy play time because of that. It's my fault...ALL my fault. When I fist got Jonas and he exhibited aggressiveness, I freaked and Jonas could tell. He could tell I was on edge and that made him on edge. At the time, I was reluctant to discipline my poor little pound doggy (I have a soft spot for homeless mutts, what can I say?) and so the aggressiveness issue was never resolved. I've been told more than once that I need a dog whisperer and I am going to get one (or be one...we'll see). I can post more on that in the future.

This is relevant to the topic of praise inflation because it shows, on the simplest level, where trying to remove discipline and disappointment from a "being" can result in poor behavior. The praise becomes the standard and that's not how the world works. Can you imagine animals in the wild if they needed excessive praise? I'm not advocating pack behavior at work (can you imagine?). And frankly, if you were raised with lots and lots of praise without a significant dose of disappointment, a system reset seems unlikely at this point. But often, awareness of the issue is helpful as are some conversations with your manager about what you need from the relationship (hmm, could work in other areas of your life as well, no?) relative to what you can actually expect from the relationship.

On the flip side, I do think that corporations need to be mindful of these "gen Y" folks and their needs, but I worry that focusing too much on this newer-to-the-workforce generation may alienate other workers. It's hard to maintain a balance and have everyone feel good about how they are treated and how they see others being treated. Employees are regularly weighing their contributions relative to their peers (it's human nature, right?) and so engaging an in a little promiscuous rewarding could have negative repercussions on the morale of the rest of the team ("She got rewarded for THAT? We all do that!") and can result in some loss of confidence in the leader. Managers need to figure out what reward opportunities result in the best behavior of the individuals on their team with the least negative fall-out from rewards that are perceived as bull.

Comments (24)

  1. tod hilton says:

    Discipline. Kids need it, but a lot of parents these days don’t give it. In fact, most of the stuff I’ve read say that kids crave discipline and that’s exactly what they’re trying to get when they act out. There is a lot more to it then I’m going to reiterate in a comment :), but suffice it to say that discipline actually reinforces parental love for their children.

    Just to be clear, discipline does not equate to physical punishment or abuse.

    A similar theory can be applied to dogs, as you state above.

    And I HATE the idea of 7th place ribbons! Meet the Fockers, anyone? 😉

  2. Steinkamp says:

    Totally agree on the dicscipline front.  I said to another parent the other day that I don’t always enjoy taking my kids to b-day parties because I can’t believe what parents let their kids get away with.  

    On the praise front it all goes back to when and how you give it.  If a kid is new at something they don’t need praise they need direction.  You can’t praise a kid for doing something they simply don’t know how to do.  Once they know what they are SUPPOSED to do and are struggling – that’s when they need encouragement.  When they actually become skilled – THEN you give the praise.  Or – if they have exhausted all efforts and really tried hard they can be praised for their efforts.  If it is something that is really important to them – the encouragement is to not give up.

    It is a fine line –  but I agree that praise, when given inappropriately, is a dangerous precedent for tackling life’s challenges

  3. Steve Boyko says:

    Speaking as a parent of a 6th-grader who received the (only) student-of-the-month award last month, I completely agree.  I’m very proud of him for getting the award, and I praised him, but I don’t praise him for the trivial things.

    I almost think some parents don’t recalibrate their praise to match the age of their children.  It seems like they get fixated on the age 2 praise level, and forget that you should stop praising your kids for tying their shoes correctly when they’re 15.

    Discipline matters, too.  I think too many parents try to be friends with their kids.  You can be friendly, sure, but you can’t be their friend.

    Love your blog, by the way. Too much praise? 😉

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    tod – it’s because caring enough to discipline is a sign of love.

    Steinkamp – I have no doubt you are a great dad! I can’t believe my college buddy is this dad guy. Is it weird for me to say that I’m proud of you for growing into such a caring parent? Eh, I don’t care if it’s weird : )

    Steve – I get a good dose of discipline in the blogosohere too : ) Good point about age relevant praise. It makes me think about the situational leadership class I took that helps you assess the person in relation to a task and respond appropriately. It takes into account confidence and competence level of the person (an employee or a kid, I suppose) when responding….kind of like customer focused management.

  5. AmyT says:

    Speaking as another non-parent, I totally agree with you on this blog. I have put in tons of baby-sitting time and aunt duty over the years. And just that is hard work. Parenting is 100x harder.

    "Praising someone for showing up to work on time? I don’t think so."

    This type of praise is so aggravating to me! It’s just like when a Dad says he changed a diaper or a Mom says she mowed the lawn… (or any person in a relationship really). You don’t get praise for that — you’re supposed to do it!!

  6. Bad_Brad says:

    But don’t we live in the era of "everybody gets a trophy, just for participating?"  Wasn’t that supposed to be good for kids, help them build their self-esteem?  This voice from back in the ’60’s told me so, man.

    In fairness, there are kids in this world (and in this country, even this city) who are born into a situation where they will almost never feel the love of a praising parent.  As you point out there are others who will be praised constantly for successfully tying a shoe.  I suppose there is a happy middle ground somewhere.

  7. gl hoffman says:

    What do you think has caused this sort of atmosphere?  More teachings on Theory Y management style, an over reaction to baby boomer parents who were depression, aint-everything-awful by nature…or what?  

    Nice blog…keep up the great work.

    GL HOFFMAN, Minneapolis, JobDig   What Would Dad Say

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    AmyT – right! I can bring home the bacon AND fry it up in a pan. WHo is going to praise me for that? : ) (I just proved how old I am)

    Bad_brad – I hope so! Teachers should get some big pats on the back for finding those kids that really need the praise and giving it to them…foster parents too.

    gl hoffman – My guess (and it would be only that) is that people try not to become what they didn’t like about their parents’ generation. For example, if your parents were hippies, perhaps you are more apt to desire to raise your kids with more guidance, not less. Just a thuoght. I’m no sociologist. I can really only speak first-hand of my own personality "issues". Though I would say that part of the dynamic has to do with what we as a society find acceptable/palatable.

  9. Christine says:

    I do see your point about too much coddling–I see that in my own life (as a Gen X/Y).  My reaction to having a supersoccermom was to overachieve, while my brother was shocked when the real world didn’t fuss and fawn over achievements like "decent attendance in class."  

    I don’t have any solutions, but I think you hit the nail on the head in identifying and calling out the problem!  I wonder what it’s like for a recruiter, dealing with all of us?

    I think a happy medium can be found between too much and too little praise.  As an upcoming parent, I hope to praise mainly on things like character ("that was very nice of you to share your sandwich") rather than every little thing ("you found your nose–again!  for the fourth year in a row!").  

    The fact of the matter is that someone is always better than we are at what we do.  Does that make us worse?  No, but it means we have to work harder to achieve more.  There should be nothing insulting in having a goal to work toward–without a sideline full of cheerleaders egging us on.

  10. Doug says:

    As a parent of 3 under 6 AND being an only child (from a divorced home..sniff) I see both sides.  I coach my 5 year old son’s soccer team.  It is a YMCA league, score is not supposed to matter, records are not kept and EVERYONE gets a participation medal.

    Now, I get it. This is supposed to instill the fundamentals of fair play, sportsmanship and basic skills.  Trust me, the 4 and 5 year olds get it. They know who scored more goals and who won or lost.  They are disappointed when they did not "win" and our parents led by the coach, thank you very much are always focused on "Have fun, but play your best…"

    The parenting philosophies (gross generalization warning…) over the past 30 years of high divorce rates, out of wedlock children have created a society of wussies.  People searching for praise just for showing up.  I think the pendulum is swinging.  Speaking for only myself, and basing my thoughts on observations of those parents in our social circle, we are setting realistic expecations for our kids.  We set high expectations for behavior  (manners, patience, zero tolerance for temper tantrums, etc.) and performance, we praise appropriately for age, encourage independent thought and problem solving, appropriate risk taking, etc.

    I, at the ripe old age of 38, recognize the shortcomings of my upbringing. I was coddled, sheltered and not pressed hard enough to perform beyond expectations.  I want to raise my children to be better than myself. To take more (appropriate) risks, but recognize the consequences. Take personal responsibility for actions, recognize that your boss is there to help you succeed, not to blindly support and praise you.  Christien is spot on with his observations. I work within an organization that is focused on hiring 20 somethings en masse.  There is a major effort underway to coach management on working with this new crop of employees.  It is culture shock.  I have made every effort to cut through the corporate BS.  It is pretty simple. Set clear expectations, confirm they are understood. Hold employees (or children for that matter) personally accountable for actions and results. Reward, Coach for improvement or Punish depending on those results.

    Employee: You get a raise/promotion for a job well done, if you do this a little better you can get a raise or promotion, failure to improve will result in termination

    Children: You have behaved very well at Aunt Heather’s this weekend…we will get ice cream on the way home, Your behavior was unacceptable and there will be no ice cream, Go to your room and think about what you have done and I will come upstairs to speak with you after I eat all the ice cream in the house…

    See, pretty easy.

    Personal accountability people.  look it up.

  11. JohnnyO says:

    Really great blog topic Heather, and good article you linked to.  I see this every day with my directs- I call it the Abercrombie & Fitch syndrome.  10 years ago these "kids" that are now my employees were being handed $100 shirts with holes in them and brand new cars- and told they were the best and could do anything they wanted to do.  Guess what?  They are some out there that are better, and some out there that can do more than you even if you REALLY WANT TO DO IT.  I think that Gen Y if thats what it is called (I like my A&F term better) is SOFT.  Sure, there are exceptions- always are- but I am shocked at what crosses my desk as a potential hire, and shocked at what people think is "professional and appropriate behavior".  My neighbors kid plays soccer- he’s 9- on a team that doesn’t keep SCORE.  Are you kidding me?  I think though that maybe the kids have figured this one out- he told me once that he, and most of the other kids, do keep score and that they lost that day by 1 goal.  Never mind the crazed parents that applauded them all as winners and such…

    With a 2 year old and 2 more babies on the way, this is what I think about now when driving to work.  I think those of us who have taken on the parenting challenge, and those of us who know those folks and thus hang out with them and their kids, need to get realistic again.  Being #2 or #3 or even last is ok- it makes those RARE time that you do win or come out on top or get the job (!) or whatever that much more special.  If we all win, what does winning mean?

    Not much.

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Christine, that makes sense. And different degrees of praise…a simple comment versus a reward. I love the idea of catching someone doing something good and recognizing it realizing there’s a differnce between recognizing (this is what we expect you to do and you did it) and rewarding (you did more than expected). Great points!

    Doug – sounds like you’ve got it down and have given it a lot of thought. I think that would be the difference between you and some parents who default to priase out of fear of not being liked by their parent. You would definitely need to stop off for ice cream on the way home from aunt Heather’s house : ) Seriously, my 6 year old buddy Miyeko let me know that even though I mostly have gross food in my house (absolutely no junk), she appreciated the celery and peanut butter.

    JohnnyO – I totally agree. Not winning is OK, but it’s not the same as winning. Otherwise, nobody would care about winning. I find consolation prizes insulting. Oh wait, I’m not a kid.  So 2 on the way, huh? Wow! Congtratulations and good luck : )

  13. Francesco Esposito says:

    I am a college undergraduate right now (so apparently I am one of the generation Y, ha). I can not stand the fact that my generation has let itself be known as the people who can not get it done without an excessive amount of hand holding. Who can not deal with anything without it being spelled out in the most diplomatic way possible. Who apparently were raised by people who watch way to much Dr. Phil or something. It is frustrating, especialy in school when working on projects and at work as well, when trying to deal with some of the people from this generation who do not seem to be able to deal with anything.

    In one group project I had a girl who never showed up for a single group meeting, rarely responded to emails and did not contribute to our paper or presentation. The day before the presentation, she e-mails us saying "Are we ready to go". Ha, I could not believe it. So I contacted the professor and assesed her of the situation, and she said she would just give her a failing grade for the project (worth 40% of our grade). I suggested that she give her another chance to particiapte and let her join another group (only one group presented a week). The next day the girl approached me, livid and upset, because she could not believe that I made it seem like it was "her fault" that she never attended any meetings or completed any assignments for the project and had her removed from the group. I could not even come up with words at that point, was she seriously mad at me for saving her grade and holding her accountable for her actions?

    Are people in this generation really so soft and used to being coddled that even when they blatently fail to produce or contribute, they expect everyone around them to act like nothing is wrong and allow them to loaf around and take credit for everyone elses work? That is just rediculous. I can honestly say I know that not everyone in my age group is like this, but it is safe to say that at least a quarter of the people (maybe more) that I have worked with from my age group has this problem.

    The real question is, as a recruiter, how can you possibly seperate these people out?

  14. HeatherLeigh says:

    One thing I should also say is I am often impressed by remarkable people in the Gen Y generation. So I don’t want to make it sound like I am talking about all of them. It’s definitely a subset.

    Francesco, was she trying to get by with her looks or something? That’s weird. As far as how you weed out these folks in the interview, it’s all about the questions you ask. I have definitely always asked about challenges at work and how they are overcome, how someone defines success for themselves, etc. You can also pick up clues as to whether someone is a real go-getter or just kind of floated through expecting things to be given to them with praise all along the path. I have interviewed people in the past and felt that their need for affirmation was great and they would be challenged to work independently, but I have to admit at the time, that I never really thought about how they were being raised as being a part of it. I just considered it feedback from their interview process that I needed to pass along (in recruiting, we are typically the first interview of the day).

    As a recruiter, it’s definitely all about making a good hire so that is paramount in my mind when I am interviewing. There are a whole host of reasons why someone would or would not get hired at Microsoft and this is just one of them. I can tell you from my experience as a working manager (meaning, I manage and team and have a day job) that people on my team have to be pretty independent to function effectively and I think anyone on my team would tell you exactly that. I also have a preference for people who can really get stuff done versus sitting around and thinking about it (obviously, we have to do both, but I’m a do-er and our business appreciates that kind of perspective). That kind of work could really be hindered by the need for excessive praise for small tasks. I just try to make sure my team feels supported and I do recognize really great work.

  15. Paul says:

    NO, it isn’t wrong to blame the parents, or society for being too PC, too wussy, too unwilling to say "NO", too unwilling to let children grow up, etc.  But then, neither is it wrong to blame the individuals who never do grow up and gain some strength of character.

    Disclosure: I am old enough to be the parent of many of your readers.  That means I grew up in the period when over-analysis and poor interpretation by psychologists was creating the theories that now pollute and weaken us, but slightly before they began to be implemented.  Most of the changes to the education system, parenting norms, and social ideals (everybody wins, I’m OK – You’re OK, nobody fails) happened in the years when my younger siblings were in formative stages, although it became much worse in the 80s and 90s, and I saw firsthand what a difference it made to expectations, motivation, capability and ability to withstand failure and hardship and disappointments in my own family.

    From the perspective of an oldster, I have two experiences to share.  One is as a parent of young children today. (Yes, I’m one of those stereotypical grey-hairs with two kids below 10 years old.)

    What I’ve found is that as you say, everyone does get a trophy (whether they show up or not).  It happens in school, in sports, and in most social settings.  We don’t subscribe to that, although if our children are to participate in sports, we have no choice.  (It is ironic that the kids themselves do keep score and know who is winning and losing — who teaches them that if none of the adults are counting?)

    It results in grade inflation, in believing you’re doing well when you really aren’t, and not recognizing real accomplishment when it happens, all of which weaken the macro-ability of our country to compete on a world stage. So, how do we deal with this personally?

    We send our kids to private school where effort is expected and rewarded.  We set appropriate standards at home and expect them to be met.  We don’t accept the mantra "everyone else does it that way".  We say "NO" a lot more than is commonly heard today.  We associate with other parents who share a philosophy about upbringing, and avoid mixing with those who don’t.  We praise for strong effort, good attitude and exceptional achievement only.  And, we do the opposite too — express disappointment in lack of effort, assign real consequences for failure to meet expectations and offer consolation and support when it’s required.  Of these, perhaps the most important is associating with other like-minded parents so that the kids have a set of peers growing up with similar norms.

    Although we are in a distinct minority, it is a strong and growing minority.  From reading other comments here, I’d say most of your readers are from this same demographic/psychographic slice of the population. But despite the prevalence of mindset expressed here, have no doubt that most of society disagrees with us.

    My second experience was seeing the end result of all this coddling on a generation 10-15 years younger than myself when I returned to school to complete an MBA a few years ago.  I was astounded at how low the standards had become and how high grade inflation has become.  

    ‘A’s were routinely awarded for ‘B’ and ‘C’ level work.  Once you were accepted in the program, it was virtually impossible to fail because ‘C’ was the lowest grade (because the college wants your money and can’t stand coddled babies complaining about failure), and if you got too many of them, you simply repeated the work until you had a total of 5 ‘C’s, and the rest were upgraded to ‘B’ level.  Even when case study teammates trashed the work or effort of slackers on the team, professors were extremely reluctant to lower their grades.

    So the class shaped up this way: the top 20% worked their butts off and got a lot out of the program, but had to carry a lot of ‘free-riders’. The bottom 20% never should have been admitted to the program, and should have been thrown out after the first semester for inability to meet the grade, but all ended up with the same degree that I have. In the middle, about half put in honest effort, working hard and trying their best, learning and earning their degree. The other half did the minimum possible to get the letters.  They did the work (minimally) and had the brain power to succeed, but knew that they didn’t have to expend effort or actually learn much in order to get the degree.

    I may be being generous in saying that half the class earned their degree, but what was most startling to me was how easy it was compared with the standards of 30 years ago.  In that era, an ‘A’ grade was very hard to get — it required intense study, tons of homework, getting through difficult exams and being of exceptional intelligence.  You had to be smart AND work hard.  In general, the top 5% got the top grade.  ‘B’ was considered very good, ‘C’ was an average grade which required effort to achieve, and many got ‘D’s and ‘F’s for poor work.  And, there was no such thing as "bonus marks" or 110%.  Today if you do ‘C’ level work, you expect an ‘A’ and a pat on the back.

    Heather, I’d like to agree with you that work is where the rubber meets the road.  Where you reap the rewards of effort, brainpower and success.  But I see the coddling extending into the workplace too.  There is no way around this, because most of us are now unable to recognize top quality work when we see it (unless it is coming from China where the risk/effort/reward equation is still pretty absolute).  People expect pats on the back just for doing the minimum expected, and bonuses for doing anything above that.

    Without being overly harsh, I think that dealing with gen Yers should be no different than dealing with anyone else.  We all have goals, job requirements, expectations, and standards of accomplishment to meet.  There is no sense in letting anyone off the hook, unless you intend to let everyone off the hook.  Even if everyone in North America was of similar mindset (which they aren’t) and we had no fiercer competition to face at home, we still can’t work to a lower standard because we compete on a worldwide basis now.  And the consumer will always buy the best product at the lowest price, so praising what is unpraiseworthy is simply foolish.

    In fact, the examples that Zaslow used in the original WSJ article that Christien riffs on are perfect examples of this absurdity.  Having to pay someone to throw 25 lbs. of confetti a week at employees? Passing out between 100 and 500 helium celebration balloons each week? Sending a "celebration voice mail" of praise to some employee somewhere every 20 seconds?  This all sounds like some bad 1950s sci-fi novel of what stupid-topia would be like.  I would feel demeaned and insulted to get such meaningless praise.  Please don’t include me on the list.

    We can console and sympathize with those who now have to adjust to a reality they weren’t trained for, but they can’t be sheltered from it for their entire lives.

    And, wow.  Did I ever tell you that you consistently pick really great subject material?  Can you tell if I mean it?

  16. HeatherLeigh says:

    Paul – good stuff. I do agree with pretty much everything you said, especially the part about where you can’t just blame parents because at some point the issue of character comes into play.

    Last night, I went to my friend’s son’s baseball game (kind of ironic, but she called me to meet her to hang out) and we talked about some of this. They are eleven years old and there was a lot of encouragement around the things you mentioned, effort ("good try"), attitude and achievement. I could hear the coahc giving a little pep talk at the end (our team lost) about the fact that being behind was different than losing (good stuff, huh?). The boy who got the final out (the batter, not the pitcher) cried and while my heart broke for him a little (because he’s a kid and he seemed to care a lot), I was thinking about this very discussion and how that is good for him to feel that disappointment so he could also feel the reward of winning. My friend also told me that the coach tells the kids that if they are going to cry, it’s definitely OK, but that if they do, they need to go sit with their parents in the stands and when they feel better they can come back into the dugout. There’s a message there about team morale and setting expectations. It was good stuff.

    It was also a little funny watching how cute kids are when they are trying to be serious about something like adults are. Well, except for the crying part. This is what I missed out on by not having kids. Good thing I can visit it. : )

  17. RJD says:

    Similar train of thought, also stemming from a WSJ article.  What about the parent who come to the job interview with the kids, or even interview in place of the kids?

    When I was in tyhe hiring game, I never saw this, but that would have been a no-go for me.  Anyone ever had this happen?

  18. Bad_Brad says:

    But let me play devil’s advocate here a bit.

    Is it so bad that cut-throat competition and winning have been knocked down a few pegs (and things like fair play and sportsmanship up a few pegs) on kids under a certain age?  Would our world be a better place if our adults across all professions and walks of life were less focused on winning and the bottom line and more focused on things like fair play and professionalism?

    I also challenge the notion that this is happening all over the place.  Take sports as an example, since that’s one area very often cited by those who make the "kids are all too soft today" argument.  Today, there are high school football and basketball games (with 15 to 18-year old kids) that are nationally televised.  The little league world series (with kids younger than that) is nationally televised.  There are still little league teams that you have to try out for.

    I would also argue that being a kid today is in some ways harder than it has ever been.  Sure, there are material comforts that come with technology and a good general economy in this country.  But there have been a number of developments in the past two or three decades in this country that pose unique challenges for today’s youth that no previous generation has had to deal with (at least on anything close to the same scale).  The frequency of divorce has led to a staggering number of single parent homes.  More kids today than ever before come home to no parent.  Kids today have to deal with the threat of guns in school.  Kids today are targeted by marketers who want to get them hooked on everything from soda pop to cell phones to video games (XBox, anyone?)  Kids today deal with a blitz of information that has changed childhood forever.  Think about how difficult it was to be a teenager – think about how self-conscious you were – then think about what it must be like in the age of MySpace.  Any flaw you have, any mistake you make, any embarrasing moment that you have can quickly be broadcast to the majority of your peers via the Internet or camera phones or any of a number of other technological gadgets.  It’s impossible for anyone over the age of about 30 to really understand what’s happening today on our college campuses and in our public schools without going there and seeing it for yourself.

    I would also argue that parents have changed.  Gone are the days when kids were the #1 priority in a parent’s life.  Today, many parents act as if their own careers and wealth and "self-fulfillment" (or whatever psychobabble term you want to use for it) are more important than their kids.  Parents in increasing numbers are no longer willing to give up any aspect of "their lives" for the sake of raising kids.

    Go to any given college campus today, and I’ll guarantee you that you will find a large number of "soft" Generation Y kids who have overcome amazing obstacles in their upbringing just to be there.  This kind of generational chauvinism ("back in my day") stuff has been going on for centuries now.  And every time, it puts the newest generation in an unfair light.  Nothing new here, really.

  19. HeatherLeigh says:

    RJD – that is scary to even think about.

    Bad_Brad- I came home to no parent and look how normal I turned out. Hey, I am not sure if I am joking or not.

    I don’t buy into it being a pure generational thing. I do think that society has changed and some parents respond to the changes in one way and some in another. It’s not ALL parents. In fact, I’d say even the majority parents aren’t coddlers but it’s the ones that are that garner the attention; well really it’s the offspring that garner the attention.

    Things are tougher today? I don’t think I agree…we just forget the tough things from when we were kids. We moved a lot and I got picked on and I’m pretty sure it feels the same to kids getting picked on today.

    I think my uninformed opinion really has more to do with balance…the coddling on one end and the over-aggressive, competitive, drill sargeant stuff at the other. And preparing your kids to be adults that can deal with the realities of life (inlcuding the workplace) when they leave your home. Operating at either extreme is dangerous.

  20. Great Respect says:

    I am a 42 year-old mother of 4 children, ages ranging from 21 years to 13 years, who sees herself as goal oriented, self-motivated individual with high energy, insight and initiative.  Who multi-tasks under extreme conditions and identifies issues or problems and creates innovative solutions.   And in my opinion, the answer to your question is that the issue is “survival”.  Our every day expenses in order to survive have become ridiculously out of control.  This in turn leads to the fact that if we want to survive then the majority of us as parents have to work everyday of the week to support our offspring.  Because of this, our children are left alone more, and we grow further and further apart from them.  I can remember my mother, who was a single parent, having to work full time and then going to school at night.  She was not around very often, and when she was, the time that we did spend together she felt tremendous guilt.  In turn, the guilt led to her giving in to our requests, and at times our requests were unreasonable, but she just wanted to “keep the peace”.  It was easier for her.  I think that tends to be what most of us lean towards, is the path of least resistance.  I’m sure that if you look at your every day issues that you are currently faced with, we all tend to overlook things because it requires “too much effort”.  I don’t blame my mother, because I know now, that she did the best that she could trying to balance work, school, and 2 children.  My sister and I spent a great deal of time with our grandparents, when my mother worked, and in looking back in memory, I learned more from them, than what I learned from my mother.  My mother had no time to teach me anything, but on the flip side, she EXPECTED me to know all of the things that were right from wrong.  I never understood this analogy, that just because a person is now an adult, they should KNOW right from wrong.   In my mother’s generation, most of the children had role models who taught all the rights and wrongs from A-Z.  But for my sister and me, we only received bits and pieces from our grandparents.  (And thank God for that!!)   But the reality of it now is that people, whether working or not, just don’t have the time anymore.  You HAVE to have a role model of some kind who not only preaches to you over and over and over the difference between right and wrong, but demonstrates it in their daily life.  People don’t just innately know the difference.  You have to go back and think about this.  When you look at animals, their basic instinct is to survive, so they only think of themselves and how they can eat everyday.  The same goes for our children.  When they are left to their own defenses they are not going to sympathize with anyone else, because their first and foremost priority is themselves (survival).  It is ALL that they know.

    I learned this early on in adulthood, when I made a few thousand mistakes!!  But because I am a very quick learner, I caught on real fast that you feel better doing the right thing, because IT IS the right thing to do.  EVERYONE benefits, not just you.  When my first child was born, I swore to myself that I would not repeat the same mistakes that my mother had made.  My children would grow up understanding the importance of being responsible for their own actions, participating by doing their fair share, and thinking of others feelings as well as their own, yet not allowing others to take advantage of you.  Understanding the importance of their responsibilities buy also having down time to play and relax.  Having balance in their lives.   This is a huge problem in the workforce today.  The majority of younger people coming in tend to focus on their own needs, and the bottom line for them is the paycheck.  They are there to put in their hours, and they don’t feel passion, compassion or commitment to their company, or to their families.  After all, they can just go get another job, or even another family.   They don’t understand what it means to make a commitment and to follow through with that commitment.   I know, because I am still trying to teach this to my own children.  Our job as parents is to teach it to them over and over and over and over, until they GET IT.  It took some of us years and years until we fully GOT IT, so why do we expect our children to GET IT right away.  This is not something that they just instinctively know.

    I have worked full time for the majority of ALL of my children’s lives, and I can tell you that most of the younger people who are hired (in their 20’s) have an attitude that they really don’t care if they are not following the rules, whether or not their work performance or actions in the workplace are affecting their coworkers or their company, but yet they EXPECT praise for doing what they were hired and are already supposed to do.   They were hired and are being paid by a company to perform certain work tasks that everyone else has to perform as well.   Unfortunately, they were never taught this by their parents, coworkers, mentors, and/or peers.  They just fell through the cracks.  And the sad thing is that most of our younger people are not GETTING IT.  I don’t blame them, because again, it takes years to learn, understand and live by certain ethics.  What frightens me is that I feel that these young people who are not GETTING IT, will be the ones running the show in a few decades.  And if we don’t correct the problem soon, then I cant think of any business, company or corporation that will be successful. And if we don’t have people who are able to understand the importance of passion, compassion, commitment, discipline, respect, honor, reliability, and are only interested in ME ME ME, then there will be NO SUCCESSFUL companies or people. We need to take the focus off of ME ME ME and we should NOT be focusing on trying to sabotage our companies by spreading rumors and creating chaos and havoc just because we can’t have our way.  These people don’t even see that they are really only sabotaging themselves.  This only results in a break down of communication between all coworkers, feelings of mistrust, employees feeling forced to choose sides which divides the company, and most importantly, the focus is then taken off of what our main priority is in the first place.  Our priority is suppose to be that we are all their to ensure the success of our company which ensures the success of our own lives.

    Now we all know what the problem is, but maybe it is time that we stop focusing on the problem (which we don’t have much control over other peoples parenting) but try to come up with a solution.  Well, we know that by the time people come to your company, if they weren’t already taught these values, then most people probably believe that they are not going to get the opportunity to learn them, they are NEVER going to GET IT.  But I don’t believe that at all.  I believe that it would be in the best interest of the business world to teach it to them.  Think about it Heather, if your company was to start by including mandatory workshops on “How You Make an Impact”.  Teaching these people over and over and over again, who don’t GET IT, and the people who already do GET IT, it will only strengthen their values.  The more employees that you have that are able to feel compassion, loyalty, discipline, respect, honor, reliability, commitment, and take pride, are able to understand how their roles make an impact in EVERYONE’S overall future (especially their own), will only result in Microsoft ensuring their success and their future.   Both sides win.

    Thank you Heather, for allowing me to voice my opinion… And I thank Microsoft for believing in their employees and giving them the freedom to take risks… teaching them that it is better to fail at doing what they love, than to succeed at doing what they hate…  After all, this is how we all learn and grow.

    With Great Respect…

  21. HeatherLeigh says:

    Well, I second the motion about Microsoft allowing employees to take risks : )

  22. Paul says:

    Don’t know whether Bad Brad is still watching, but I thought it important to challenge his devil’s advocacy, because he strikes me as lacking perspective and needing a wake-up call about the way the world is.

    First of all, fair play, competition, winning, professionalism and sportsmanship are not mutually exclusive.  They never have been.  In fact, the most winning professionals have almost always played fair and believed in sportmanship and competition.

    Secondly, giving everyone a trophy and undeserved praise is not the equivalent of fair play or sportsmanship, whether we are speaking of sports or using it as a metaphor.  Fair play and sportsmanship are about respecting your opponent, playing by the rules and with dignity, and giving a full effort (trying your best).  All of these imply competition and trying to win.

    Thirdly, competition enobles everyone, but only when they play like they mean it.  There is no shame in losing if you tried your best.  Often it is the loser who learns the most and comes back stronger to win next time.

    I absolutely don’t buy into mamby-pamby, let’s all be nice, don’t hurt anyone’s feelings by telling them that someone else did better b.s.  Because that’s what it is — b.s.  If you don’t wish to compete, or you think that playing fair means not  trying to win, then I feel deeply sorry for you, because the job you lose may be your own, and the future you waste will be your children’s.  

    Older generations have always looked at the younger as being slothful, not measuring up to standards, without backbone.  You need only read Shakespeare or the Book of Proverbs for confirmation.  However, that is not the same as observing a societal change which takes psychobabble as an article of faith, or where the adults all take some goofy-pill which makes them think kids won’t know if they won or lost if they (the adults) refuse to keep score.

    Being a kid today is no harder than it ever was, and in some ways it is much easier.  Do you really believe that today’s slackers have it harder than kids growing up in the Depression, or during either of the World Wars?  Those generations were deprived of material goods, education (the majority had to leave school as soon as they were legally able to either contribute to the family or go to war), and opportunity.  There has always been divorce and single parent families, and in earlier generations, parents who "stayed together for the family", but who did more damage by doing so.  But today, even the poorest have more material wealth, a greater social safety net, access to the internet and educational TV and many other things we could only dream about as children.

    And, contrary to your notion that kids get less time from their parents than ever, it is exactly the opposite.  Kids today get significantly more time and attention, and especially more quality time.  That’s because more parents today than ever consider it a priority, and because fathers are much more involved in kid’s lives than any previous generation.  Check this report: .  And, that doesn’t even consider that families have fewer children today, which means that the average child gets a much higher percentage of the available time than previous generations simply because there are fewer to divide it between.

    Brad, I hope your statements about parents not making kids their number 1 priority aren’t a reflection of your growing up years, but you are absolutely wrong about the aggregate numbers.  More parents than ever put kids at the top.  In part, that is because so many parents today waited until their 30s and even 40s to start having children, and made a conscious decision to do so.  They did so so that they could maximize time spent on a career or sowing wild oats when they were younger, and ensure sufficient household wealth, personal maturity and commitment to devote the required effort to child-rearing.

    It’s OK to be a devil’s advocate, but you should first check your facts.

  23. HeatherLeigh says:

    Jeez, Paul, this isn’t court. He’s entitled to his opinion as well. He made observations based on his experience…nobody was expected to go out and do research.

  24. clare jade says:

    yes parents are to blame its them who let thier children out till all hours isnt it so parents are partly to blame so dont just blame the parents xx

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