Baby boomer children – what’s wrong?

Jane Lubchansky Adams has written a disturbing article, The Kids Aren’t All Right, about the privileged children of the Baby Boomer generation.

In the main, she seems to be speaking about the children of her peers, the upper middle-class children of college-educated parents. (She is a graduate of Smith College.)

She make some interesting observations about boomers:

Even the most idealistic baby boomers didn’t expect to achieve their career goals without a long apprenticeship and a lot of hard work. They didn’t feel entitled to a lifestyle marked by extended dependence, or expect to enjoy the same standard of living at 25 that their parents spent decades attaining. Baby boomers were eager for their independence, and by the time they had the responsibilities that come with it, they were (mostly) ready for them.

and their kids:

The truth is that some of those kids, who are in their twenties and thirties by now, are not all right. They’re failing to thrive. Despite having every constitutional and environmental advantage—including healthy minds and bodies and loving and intelligent parents—many of our children are not growing into the independent, generous, kind, happy, successful, law-abiding, contributing citizens we expected them to be.

and this result:

The result of all this is a growing population of angry, scared, resentful, worried, embarrassed, and guilt-racked parents who can’t escape the feeling that their children are missing out on life because of something they did or failed to do when they were younger. One woman related her frustration at watching her 27-year-old daughter move home for the third time since college and sit around the house, aimless, depressed, bulimic, unemployed, and in debt.

and this:

Meanwhile, parents are putting off all the things they said they’d do when their children were on their own. They’re waiting for their kids to clean up their act, show a little character, take on some responsibilities, or take care of the ones they already have.

To me, it seems like the classic third generation of any dynasty. The original generation is ruthless and barely legal. They put their children in the best schools and challenge them to succeed. This second generation creates a sheltering environment for the grandchildren, who grow up feeling entitled to wealth and privilege. It is a rare third generation scion who has grandfather’s will to succeed in spite of all obstacles.

Children of adversity are not mentioned in her article, although they may appear in her book, When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us: Letting Go of Their Problems, Loving Them Anyway, and Getting On With Our Lives.

I think that children of adversity are made of sterner stuff, but I may be wrong.

Read her article. I would like to hear of your experiences and hear your thoughts on this.

UPDATE: I must have had a senior moment. I failed to credit Linda of C. Little, no less for finding the article in the first place.

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0 Responses to Baby boomer children – what’s wrong?

  1. I suppose this underlines the old adage of “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”.

  2. I haven’t read the Fourth Turning. Can you summarize the theory presented in the book?

  3. steven says:

    basicly, there’s a cycle of four generations that keep repeating, and the “turning” to which your parents belong describes how they’ll raise you, which in turn describes how you’ll raise your children. An interesting notion, which they of course “prove” through the course of their books. I’m not entirely convinced, but it’s food for thought nonetheless.

    see the left-hand column of where they describe it in brief, including a link to a description of each “turning”

  4. Denny says:

    This phenomenon is consistent with the experiences I reported in my March 31st post, Silver Spoon’s Bitter Aftertaste…

  5. Ana says:

    So no one has weighed in from the 20’s and 30’s crowd? I don’t see too many big problems among my acquaintance (26-33) but I guess that proves nothing other than that one can choose one’s friends. Among my relatives, which is not a self-selecting sample, we do seem to have a high proportion of people drifting.
    I will admit that my dreams are smaller than my father’s. I don’t want to work as hard as he did –six-day weeks, never home, no hobbies, etc.. I will work _enough_ to be secure, but I would rather have more of my life than climb as high. Whether this is low motivation or reasonable compromise is I suppose subject to debate.

  6. I am in agreement with Ana. I still have to work for a living, but I want a life rather than a career.

    It took me a long time to learn this as my work ethic was destructive to at least three marriages. Money and possessions are no substitute for being home and watching your children grow up.

    On the other hand, I don’t see that Ana represents the “me-me generation” attitude that Jane Adams was describing.

    There are many young people who are self reliant and motivated to succeed, even though they were raised by caring, nurturing parents. Perhaps the main difference is how parents reward their children’s performance.

    Some parents are so anxious about losing the child’s affection that they are unable to enforce the necessary discipline to show the child how life is lived.

    They plead with their children and negotiate with them and then reward them even when the child breaks all the rules. When they do this, they are creating little monsters. The child has no reason to obey, since the rewards will be provided anyway. This creates an “entitlement mindset” in the child, since they have little idea of exchange.

  7. oldcatman says:

    My first impression is everything evolves….I am not my father, my sons are not me…etc. Then I look around at the very small farming town that I live in. There are several generation using and working the same land as their parents and their parents before them…………I guess the “peas in the pod” can be different or not….

  8. Chuck says:

    I have personal experience with what David just posted about parents and their fear of losing their child’s affection. I am the father of two children a boy and a girl. They are from two different marriages and there is 18 years difference in age. My son is currently 32 years old and living a successful life. My daughter is 14 years old and I am concerned for her future. The difference is their mothers and how they were raised. I was a part-time father to my son after he turned 5 and to my daughter after she turned 8. My son’s mother learned to disipline my son and hold him accountable for his actions. She once called me and asked me how I could take him into a store, because he would not behave for her. I asked her what she did when he wouldn’t behave and she said that when she got to the car then she would punish him. I shared with her that at that point he didn’t know what he was being punished for and that he needed to be punished at the time of the misbehavior. I don’t know where I got that wisdom at that time but she listened and it worked. My daughter’s mother didn’t listen or ask or disipline and the result is a 14 year old daughter that has been court-ordered to live with me because of misbehavior. My hope is that with a combination of love and disipline I can turn her around in the little time I have left (4 years). I am still learning more about parenting each day as things arise. Children need disipline, or they will grow up thinking that there are no boundarys for behavior or just not know where the boundarys are. Parents that are anxious about losing their child’s affection should be more concerned about losing their child’s respect. My son loves and respects his mother. My daughter’s affections for her mother at this point are questionable and she has no respect. I beleive as my daughter matures her mother’s behavior will have more effect on her respect for her than her affection.

  9. Linda says:

    I know a lot of people in my age group who exhibit the sort of…how shall I call it?…malaise described in the article. There is a sense of entitlement among many people I encounter. I feel that it directly correlates to the way they were raised. I find that the most miserable people I know have miserable parents.

    I also find that the happiest people I know have vital, caring parents who protected but never sheltered them, and made them go out and earn their own way.

    It all comes from the role-modeling you received as a child. As a former military dependent, I’d be interested in seeing some sort of report contrasting the children of civilians to those who were raised in the military, to see if a pervasive air of discipline yields any difference in the numbers of unproductive versus productive (and happy) people in my age range.

  10. I know a child who was raised in a military family. Both parents were in the military before the child was born, than the mother became a civilian to raise the child.

    Discipline for the child was much like Chuck described earlier. The husband and wife operated on different wavelengths and the child had no consistent discipline. One parent was unable to exert discipline and the child grew up with no boundaries on his behavior, as he could always negotiate himself out of any situation by lying.

    He is completely untrustworthy, even though he was raised in a military family and is now in the military. He has no respect for the parent who could not discipline him, but seems to respect others who exhibit an ethics presence.

    I don’t know if he is capable of learning self-disipline at this point. Perhaps he will change if he stays in the military for a few years.

    I hope so.

  11. Theresa says:

    Children of adversity are indeed, made of sterner stuff. I speak from experience.

  12. Lil says:

    I greatly appreciate all these comments.
    Not to be picky, but it would have been
    nice if you had mentioned once that you found
    this article on my blog, C. Little, no less

  13. Lil,

    I did not remember where I found it or I would have credited you for the link. I actually thought I found it through one of the news feeds I use.

  14. steven says:

    So no one has weighed in from the 20’s and 30’s crowd?

    Ana, I’m (sigh) right at the top end, a pirate looking at forty. Some say I’m a boomer, but I certainly haven’t ever felt like one. To Howe and Strauss I’m the beginning of Gen-X. Whatever.

    Anyway, I’m with David in “wanting a life not a career.” I’m just having an awfully hard time finding either right now.

    And as for “those kids, who are in their twenties and thirties … having every constitutional and environmental advantage…,” I don’t feel like I’ve got any advantages – it feels like all the fun, jobs, careers, money, environment, govenrnment influence, etc. are all taken by the Boomers who couldn’t care less about us.

    I look at my teen-age sons and just hope that I’m leaving them better prepared for their lives than I feel for mine.

  15. Maria says:

    I am a late boomer (b. 1962) with a 21 year old and two teens, aged 17 and almost 15. I cannot agree more with this assessment. I did everything the books said, by disciplining with love, not corporal punishment. I blindly assumed that any difficulties my children had were based on the (BS) low self esteem. I even bought into the malarky that they just needed good therapy. The final result was I was sold a bill of goods that lead to spoiled, selfish, self absorbed adults who have zero motivation to support and maintain their own household. My eldest has been in college for over five years but only managed to complete two years worth of schooling because she dropped every class that she even remotely disliked.

    I am shellshocked because I worked my tail off to feed and house them. They didn’t grow up with all the luxuries and only enjoyed some of the luxuries (Nintendo, the Internet, a computer) in the last couple years. Despite this, they still feel persecuted because their friends have better looks, better figures, more stuff, etc.

    After speaking to a few WWII vets, I began to realize what my daughters lacked was perspective. They have never felt hunger pangs (something I knew from being sent to bed without dinner,) never knew the fear of being beat up for mouthing off (as was the case if I told off my parents the way they did) and they never knew the fear of losing a loved one closer than a grandparent. Life, when it is too easy, makes for apathy and complascency. The end result is a bunch of spoiled children (they even reported me to Child Protective Services twice because I slapped them once and held them physically by the arms to prevent them from charging out of the house without permission.)

    But the problem isn’t just the generation. It’s the BS discipline theories they experimented with this generation of children. What will be the result? A whole world of selfish kids that are of adult age and can’t see beyond their own wants and desires. Can anyone describe Hitler, Stalin or any other villian of the twentieth century any better than this?

  16. Joy Kramer says:

    I really believe there is an “entitlement” generation and they are a problem without any solution that I can think of, but I have also seen some pretty darn good kids, young adults, adults in their thirties, so I know they exist, too. I think some of it has to do with wealth, but don’t dismiss the genetic factor. I have five kids and various results with the bunch of them, which I can’t clearly attribute to life style, but can see genetic predispositions. I do agree with that “life in turns,” as what our grandparents did in their lives surely was different than ours, as ours will be to our grandkids. And what is the answer? Maybe it’s doing just what we are doing, reading other people’s experiences and comments and trying out some new concepts on the kids. But are the wealthy reading blogs????


  17. Adam says:

    It seems to me that most boomers rarely take true responsiblity for their actions. Maybe if half of them would’ve taken marriage more seriously, and by that I mean, not putting their kids in broken home scenrios then things with my generation would possibly be different. The bottom line is Gen X & Y are mostly well into their adulthoods now and it’s up to us to fix our own problems and the problems our parents generation placed before us. That’s the only thing we can do and I hope most of us step up to the challenge.
    TITLE: Gaining character by facing adversity
    DATE: 04/13/2004 09:21:15 PM
    Denny, a retired Westpoint educated Army officer, blogging at Book of Life has provided a selection of anecdotes, analysis, and scholarly quotes in pointing out the difficulties of building character without any adversity in one’s life. My description …
    TITLE: Gaining character by facing adversity
    DATE: 04/13/2004 09:19:21 PM
    Denny, a retired Westpoint educated Army officer, blogging at Book of Life has provided a selection of anecdotes, analysis, and scholarly quotes in pointing out the difficulties of building character without any adversity in one’s life. My description …

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