The Problem with Scapegoating the Next Generation
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
There is a common and disturbing trend today of scapegoating the next generation for the myriad of problems we see in the world. It looks something like this:
"This is the most entitled generation I've ever seen."
"In my day we didn't get trophies for participation. We had to earn rewards."
"Young people today are pampered too much."
"Most teenagers don't know the value of hard work and sacrifice."
No doubt there are aspects of recent generations that are disappointing. But, that can be said of every generation. For decades parents have pointed out the failings of their children. Most children have heard their parents say, "In my day we didn't do . . . " And, children have pointed out the failure of past generations to be relevant to the issues of the modern day. Most parents have heard their children say, "You just don't get it."
Here are four things to consider when scapegoating the next generation:
1. Complaining about the problem doesn't work. What benefit is it if we merely complain of the problems we see in the next generation without suggesting and modeling ways to fix them? It seems that our complaining is merely a deflection away from actually having to make changes. If we're going to complain, we should at least be willing to engage the problem and suggest some workable solutions.
2. Overgeneralizing a generation isn't accurate. Lumping every person in a generation together as if they are all the same doesn't isn't an accurate picture of every person in that generation. It's unfair to those who don't fit the mold. Every child from the millennial generation to generation Z is not entitled or lazy any more than every child of the 60's and 70's was a hippie. It is important to realize that the generations to which we refer are made up of individual people who make individual choices.
3. Placing the blame on children and adolescents isn't honest. If every child of this generation gets a participation trophy, who bought those trophies? If every child of this generation doesn't know the value of work, who failed to teach or expect work as a value? Unfortunately our condemnation of the next generation is not a condemnation on them, but of us.
4. Blaming prevents us from discipling. When we spend our time blaming others, it puts us at odds with them and isn't helpful for developing healthy relationships. When we blame, we take the focus off of what we could do different because we are waiting on others to change. When we are blamed we tend to become defensive and less likely to be open to influence. Discipleship is about modeling through relationship, and blaming is a barrier to that relationship.
As parents, we are called to train up children in the way they should go. We bear the responsibility of instructing the next generation so that they will become fully devoted followers of Jesus who change the world. Let's make a commitment to spend more time training and less time complaining.