Helicopter parents in a scary world
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As with the generations before it, members of Generation Y are greatly defined by their childhood. While baby boomers are typically parents of both Generation X and Generation Y, how they parented these generations was completely different.
The Johnsons explained that while Generation X members were called “Latchkey kids” the following generation instead had terms like “soccer moms,” “stay-at-home dads” and “helicopter parents.” Baby boomer couples that either waited until they were established in their careers before having children and/or couples that were creating second families were taking the parental helm and created completely different environments.
“The parents of Generation X often left their children to fend for themselves while the parents pursued their careers,” the Johnsons wrote.
“The parents of Generation Y, on the other hand, often catered to their children in any way they could, whether it was attending piano recitals, going to soccer games, running interference with difficult teachers, or even getting involved in their children's college admissions and job interviews.”
While it's beneficial to children to have supportive parents, there also can be a point where the parents may be overstepping the line.
“Some helicopter parents go so far as to shield their children from the consequences of their actions…. It's as if they feel responsible for their children's happiness and success,” the Johnsons said.
While Generation Y may have had a soft cushion at home, what was going on in the world around them during childhood was different. One significant generational signpost — an event or a phenomenon that happens that one generation shares — for Generation Y is the Columbine High School massacre. The school shooting took place on April 20, 1999, in Columbine, Colo., where two armed students roamed the school's hallways, murdering 12 students and one teacher, injuring 21 others before the shooters then committed suicide.
Generation Y also grew up being exposed to the Oklahoma City bombing, the 1998 Olympics bombing in Atlanta, the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech Center, not to mention the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
While baby boomers grew up living through the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. However, these acts of violence were toward politicians or celebrities, the Johnsons noted, so it was easier to rationalize that this type of violence would not happen to everyday people. For Gen Y, they could see that “victims and the perpetrators of such an atrocity could be friends and classmates. It could happen to them,” they added.
Ladder turned lattice
Part of Generation Y's home life growing up was being an active decision maker. Parents asked Gen-Yers what their opinions were about household items or vehicles, allowing their voices to be heard.
“You've included them in the discussion and you've taken their opinions seriously,” Ms. Johnson said. “Then they enter the workforce and we want them to adhere to that old, kind of, ‘corporate ladder' mentality.”
This generation is entering/has entered the workforce after growing up with not only sharing their opinion, but that opinion being valued. They then go to work at a company that does not treat them the same way, according to Ms. Johnson. Baby boomers grew up understanding and valuing teamwork because they had to share school supplies. Generation X values independent work because they worked well alone after school while they grew up. For Generation Y, they communicate and voice their opinions because their parents valued this. While their parents were “in charge,” they were still a viable part of the unit.
“To this generation, there is no corporate ladder. It's about a corporate lattice,” Ms. Johnson said.
“A lattice has multiple connections. No one connection is more important than the other, but all the connections are necessary when creating a strong structure.”
Ms. Johnson told the older demographics in the crowd at the VAA Convention to ask themselves if they are part of this lattice with the millennials or if they are falling through the cracks.
Because of the way they were raised, many millennials stay close to their parents and other “advisors.” Ms. Johnson explained that the way Gen Y makes big decisions, the way they communicate with customers, etc. is all going to be with the help of their trusted advisors. In a place of business, that advisor would be in the form of their manager or a business owner.
“We have to extend the olive branch to this generation,” Ms. Johnson said.
“We need to let them know that we are interested for them to come onboard.”
She explained that she said “extend the olive branch” because with millennials, it is necessary to lower the bar or change standards, but they do like to know that management is happy that they are part of the team.