I probably don’t need to tell you—the kids who make up Generation Z are not merely a continuation of the Millennial Generation. The times are different; culture has shifted and more realities are uncertain than ever before.
Let me illustrate some of the shifts that have happened from one generation to the next:
|I am naïve and nurtured||I am savvy and cynical|
|My first gadget was an iPod||My first gadget was an iPhone|
|I am awesome!||I am pragmatic|
|I grew up in a time of expansion||I grew up in a time of recession|
|I am full of confidence||I am full of angst|
There is another change that’s taken place when Generation Z surfaced as the newest generation being measured today. And it may be as important as any other.
The Need to be Needed
I just finished doing a television taping—and this topic surfaced over lunch. Every human being needs to believe they are needed by others. It is fundamental to our self-esteem and our sense of identity. We need to feel we have something that others not only want, but they actually need.
Today—too many kids don’t genuinely feel needed.
Now, I am not talking about a child living in a home where they’re not loved, nor provided for. (That certainly happens, but it’s not my topic today). I am speaking of their innate need to possess some quality, gift or role that meets a need.
Think about it. A hundred plus years ago, families were larger because parents needed workers on the farm. It wasn’t uncommon for a family to have 10-12 children all working in the fields, milking the cows or feeding the chickens. If one of them failed to do their job, everyone noticed it. The work didn’t get done. All kinds of shifts had to take place. In the one-room schoolhouse, a 12-year old was likely helping the 7-year old with spelling, because the teacher couldn’t handle everyone.
While that may sound like bad news (to bear such a burden of responsibility) it actually did wonders for the child, whose self-esteem grew because so much trust was placed in them and because “real” jobs were given to them, as early as four years old. Kids did important things at home in early childhood; worked the farm at middle school age; and drove a car by age fourteen. Bottom line? They actually felt needed by others. Even though times were tougher, young people played a vital role in the family. They could be proud of what they had done.
Today—families are much smaller. In fact, the population of Generation Z has significantly diminished from the Millennial Generation. The kids born since the year 2000 make up about 59 million, while the Millennials make up about 80 million. Because they may grow up with fewer siblings (maybe no siblings) and Mom and Dad have 21st century technology, everything is done by an adult or an appliance, and the child is given no, or at best, virtual responsibilities to perform.
The Great Advantage of Disadvantage
The philanthropic arm of our non-profit organization is “The Growing Leaders Initiative.” We work with disadvantaged students in both underserved schools as well as in developing nations. As we provide Habitudes® for these kids, one of the most stunning discoveries we’ve made is how resilient and robust many of these students are because they carry responsibilities like looking after younger siblings or doing significant household tasks while Mom is at work. Their “chores” are real.
My suggestion to you?
Give your kids, your students, your employees and athletes genuine work that needs to be done—thus, demonstrating you really need them. Give them chores around the house, key projects at work that affect the bottom line, ownership of team practice on the athletic field and meaningful responsibilities at school.
Madeline Levine explains in The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids, more advantaged children are at greater risk for the depression that results from feelings of being purposeless.
Audrey Monke has been a summer camp director for thirty years. She says, “When we treat our kids as customers to be served at home (or school or camp), they get a sense of being unnecessary appendages in the world. I believe this is especially true of teenagers, who are capable of doing much more than many of them are asked. While their ancestors were working, getting married, and having children during what we now call ’emerging adulthood’ (ages 18-26), many of this age group are still being taken care of and served by parents who think they’re not ready to take on adult life with its work and challenges. I understand the financial reasons for many emerging adults to live at home, but regardless of the reason, kids and young adults of all ages need to be taking on more and more chores and responsibilities as they mature.”
New Habitudes Course:
Social & Emotional Learning
Our Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning curriculum uses memorable imagery, real-life stories and practical experiences to teach timeless skills in a way that is relevant to students today. Students are constantly using images to communicate via emojis, Instagram, and Snapchat. Why not utilize their favorite language to bridge the gap between learning and real-life application?
Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning helps middle and high school students:
- Develop habits of self-discipline and initiative
- Implement time management skills to do what really counts
- Plan for personal growth outside the classroom
- Identify their unique strengths and passions for a healthy self-image
- And many more social and emotional skills
Click on the link below today to learn more about Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning!