A Guaranteed World


Many adolescents today have grown up in a world that has protected them from failure, denying them of the valuable learning opportunities failure brings.

I believe we’ll lead the next generation more effectively if we understand their world better. One word I think summarize the world they live in today is guaranteed.

Much of their time is spent in a protected, failure-proof environment in which they are never given the chance to lose. Many of today’s children and teens are never challenged to take a risk. Their entire lives have been full of safety devices, from safety seats to safety belts, and they have been discouraged from going anywhere alone. They also receive ribbons and trophies just for participating in activities; for many, they rarely have to earn anything.

Now, please understand. I am not advocating for parental neglect. Nor am I opposed to safety. I love my kids and want them to be safe. I care about the thousands of students I meet each year. But there’s a difference between common-sense measures and over-protection. Being perennially protected and provided for not only tends to foster a prolonged childhood; it also nurtures a sense of entitlement.

In a survey of corporate recruiters by the Wall Street Journal and Harris Interactive, students were told that there was an “E-word” that described them, then were asked to guess what that word was. The young people guessed a lot of words — excellent, entrepreneur, energetic, enterprising — but none of them guessed the right one: Entitled.

Where does this sense of entitlement come from? The National Institute on Media and the Family and the Minnesota PTA have even launched a statewide campaign encouraging parents and teachers to start saying “no” to young people more often. They are begging parents to read David Walsh’s book, No: Why Kids — of All Ages — Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It. The campaign blames DDD (Discipline Deficit Disorder) for this generation’s inflated expectations and feelings of entitlement.

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