The “Soft” Generation

Have Children From this Generation Been Raised to be Too Sensitive?

Ashley Comeau and Sara Hughes, Journalists

Today, kids can get so caught up in whether they played well in a sports game or if they received a good grade on an essay. They will most likely think that it is the end of the world if they do not win or get anything above an A. That poses the question: Has this generation become too sensitive?

At the beginning of the 1980s, the lives of American children changed. Lenore Skenazy wrote an article about the parenting of this generation. She wrote about the shifts “in parenting norms, new academic expectations, increased regulation, technological advances, and an especially heightened fear of abduction. Children largely lost the experience of having large swaths of unsupervised time to play, explore, and resolve conflicts on their own.” Many individuals question what caused the rise of the ‘soft generation’ but it is fairly hard to pinpoint just one factor.

Overprotective parenting is one component.  It can be sometimes hard to tell when your parent is too involved in your personal life.  But how much is too much? Some children are naturally drawn to opening up to their parents about what goes on in their lives, while others tend to stay completely closed off. While some parents don’t know what happens in their child’s life; others hover over their kids like helicopters, hence the term “helicopter parent.” Always being there for them when they are involved in a minor issue leaves children more fragile, more easily offended, and more reliant on others. They have been taught to seek authority figures to solve their problems and protect them from any uncomfortable, embarrassing, or perturbing situations.

We asked one of the counselors at Ipswich High School, Mrs. Ryan, about her thoughts on the matter. She responded with, “we are setting our kids up for disappointment. With the rising generation, it [sensitive children] is more relevant to others. We need to learn new ways to help people cope and finding true fulfillment. I think there is going to be a way to play on the strengths. If it’s acknowledged, then there is a way.” Kids are cradled to the point where they expect things to go right for them and have no expectations for failure.   

Another element that contributes to the cause of the sensitive generation is the idea that everyone gets a medal. Kids are getting rewarded for just participating. The reward of winning is being diminished and is losing value. This similar situation is present way into the workforce. If kids are being rewarded for losing, imagine that recurring trend happening in a work setting. Being rewarded for just trying is sending the wrong message.

After speaking with Mrs. McShane, an IHS teacher, she explained that “there is great value in losing.”  When kids aren’t allowed to lose and everyone wins, we are denying them the skills they need to get through life. If we want the future generations to push and improve themselves and the world, rewarding them for participating will not teach them to lose. We asked Mrs. McShane her opinion, she replied, “As a parent, it is a natural reaction to protect your kids. But that type of parenting ended up dominating the parenting spectrum. Now we have kids who don’t know what it’s like to fail and therefore, kids aren’t working as hard to succeed.”

Social Media is also a culprit.  Before the internet, people were forced to solve their problems face to face, rather than behind a phone screen or a computer. With all kinds of social media apps, there is plenty of room for cyberbullying. Today, the word bullying gets passed around lightly. There is a specific definition of bullying. You could say there is not enough bullying as one would think, but there is a lot of mean stuff that happens. There are hateful conversations and actions that occur everyday, but it depends on the definition of bullying. There is always someone more beautiful, stronger, and famous on social media and with that image, we compare ourselves to a broader audience than we do in real life.

Our generation is setting itself up for an even more sensitive generation, whether it be through overprotective parenting, the loss of value, or social media. Our generation and the generations to come need to learn how to cope with the change in technology and the changes in parenting surrounding them.