I was having a conversation with an older colleague at work where she was discussing the family dynamics a female client she working with. As she was presenting the dynamics, I couldn’t help but reflect on one of my greatest pet peeves: the generations dynamics between baby boomers + generation x and millennials.
So why does this grind my gears exactly?
Growning up, there was this legacy dynamic that was passed along: each generation builds on the successes of the past. What’s also expected is to learn from those mistakes and not repeat them. Somewhere along the way, though the chain was broken. What I’ve always found is listening to many of the baby boomers talk about how short-sighted millennials are in their approach to the life course.
As if at some point during their own maturity process they weren’t accused of this.
My commentary isn’t an all out defense of millennials. There are some things in millennial culture that don’t sit well with me at all. But what equally doesn’t sit well with me is how some of the baby boomers now bemoan things and conveniently gloss over their contributing errors.
The best example I can give of this is gang life. If one research many of the well-know street gangs, (Crips, Blood, Latin Kings, Gangster disciples, etc) there’s a very common dynamic. Essentially, these organizations were formed by people who singularly lacked power and access, created power and access, and went through a major cultural shift when law enforcement cracked down to remove leadership. It’s the removal of the leadership element that is key, akin to the breaking of the chain of passing down key mores and values I cited earlier with the legacy comment.
So what does a gang have to do with anything?
Well, in the gang example some of these founding members were baby boomers. Once they went to prison, subsequent generations had to learn to intrepet their legacy and environments in a different way. It’s why you’ll hear some of the old gangsters say the young guys are more dangerous and volitatile with things like loyalty and the code.
If there wasn’t enough people around to teach mores and values in a certain way, what else are those coming up expected to learn?
Now some may say I’ve oversimplified the problem. What about the usual socioeconomic and cultural factors? Well, those do have an impact…and in some ways can help to exacerbate the dynamic.
Sometimes the reminscing the “good old days” will come up. But the dirty secret is that the good old days wasn’t better in some ways. If it was, then some of the old folks wouldn’t have sacrificed what they did in the manner they did to create some of the opportunities many of us currently have. But the salient point I want to drive home is this disconnect where some of the older folks have detached from the notion that the mistakes of some of their peers also played a factor in what they are “seeing” in some millennials.
So what can be done? My colleague is onto a few things. It boils down to the ability to communicate effectively. In the time I worked with adolescents and young people, I saw that one can have their attention by getting their and treat them like people. From there, a great way to earn their trust is to consistently follow through on keeping your word. I’ve been fortunate to have many a conversation where that need and desire to be mentored was such a constant theme.
It would appear some values such as mentorship don’t go out of style, no matter the generation.
I don’t absolve millennials from some of the choices they’ve made. But as Peter Tosh reminds us, you cannot blame young people if they fail when placed in situations where they’re unlikely to successful.