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  • Writer's pictureMona Jones

Kids These Days

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

I laugh when I read this quote. Can you guess who said this? The correct answer is Socrates, a Greek philosopher who was born in 470 B.C. It is a common opinion for the older generation to think the younger generation is out of hand. I remember when I was younger, my mom and dad would tell me their opinion of my generation. They did not confuse my generation with what Tom Brokaw called, “The Greatest Generation.”

According to an article by Dr. Jill Novak, of Texas A&M University, there are six living generations in our country today:

The G.I. Generation:  Born from 1901-1926

The Mature/Silent Generation:  Born from 1927-1945

The Baby Boomers Generation:  Born from 1946-1964

Generation X:  Born from 1965-1980

Generation Y:  Born from 1981-2000

Generation Z:  Born after 2000

Each generation has its own unique characteristics. Generalizations are never 100% accurate for everyone. They are a way to define an entire generation of Americans based on characteristics of their particular group. My dad was born in 1926 so he fits into the G.I. Generation. After he graduated from high school, he was drafted and a few months later he was sent to Okinawa. My mom was born in 1931 in the Mature/Silent Generation. I was born in the Baby Boomer Generation and my children are members of Generation Y.

I have coached and taught young people from Generations X, Y, and Z and they are all different. Kids will continue to change each year. Coaching is like running a business. You need to adapt to the wants and needs of your customers.

I can imagine the C.E.O. of the American Buggy Company pounding his fist on the table and shouting, “All we need to do is make the best buggies in America. The automobile is just a fad!” If a business fails, jobs are lost. If our educational system fails, a generation is lost.

I can’t imagine sending our seniors straight to war after they graduate in May. I’m not sure this group is ready for that. Tom Brokaw wrote a book years ago called, “The Greatest Generation.” It’s about the generation of men and women that struggled through the Great Depression, fought in World War II, and came home to live and work and make our nation what it is today. While all six of the generations living in America today add great strength and contributions to our country, I think that Tom Brokaw was correct. The people of that generation proved they were the “Greatest” generation.

While I believe that we should have admiration for past generations, we are no better predictors of the success or failures of future generations than was our friend, Socrates. I would assume  my grandfather probably had similar negative thoughts about my dad’s generation when he was a teenager. It is too easy to say that this generation is so worthless, lazy, disrespectful, and you can fill in the blank. I have coached for 35+ years and I can tell you that this generation of kids are some of the best kids of ALL TIME.

They are extremely hard workers, when they are properly motivated. They are some of the boldest “faith warriors” I have ever been around. This generation of kids are big-time volunteers for causes they believe in. In the last eleven years that we have been in Greenwood, I know at least six of our former players that have served our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you want to pick a fight, tell me that this generation is the worst of all time. I have a few observations about the current generation.

I have read and reread, “Generation iY” by Tim Elmore. I highly recommend it to anyone who works with this generation. Elmore puts this generation into a sub-group he calls Generation iY, because they are the first generation that was born after the internet was created.

Generation iY has never known a world without the internet, the iPhone, and social media.  This generation has great characteristics, but one of their less admirable qualities is that they seem to lack empathy. This group in general, seems to struggle with understanding empathy. According to the Webster Dictionary, empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

With empathy you wouldn’t write nasty things about your classmates on social media or post unflattering pictures. Without empathy, you aren’t aware that your words or actions can cause others pain. We have had young people commit suicide due to bullying on social media.

It could be considered an epidemic in schools today. One of my favorite traditions in the Greenwood football program is our Squad Dinners.  We have eight coaches on our staff and divide our team into eight squads. Each coach has about twelve players in their squad. Every other Thursday during the season, a coach and his players will go to their Squad Dinner hosted at a player’s house. After eating dinner the squad will have question time. Questions are to learn more about the team members and create trust and vulnerability. I cannot say thank you enough to the families that have opened their homes to feed hungry football boys. We as coaches have one rule when it comes to eating with our players, we always eat last. We want to exhibit servant leadership and in the case that we might run out of food and embarrass our host family.

Over the 11 years that we have had squad dinners, I have been horrified by the attitudes of some of our guys. Several of them have pushed and shoved to the front of the line to pile up their food as if they hadn’t eaten in a week. They have no sense for who’s behind them in line and no concern for the sacrifice the host family has made. I decided to ask our team what they think about when they line up for food during our squad dinners. I asked this question, “how many of you, during the squad dinners, have thought about how much food you put on your plate as it concerns your teammates and your host?” There were about 65 boys in the group that had attended between five and ten squad dinners. I thought I had a pretty good idea, but I was shocked by the final number. Of those 65 boys, only 2 had ever considered how much food they took. Both of those young men had hosted squad dinners at their house. This is not an indictment of this generation, it is simply a lesson that we need to teach. Empathy can be taught. We need to coach them on how to be more aware of their words and actions.

At the end of my talk, I gave them a small homework assignment. I told them in the next three days they needed to find a way to show empathy to someone. Just a small step towards living in empathy. I loved hearing their examples and I think this lesson is something we all can apply. 

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