Every generation worries about its children. They seem so different. A book we feature today, suggesting today's teenage generation, the "millennials" are being brought up too gently, is tapping into every parent's anxieties. Are we too soft?
The millennials (born since 1990) have parents born mostly in the 1960s and 1970s when life was becoming more liberal in all respects. Most of them will have had a "softer" upbringing than most people had in the 1950s and earlier. Corporal punishment began to disappear from schools in the 1970s and eventually was made illegal. "Smacking" persisted in homes where "Generation X" (1967-90) was growing up but probably was used sparingly. It was not until 2007 that violence became illegal in family life too.
We are well rid of law permitting parents to use it. It is not physical punishment that author Yvonne Godfrey advocates in her book, Making It On My Own: 52 smart ways to smash it in the real world. She is addressing millennials born in the 1990s, now aged 16-24, who have had it so easy at home they are slow to leave. They are not going flatting in the numbers previous generations did at their age. They are comfortable living at home, treating their parents, she suggests, as "unpaid servants and bankers".
She is being a bit tough. They are a generation that faces student loans, as their parents did, but higher accommodation costs than their parents. Urban house prices in most countries like ours have risen far beyond the reach of average incomes since the millennium. Rents have risen, immigration is high and a housing shortage is causing overcrowding and making flatting less attractive.
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But there may be something to her theory that they have also been over-indulged and over-protected since they were children. Their parents were in fact the first generation to be driven to school and discouraged from climbing trees, playing in creeks or having many of the mildly risky adventures children had in less fearful times. The millennials are the second generation to be raised in cotton wool and perhaps they are softer and lazier for it.
They have also grown up with the internet. Almost since they were toddlers that have known how to operate computers and now they have them in their hands, all the time. Walking, sitting, talking, eating, their phone is in their hand. Their home with its parent-servants hardly intrudes on their virtual world. No wonder they stay.