The Generation Gap: Change From Appreciation to Entitlement in Today’s World

“When I was a child…” are the words spoken by every generation at one time or another. Of course, what we say to finish that statement is very different depending on your age and which generation you were brought up in. What you think is proper or necessary, may not be the same as someone much younger or older than you.

With every generation there are changes that come about in how people react, connect, and behave. Some change is necessary and good, while other modifications fall short on what is perceived as acceptable or beneficial by the majority. Like other generations before, today’s Generation Y has been formed by the ever-changing leaders, developments, and trends of today’s world. What one believes they are entitled to may be what another feels is a gift, which should be appreciated. 

When discussing a child’s expectations of the world, we have to consider children of the past in order to look toward the future. How were they raised to think and behave in the past? That answer depends on what era we are talking about.

  • Early 1900’s (1900-50’s)
    • Children born in this era certainly understood that times were tough, money was scarce, and having a good time simply meant reading, dancing, or spending time with family. Eventually, you could add movies to the mix.
    • Most children didn’t have much in the way of toys or other material items. When they did get a gift, they truly appreciated it because they never knew when the next item would come their way.
    • Back then children were told to respect their elders and authority was rarely questioned. “Yes ma’am” and “No sir” were a healthy part of a kid’s vocabulary.
    • A child in this time period felt lucky to get a dollar for Christmas and fruits and nuts were the big items found in their stockings.
  • The 60’s
    • This was a real time for change on what was expected by children. Kids didn’t demand things; however, they were given much more than their predecessors. If they didn’t get what they wanted, there was a good chance they would be upset, usually in silence, out of respect for authority.
    • Although these kids were given more, chores were still expected as a daily part of their lives. They were part of the family and were expected to participate in the responsibilities that came with that role.
    • Generally, with these chores came a weekly or monthly allowance; the goal being to help them become more independent. Children learned to earn their own money for the things they wanted.
    • The second wave of women’s liberation came about in the 60’s. This was a time when roles were questioned, attitudes changed, and independence was lifted.
    • As the years rolled by, children started to do more and go further without the hand-holding of their parents. The downside of this development was that kids were experimenting and getting away with more without the watchful eye of their parents.
  • The 70’s and 80’s
    • One of the most dramatic in change came to the family home during this period. Magnavox Odyssey and Atari were introduced and became the first generation of TV video games. Many parents couldn’t get to the stores fast enough to satisfy the hunger of their kids wanting the newest gadget.
    • The days of having chores to do were drastically reduced in that kids didn’t have to attain a goal for the material items they wanted. For many, all they had to do was ask.
    • Hand-me-downs of clothes, cars, and furniture were still expected and appreciated as siblings grew and changed. Getting to go on a shopping trip with mom was an event; one which only happened on occasion and within budget.
    • Kids were expected to move out from the family home at a reasonable age; eighteen to twenty-one for most.
    • The uncomfortable conversations about sex, drugs, and roll-n-roll were still kept quiet; only brought on when a family issue came about.
  • The 1990’s and beyond
    • From the 1990’s and moving forward to today, everything has changed. Children are better educated, moving faster, and growing taller.
    • Parents started to open up about the uncomfortable issues, but there weren’t nearly enough tools until later in this period. Today parents can have open discussions about many of these topics with the help and approval of experts, television, and support groups.
    • Many parents take on the task of supporting their children way past the eighteen or twenty-one mark. They want, so parents supply that desire for them. Eventually, they learn that nothing is gained by doing so, and the ebb and flow of letting them grow up is created.
    • Many young adults are waiting longer and longer to get married and have children. The reasons are many: some don’t want to make the same mistakes as their parents, others don’t want to give up their free time, or they may realize the responsibility and consequence of moving too quickly.
    • Today, more than ever, children are given opportunities to excel in learning, creative endeavors, and showmanship, while also being exposed to violence, sexual innuendos, and inappropriate morals and values.
    • Children speak their minds openly, even questioning the authority of their parents and others. With roles being altered, some children say and do what they want, with little or no consequences for their behavior.

Of course, some changes have been good and helpful, but what do people believe are the cause of the negative changes? For starters, just about everything. The trends, leaders, development, technology, what is seen on television (sex and violence) and how much time kids sit in front it, the lack of goals, chores, respect, values, and morals. Mothers having to work more, denying them the luxury of being with their kids before and after school, like women in the past. Parents not staying married, giving issue to various types of discipline, conflict, and values. Then, there is the sexual revolution, abuse, the value system, along with a whole host of other reasons we could blame for the negative change.

According to the authors’ 1997 book, The Fourth Turning, modern history repeats itself every four generations; approximately 80–100 years. The authors of the book mention that the four-cycles always come in the same order. The first one, the High cycle, occurs when a new order or human expansion is developed, replacing the older one. The next cycle is called the Awakening. More spiritual than the previous, this is a time of rebellion against the already established order. The third cycle is known as the Unraveling, when elements of individualism and fragmentation take over society, developing a troubled era which leads directly to the Fourth Turning, an era of crisis dominating society during which a redefinition of its very structure, goals, and purposes is established. If this is true, you have to wonder what we are in store for in the future.

In talking with someone who was born in 1930’s, the most dramatic change she experienced has been since her grandchildren were born. She reminded me of a quote they used to say, “Idol hands are the devil’s tools” Chaucer’s ‘Tale of Melibee’ (c. 1386), which she believes points back to too much television, mothers having to work, and the values of family going south. Her feeling is that the attitude of entitlement and expectation has become overwhelming in today’s world. Others feel that the basic principles children were raised with ‘in the old days’ have been replaced with disrespect, bad attitudes, and over consumption of every Bling Bling new-fangled fashion or toy that hits the market.

For the most part, children are not to blame for the changes that have happened. Sure some kids don’t turn out as expected, according to the way they were raised, but generally they learned how to behave somewhere…and the majority of that started at home. Some parents gave too much, others too little. Some were divorced, which opened the opportunity for separate-disciplining, and others stayed in abusive relationships, whereby showing extremely poor behavior and neglect. You have to ask yourself: what were they taught and what did they live?

Still, kids become adults, and it is necessary and expected for them to figure out what is right and what is wrong. Holding onto the excuses about how one was raised must be let go. It may not be fair that they went through a horrible childhood, but everyone makes their own choices eventually. Forgive, let go, but don’t forget…so you can do better.

Look, all parents have regrets for what they did or didn’t do for their children. No one had a perfect childhood. The most you can do is try, again and again, to make the best life for your kids, realizing that mistakes will be made, while continually offering them the chance for a better future. Learn what you can and give that knowledge to your kids. Tell them how life works, demonstrate the difference between what is necessary and what a gift is, and let them know that they should appreciate both. Most importantly show them every single day that they are loved. 

Regardless of what you were taught and what generation you were a part of, teach your children about respect and value; for people and things. Respect and value that begins in the home and infiltrates into each and every relationship around them: teachers, friends, family members. Show them ‘how’ to talk to others, demonstrate good values, all the while giving them permission to expect respect and value from others. If you have a child to tend to, do the best you know how. Love, protect, and guide them toward the choices that make them happy and successful citizens.

As we look to our past generations, we need to realize that all of us were given much more than our ancestors in one way or another. Although most do work hard to get what we want, do we really need everything that we desire? Do our children? Does there come a time when we should start being more appreciative and grateful for what has been afforded us? Let’s face it; appreciation has turned into entitlement for many of us today. Everyone has gotten a little more unappreciative for what they have, tossing things aside easily for the newest trend. With that said, today’s world has afforded us many pleasures and opportunities, and we should be grateful and humble for what we have in life. 

To read more of my writing, you can check out my book, Loving with Purpose.



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