Continuation on My Thoughts About Gen Y AKA The Entitled Generation

My previous post was a somewhat rambling thought about generational differences. It’s an opinion piece, as is this one. I will not be citing sources, merely commenting on things as I see them. I’m still putting thoughts together on this but here we go:

While I read over further research on the Generation Y several thoughts came to me. Bear with me, this could be fun.

One of the biggest complaints that I’ve come across is that these Generation Y kids get ribbons for everything. Participation ribbons. They don’t keep score at the youth basketball games and everyone goes home with a prize. That’s what I’m hearing. What I’m remembering is entering things like Science Fairs and, though I wouldn’t place in the competition, I received a ribbon for participating. Encouragement, in other words.

I spent time on this hypothetical Science Fair project. My parent hypothetically spent time and their money helping me buy supplies. Why shouldn’t I receive a ribbon for participating in an event?

Side note: we all get stickers for voting in this great country of ours. Should we bemoan that we have participation stickers for that? I didn’t think so.

Sports are expensive. Any parent will tell you that and it’s a common sense concept as well. Want children to play football? Aside from the time and energy of the child going to practice and playing in the game, the parents have to shell out gas money, equipment money, after game event money, etc. You get the idea here. And this whole time, as they’re straining to figure out their personal budgets, they have to encourage the child in the sport even though it’s eating into their family’s bottom line. Does the child deserve a participation ribbon? You bet your ass they do and so do the parents.

That, admittedly, doesn’t cover the concept of how the kids who are bad at these sports get the ribbons, too. These participation ribbons, people say, don’t encourage children to be competitive or strive to be the best at their selected sports because there’s no incentive.

Really? A trophy is the incentive and not learning good sportsmanship and teamwork? It doesn’t teach a child responsibility for their actions on and off the field?

I don’t go vote for the sticker and I certainly wouldn’t have played sports for the trophies.

My 6 year old nephew is self aware enough to know if he isn’t good at a sport. He’ll practice and, after improving, if he still doesn’t like the game for whatever reason, he won’t play. Giving him a sticker or trophy isn’t going to change that.

Competitiveness is one of those traits I consider part of human nature. Keeping up with the Jones’ is a funny haha stereotype to joke about but the evidence is overwhelming that it’s true. We start doing this at a very young age. “So and so has this toy so I want it too! But I want the one with the Kung Fu grip!” Kung fu grip makes it better, right? So our children are already competing with toys.

Back to the sports: Let the kids play and give them their ribbons. Trust me, when they watch these same sports played on television, they KNOW they aren’t as good as the guys on the screen. A lot of them also know their teammates are better, their opponents are better. It’s a fact of life. It’s our job, as adults, to teach them what to do with that knowledge and how to deal with it.

As an adult looking at things now, I have to laugh in a heartfelt but sad kind of way.  Once upon a time it was very popular to tell kids they can grow up to be president. A way of saying they can be anything, right? It’s encouraging. So tell me, America, how did that work out for you? Did you become president? How about an astronaut? Write the great american novel or win the Nobel?

But it sure did feel nice to have people encouraging you and telling you that you could, right? How is that so different from giving these happy children a ribbon that encourages them to PARTICIPATE???

Let’s train them young so when they’re told they can get a sticker for voting, they’ll actually do it.

As stated in the previous article, I am a Generation X’er as is my older sibling. My youngest sibling is Gen Y, born in 1983 which apparently was the beginning timeline. Upon realizing this I was curious as to what differences there actually are between the three of us.

We were raised by the same woman, our belief systems are all the same. And maybe that’s why I don’t see what so many others claim to.

We didn’t have a rough childhood but money was tight. My sister is 7 years behind me so by the time she hit high school she was able to partake in things we couldn’t. She went on a class trip to Europe, some skiing in Colorado, that sort of thing. Does she feel entitled to these same things now? Hell no.

My sister went to work during high school. She worked at a minimum wage job for several years before finding a job in the healthcare field she was qualified for. The job didn’t fall into her lap, she actively looked and worked to get that job.

She has stayed in the healthcare field and continuously improved her career through smart choices, education and hard work. She isn’t waiting for someone to offer anything. Her friends, all Generation Y, are the same. These are all the fore-bearers of participation trophies.

Maybe it’s not the trophy that is the problem. Maybe it’s the perception of the parents and grandparents who are worried the children aren’t going to be ready for the real world. And maybe these parents and grandparents aren’t actually doing their jobs. The kid plays sports, the kid learns new things and isn’t it the parents job to teach their children how to enact what they’ve learned instead of worrying about whether or not little Johnny got a trophy and did he deserve it?

As a final thought/note on this: My sister is turning 30 this year. I tend to believe when a generation reaches this marker and is popping out their own generation, we should maybe get off their backs. My sister has two beautiful daughters who are smart and engaging. They’re competitive with each other, as siblings and children are. We encourage them in everything they do and if they’re heading in the wrong direction we work with them.

Children remember actions, they remember words. I highly doubt they remember trophies.

5 thoughts on “Continuation on My Thoughts About Gen Y AKA The Entitled Generation

  1. While I understand your premise, I think one of the things that is missed by giving recognition for participation is that it creates a reward system for failure. Sure you may have spent a lot of time working on your science fair project but if you did not place, why should you get recognition? Wouldn’t the lack of recognition make you want to work harder next time. Wasn’t spending time with your parents working on the project rewarding?

    I do not mind giving someone a pat on the back for effort, even if they did not succeed but rewarding someone with a trophy or ribbon for effort lessens the impact of winning.


    1. Did you ever give a child a piece of candy or some other bribery for attempting to use the bathroom? Does that take away from the times the child succeeded in the attempt and received a treat as well?

      The way I view that is positive reinforcement to participate in something. Same thing as the sports. On top of that, I firmly believe those ribbons and trophies are for the parents and not actually the kids.


      1. When we were potty training our children, we did not give them candy unless they were successful. My wife and I believe in rewarding good and proper behavior. Why give a child a treat for trying. If they know they are going to get the treat anyway, there is no incentive for them to correct their actions and do it right.

        In regards to the trophies and ribbons, how would a ribbon or a trophy for the child make the parents feel better. Rewarding the child with a ribbon or trophy to make the parents feel better about their child not placing, that seems to me like a back-handed compliment. I also think it takes away from the winners.

        I see it all the time with Millennials at work. They want a reward or badge for trying. Many of them see trying and succeeding as the same thing and it is not. They do not understand why they did not get the big raise when they did average work or did not surpass expectations. It is my belief that giving ribbons and trophies for trying has led these Millenials to have an unrealistic view of business now that they are adults. We can gamify work all day long, but if you do not succeed, the business is going to fail.


      2. I can see where you’re coming from on that, for sure. I wrote based on my experiences with Gen Y and, like I said, most of them don’t conform with what I’ve been reading and hearing from other people. Perhaps it’s because they were the first line, so to speak, being born in the ’83-’85 range.


      3. That is a very valid point. They would be considered “cuspers” who have heavy Gen X influence with them.


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