Lawnmower parents: We continue to mow the way into the future for our children
I have a close relationship with someone who is fairly high up in Human Resources and I get a steady diet of incidents that are part of the everyday life and experience for those in the field of Human Resources. While most of these fall into the category of “you can’t make this stuff up” (each of them are carefully void of names and other identifiers), there is a recurring theme of how sadly all too many younger adults are unprepared to encounter the trials, tribulations, and expectations of the world outside of academia.
These incidents range from recent hires that bring their parents to orientation, to an applicant who described the circumstances of her leaving her previous employment with the indignant report that the employer had the nerve to expect her to show up on time every day. Resumés often contain typos and huge mistakes. Believe me, these are some of the more mild examples of what employers encounter all too often.
I got to thinking about this and wondered whether we parents, grandparents, and elementary/secondary educators are somehow failing to prepare a large segment of our youth to successfully enter and succeed in the world that expects results and standards.
The majority of the employment world is an environment that, in exchange for remuneration and benefits, expects a measure of conformity and work ethic that produces results. When the unprepared and, possibly, overly sheltered young person encounters a different set of expectations than his or her entitled youth taught them to expect, the results can range from surprise to catastrophe.
I wonder if we are committing a benign form of child neglect when we shelter our children from the reality of the world we have experienced. Why are we surprised and dismayed at the failure of too many young people to succeed in the world, when we don’t let the children entrusted to us feel the pain of trying and failing; when we don’t teach them the disciplines of working on a project and seeing it through to the end on time and complete; when we don’t teach them that the ability to speak and write clearly and without expletives and pejoratives is a requirement in the work environment.
What I fear the result of this neglect is that those who are lacking the basic skills to enter and succeed in the business world will grow to resent their own situation and have a jealousy toward their contemporaries that do have those skills and use those skills to outperform the lesser educated. I think we may be seeing the seeds of that resentment in the theme of class warfare beginning to being promoted by some of those in elected office or campaigning for office.
We all want the best for the youth entrusted to us. Our hearts want to shield them from hurt and loss. But, taken to the extreme I see today, we may have traded safety and comfort in the short term for failure and pain in the long term.