Simon Says: Kids these days?

I’ll never forget the evening that my first born daughter started teething (which, in turn, caused surprisingly large amounts of drool and crankiness – and not just on my daughter’s part). My mother happened to be visiting and she suggested that rather than using the oral numbing cream our pediatrician recommended, we put a little whiskey on the baby’s gums.

“Older generations tend to think that new generations are radically different from themselves. But I wonder if these perceptions are really just today’s version of the ‘kids these days’ cliché? ” Tami Simon, JD, Global Practice Leader, Knowledge Resource Center

When I explained that alcohol can be fatal to an infant, she replied, “Well I did it to you and you survived!” Ahem. We all tend to start from the position that the way we do things is the right way, and that youth especially lack the wisdom or experience to really “get it.” I could have shown my mother hundreds of research papers to prove my point – and it wouldn’t have mattered.

Perhaps that is why many of today’s baby boomers think that the millennials are radically different from themselves. But I wonder if these perceptions are really just today’s version of the “kids these days” cliché?

Millennials are often labeled as tech savvy, activists, highly mobile and rather entitled. But let’s consider how the adults of the roaring twenties perceived kids of that era.

The advancement of technology (e.g., radio, motion pictures, telephones and electricity) significantly changed youngsters’ cultural and lifestyle expectations (similar to today’s tech savvy youth? Yup.).

Young women started to publically take more control of their bodies and roles in society by doing away with their corsets and earning the right to vote (is the gender gap and equality still an active social and political issue? Of course!).

Kids became more mobile due to increased production and access to automobiles, and the US started to see children moving away from home for prosperous jobs (mobile millennials? You betcha.).

I suspect we could apply this experiment to many generations. And while each one would have its own style and flare, wouldn’t many of the underlying characteristics be the same? Kids take what already exists for granted, want freedom from adults, can be idealistic, and think they can solve every problem.

So what does this mean for employers trying to recruit and retain young talent?

Instead of spending large amounts of resources on deep analyses of generational psychology, perhaps all employers really need to do is keep up with modern trends, think in terms of lifecycle rather than age, and remember what it was like to be young.


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