Simon Sinek, an author and motivational speaker, recently claimed that we, your baby boomer parents, have done grave disservices to you. And you know what? He’s right.
Mr. Sinek is wonderfully insightful and his latest talk has been making the rounds online, in which he makes a lot of very valid points and observations. If I may, I’d like to take a moment to explore the dynamics between you and us, in an effort to: 1.) apologize and 2.) help you understand us better.
Many of you have been declared lazy, entitled, and unmotivated. Let me disagree. I see men and women your age as confused, angry, and overly dependent on parents who fostered unhealthy attachments. But you need to understand — they were doing the best they could.
You were just kids, and we made your efforts ours, your successes ours.
We determined to do better than our parents — as every generation does — and we were guilty of overparenting. Parenting gurus of our time actually encouraged overparenting. Many of us felt ignored by parents who never showed up to our events, so we smothered you with our presence, giving you the message that you were the center of the universe. You weren’t. You were just kids, and we made your efforts ours, your successes ours.
When you were teens, we treated you as if you were out of control, sex-craving, drug-seeking bad kids whom no one wanted to be around. That was wrong. You weren’t. You simply had to bear the weight of a sexual mess that we dumped on you.
In the 1970s, we didn’t know about AIDS and there were only two STDs. But we changed that with the sexual revolution, springing on your generation more than 30 STDs and counting. You had to be immunized against some of them. In addition, our insistence on sexual freedom prompted advertisers to lace their products with sex in order to get you to buy their stuff.
We never meant for this to happen, and I’m sorry. You have been sold a bill of goods. We, however, were revolting against the “prudishness” of our parents because we didn’t want to be like them.
Now, you don’t want to be like us, and I don’t blame you.
On the political front, many of you have been labeled left-wing, while many of us have been branded as narrow-minded and phobic of just about everything — but we have much more in common with you than we do differences. Both of us have been branded — again — by media, and neither of us deserves it. People are much more complex than being reduced to one political party or another.
We taught you that you needed us in order to do or be anything, but you didn’t. Then we blamed you for failing to be motivated. We groomed you to have fabulous self-esteem instead of allowing you to plow through struggles and realize your strengths. We tried to keep life safe for you but crippled you instead. Then we called you lazy.
Most importantly you need to know this: We didn’t parent this way out of malice. We did it because we believed it was best for you.
You are far more capable than you have been taught, and you don’t need us the way we think you do. Moving forward, perhaps you can find motivation to excel in ways we failed.
Yes, we are to blame for many of your issues just like our parents were responsible for ours. So prepare to make a lot of mistakes with your kids as you try to change the precedent we set. Then, hope on day they’ll forgive you and understand you were just trying to do the best you could.
Meg Meeker, M.D.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids,” which is part of The Strong Parent Project.