Stop Blaming Millennials for Participation Trophies

By August 24, 2016Education

Millennials get a lot of guff from older generations. While there are many things to pick on us for, as with every generation, when it comes to Millennial bashing, a “come to Jesus” discussion needs to be had.

Young Americans born between the years of 1980 and 2000 are constantly being barraged for our love of “participation trophies” and our inability to be as independent as our parents and grandparents would have liked.

While more personal responsibility is certainly needed from all individuals there is an illogical inconsistency that occurs every time a Baby Boomer or a Gen Xer insults Millennials. We are products of the way we were raised, and unfortunately for our generation, most of us were born during the rise of helicopter parenting.

According to Business Insider, there were four main events that led to this new, heavily dependent form of parenting. For the purpose of this discussion, we will highlight two: The abduction of Adam Walsh and the self-esteem movement.

Many of us remember the horrible abduction and murder of seven year old Adam Walsh in 1981, which gave rise to his father’s show America’s Most Wanted. What few of us remember is how this tragic event impacted the way “children of the 80s” were raised.

While this wasn’t the first publicized kidnapping, it was the first major incident to take place in the era of the 24-hour news cycle. Cable television created a space for CNN and other news outlets to fill every hour of the day with news.

As the news of Adam’s abduction spread across the nation, parents became paranoid of letting their kids out of their sight. Gone were the days when kids were sent out into their neighborhoods to play freely and unsupervised and told to be home by dinner.

For many of us, myself included, this constant supervision made the adjustment to adulthood difficult. For our entire lives we were told to stay close and be wary of everyone. It is no wonder so many of us have had difficulty adjusting to the real world.

The second  most important driver of the rise of helicopter parenting was the self-esteem movement. During the 1980s, parents were told to overcompensate for their children’s shortcomings and give us praise constantly, even if it wasn’t warranted. This ushered in the phenomenon of the participation trophy, where showing up and doing what was expected of you was suddenly a major life achievement.

But while Millennials get blamed for this practice, it wasn’t our generation who was responsible for this. As children we were not tasked with making sure each of our peers had a trophy or a medal or a ribbon. Our parents, teachers, grandparents, community leaders, etc. did that.

Preoccupied with sheltering us from rejection, which is a commonality in the real world, we were told that everything we did was worthy of recognition. It wasn’t. However, as we kept receiving awards for doing nothing, many grew to expect this as a natural occurrence in life.

As mentioned previously, each individual is responsible for their actions. That being said, the millennial generation is trying to overcome two decades worth of parenting methods that have made us ill equipped for adult life and then we are chastised for this.

Before condemning young Americans for the way we were raised, I implore older generations to take a look how we got here in the first place. I would also encourage the millennial generation to parent, teach, and mentor wisely as we begin to have children and embark on our careers. The habits and traditions we establish now will affect the next generation for years to come, as we have all experienced first-hand.

Author Brittany Hunter

Brittany Hunter is a Staff Contributor at Generation Opportunity.

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