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Should self-respect be automatic or earned?  Today, we will look closely at what happened to two generations taught self-respect shouldn’t need to be earned.  And, in the process, begin to understand the damage that has been wrought by ill-considered or even intentionally destructive progressivism. 

You don’t have to look hard to find troubling statistics about  Gen-Z and Millennials.  They aren’t doing very well as a financially responsible, looking-to-their-futures- group.  Too many still live in their parent’s homes; they spend money faster than any other generational segment on luxury goods and services while saving little.  This is about to become a national failure.  Many have good-paying jobs, but as a group, they have trouble holding on to them for very long.  Why?  The lack of an imperative to work gives them the option not to work, and again, as a group, they exercise that right frequently

I know you think your kids are different; this is about today’s statistical averages.  These averages will affect not just your young Millennial or Gen-Z but all of us because our economy is based on a different kind of replacement theory that older people retire and younger people move up.  When the Social Security Act was created in 1935, 27 workers paid for every retiree.  By 2035, which is not that far away, that ratio could fall to 2!  And, significantly increased Social Security benefits will not be paid without help from the U.S. Treasury and/or reducing benefits to retirees.  We need our Millennials and Gen Z generation to emulate their parents, step up, and have financially productive careers.

How to explain our coddled young?  Popular answers include everything from Covid to inflation.  From 9-11 to the 2008 stock market crash, all these issues and more supposedly scared the crap out of them.  But my generation had Viet Nam, Watergate, terrorist bombings, the Cold War, and a zillion other events we experienced, and we didn’t use any of those excuses to crap out.  A more nuanced view says these two generations know more than previous generations because of their near-pathological connection to social media and the internet.  That “Access” has changed the paradigm, and their young minds can’t seem to handle the reality of their world nor make sense of it.  It almost appears they are waiting for the Zombie Apocalypse to finish them off.  Really?  14% of Millennials believe there will be a Zombie Apocalypse someday!

Hogwash!  I don’t want to assign blame to parents or even school, though all have their part in screwing up our young.  I keep returning to one thing as the primary causation for the direction young people have chosen in large numbers.  This is the “Me” generation.  When I was young, I was told that children should be seen but not heard tacitly or directly.  It’s not that way any longer, and we all know it.  Why or how this has happened is a little bit more complicated than many see or can understand.  Let’s look at three issues that exemplify the problem best:

  1. First Jobs
  2. Acceptance of Failure
  3. Daily Distraction


In 1979, nearly 60% of American teenagers were employed, an all-time high.  The number of teens participating in the labor force peaked 40 years ago and has declined ever since.  How many young people you know today go to work part-time jobs for their spending money?  Today, just over one-third, or 35%, of teens are part of the workforce.  Yes, I know all the excuses for homework, transportation, and after-school activities.  But kids today just don’t get it.  They didn’t learn how to earn their own money.  Parents feared that something might happen to Junior and transferred that fear to their children.  Kids never learned about money, credit, and responsibility because they were taught they were special and could get anything they wanted without real effort.  College recruiters state that many of their prospects don’t have any long-term plans but are just looking forward to the college…’ experience.’  Millennials and Gen-Zers frequently believe they could enter executive positions right out of school.  They have no understanding of how business works. 

An incredible 43% of Millennials and 78% of the youngest, i.e., GenZers, plan to leave their jobs within the next two years.  Why?  Because they did not receive the recognition they felt they deserved and/or craved.  Our youth need constant validation.  Such is learned behavior that parents, teachers, and society teach that self-esteem is not earned; it’s a given.  

When you devalue work, go to non-graded schools, or avoid tests that will validate your success or burst your bubble if you fail, I believe that someone is not ready to become a functioning adult.  The Thomas Harris book “I’m OK; You’re OK ” cannot change the reality of life.  Objective standards cannot be cast aside because feelings may be hurt.  Life is not as situational as they might believe; things are inherently true or false.  1plus1equals2 is always true, even if a parent or child doesn’t agree. 


Many parents, schools, and social agencies believe that self-esteem is more important than the reality of actual accomplishments, such as grades and other successes.  The most important lesson life has to teach is that failure is inevitable, and it can be that, from failure, you birth success.  Only a few beginning workers lead that charmed life of uninterrupted lifelong success; many others will fail multiple times.  It is essential to learn something from that failure so that we do better and incrementally succeed. 


Millennials and Gen Z individuals are our first digital generation and, thus, the first to suffer the harmful effects of daily distractions.  Google, Apple, TikTok, and others insist on welding young eyes to their various screens through clever social engineering.  This has changed all kinds of relationships for the worse.  Most would agree that psychological and functional damage has occurred to families and relationships since this social media phenomenon took root.

Too often, families sit down for dinner to the accompaniment of dings and chimes constantly distracting this precious ‘together’ time.  Distraction has an even more insidious side, creating a lack of focus and an inability to think deeply or even clearly.  This has been shown to affect the brain’s development permanently.  Children become much more susceptible to untruths, charlatans, and those who wish to lead your child astray.  

Now is the most dangerous period of time in our history to be young.  Parental responsibilities must be held firm, even when it may make you appear to be a tyrant.  The damage being done now may keep today’s children from fantastic opportunities in life they might miss out on.  Such a life should be fair, engaging, and challenging and include essential individual responsibilities that cannot or should not be evaded.

Whether it’s success in school, your career, or a great family life, a sense of self and self-esteem can only come from tangible accomplishments.  The inevitable bumps in life only serve to make achievers stronger.

God Bless America. 

Allan J. Feifer


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