Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders How We’ve Failed Our Young People

How We’ve Failed Our Young People

Every generation fails its sons and daughters in one way or another. We Baby Boomers were raised by absentee dads. We said to ourselves that we’d never make that mistake, so we’ve overparented our own kids.

As fathers, we knew that we should protect and provide. But we protected our kids from everything and we provided too many options.

Young people, we have failed you in three specific ways:

1. We didn’t give you the gift of risk.

We padded the corners on the tables. When you fell, we rushed to catch you. If you looked like you might hurt yourself, we were there with safety nets.

As you grew older, we kept in constant contact when you were away. We didn’t let you fail and understand that it is normal and necessary.

As a consequence, many of you struggle to make decisions and don’t know how to fail. You back away from risk and struggle to commit.

2. We didn’t give you the gift of pain.

Hoping to protect you, we shielded you from pain. Not understanding that pain is legitimate and normal, we deprived you of what you needed to grow.

We were your buddies—we loved you but were afraid to teach you discipline.

The irony is that despite our best efforts, we couldn’t shield you from pain. You needed the legitimate pain of natural consequences. When you touch a stove, you get burned. But then you never touch it again. Instead, we substituted the illegitimate pain of broken, inauthentic families.

3. We didn’t give you the gift of responsibility.   

In place of responsibility, we gave you options. You came to expect something for nothing. You were the center of our attention. We gave you trophies just for participating. We didn’t teach you how to commit to a thing and stick it out.

One of the defining characteristics of childhood is that children need protection and provision. They are too weak to protect themselves.

But by continuing to coddle you after you had become teenagers, we didn’t allow you the opportunity to test your muscles and build your strengths. Instead, we indulged you and created in you the expectation that you could simultaneously be irresponsible and be an adult. You cannot.

Out of the best of intentions, we delayed your progress. We spoon-fed you when you were ready to feed yourself. We rescued you when doing so gave you permission to repeat the same mistake without feeling the consequences.

But wait a second—hang on before you claim your “Get out of jail free card.” Does saying all this give you an excuse to wallow in your status?

NO! You may be tempted to go there because we’ve coddled you so much that nothing is ever really your fault.