The Strengths of Today’s Generation

The Strengths of Today's Generation

It took me six months to figure out how to turn on the caps lock on my smartphone.

That probably seems like a very small deal and you would be right. No one cares when writing a text that you use proper capitalization and most the time it will autocorrect for you. Given the atrocious grammar crimes you see on social media these days, being unable to type a capital A in the middle of a sentence hardly seems like much to fuss about.

So why do I bring it up? Because this 17-year-old high school dropout is making millions of dollars a year with an app he created while bored in science class. He lives in an apartment in New York that costs him $5000 per month. He moved from his hometown of Sydney to live in the US entirely on his own income.

It is difficult for me to fathom that level of success in someone so young. But when I look at my own children and I see how quickly they pick up on literally anything technology related, I realize that there is something very special about today’s generation.

Generation Z and the Age of Innovation

I personally believe that every generation has a unique quality that makes it amazing for its time. Generation Z, however, never fails to leave me utterly astounded.

Let’s take a look at some of the differences for those growing up in today’s world. For one thing, they are the first generation that have lived with technology on a modern scale. Many of us remember the early days of the internet when it took an hour to download a 30 second music clip from a fan website. Others still remember the days before the web, or when cellphones were giant bricks, or when there were no phones not attached to a cord in the wall.

Not only have Millennials and Post-Millennials embraced technology, they have made it entirely their own and created a new economy and way of life. Though it started with the kids of the 90’s, the Naughties are quickly taking up the banner and doing amazing things that show the true innovation of their time.

I watch this in my own children. They can get onto a computer and find information on literally any subject. They show me how to protect myself on the web (a turnaround from my obsessive monitoring of their activities in childhood). Most of their school work is online based and they not only have resources I couldn’t have dreamed of when I was their age, but they make their own to share with others.

The Self-Centered Masses

For years I have read articles, opinion pieces and social media rants claiming that the modern generation are self-centered, uncaring and cynical. That their brains are clouded by social media trends and expectations. That is in addition to claims that teenagers today are lazy, unmotivated and a number of other unflattering descriptors.

I will admit I don’t have statistics on this matter. But from what I have seen from my kids and their friends, it seems that the opposite is true. Generation Z is opened to a wider view of the world and more connected to people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds. There is a deep concern for the state of the world and a desire to take part in the process of bringing it to task.

Perhaps this false impression of their worth is contributing to the rise of depression seen in those under the age of 18, a worry for many of us who watch our children battle it.

Seeing Our Teens For Who (and What) They Are

It seems to me that much of the criticism aimed at Generation Z is due to a lack of understanding of the world they live in. Teenagers today have adapted to a fast paced, competitive and often frightening world. They are bombarded with media, opinions, information and possibilities. Sitting down and speaking to them shows how much they are impacted and how difficult it can be to navigate.

I would encourage anyone reading this to take a moment to really think of the current generation of young people. What have they accomplished? What do they seem set to do? What world do they live in and how is it different than the one we grew up in?

On a more personal level, consider similar questions for your own teenagers. What strengths do you see in them? What are some of the things they are better at than you? Do they recognize these abilities in themselves? Take time to acknowledge the many strengths and abilities that your teens of Generation Z demonstrate. Challenge yourself to find positive attributes and skills within the other generation brackets as well. Most of all, be sure to tell your own children what you notice about their strengths and encourage them to continue building upon those talents.

Through attempting to truly understand our kids and how they may see their lives, we can begin the challenging process of changing our own thinking about who and what they are. That may be one of the most valuable gifts we can give them….really seeing them.


About the Author: Cindy Price

Cindy Price is a Northern Utah wife, mom, and writer. She has 15 years experience writing educational content in the many areas of parenting, with an emphasis on teen-related issues, from which she applies and expounds on her personal experience raising three teenagers. You can find Cindy on Twitter.

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Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

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