About six years ago, a gentleman I worked with asked me if I would talk to his son who was choosing a college and a college major. Dad was a Johnnie; Grandpa a Tommie. For me, the answer to the "what college" question was a given: Tommie. As far as college major went, dad wanted his son to go into engineering, but didn't know which type his son would be interested in, if any. Dad arranged for his son to meet with a mechanical engineer and an electrical engineer that I worked with, and with me, a chemical engineer.
I spent some time to gather information on the coursework that the son would need to take, types of jobs he could do once he graduated, some information on good engineering schools, and starting salary data. Dad arranged for his son to come in to where we worked and talk to us.
"Michael" was a good kid. Never gave his parents any big problems, did well in school (Benilde-St. Margaret), active in a variety of extracurricular activities, etc. He was as clean cut as they come. I presented my material to him and he listened intently and asked questions.
As I neared the end of my little pitch, I pulled out the starting salary data. I began with some caveats about how salary is important, but you should choose a major you like over what you could potentially earn in a profession you disliked. Liking your job was important, a higher priority, at least to me, than salary. Reluctantly, I handed him the salary data for a fresh-out-of-college, no-experience chemical engineer. I had a strong sense that the numbers would unduly influence his decision.
He looked at the number and his demeanor instantly changed. "That's it?" he indignantly said in an elevated voice. At that time, years ago, a new chemical engineer fresh out of college was making around $60K. I figured the salary data would be a reason to seriously consider studying engineering and his reaction was 180 degrees from what I thought it would be.
I knew immediately that he would NEVER study engineering.
Actually, my first thought was, "You little ingrate. Go to college, go find a job and let's see what you make when you graduate. If $60K isn't good enough for you, there is something wrong."
What's going on?
That narcissistic attitude is understandable in my kids, but it is very unbecoming in an adult. Today, there are those that believe that the world "owes" them and they want to everything immediately. They are never satisfied; they always want more. Nothing is never good enough for them and they frequently show no gratitude or express any thanks.
Sometime parents are to blame for giving their children everything they want and not providing an accurate view of the world, a world that isn't fair and isn't going to hand you everything right now, if ever.
Michael's reaction surprised me, but then I remembered the culture we live in. The culture Michael was raised in. The immediate gratification, the false notion that bigger is better, the more you have the happier you will be -- compromising their future to live for today.
In the book, Thirty and Broke, it discusses the mentality of this generation. The comment in red is mine:
“the first generation that came of age with the Internet, grew up marketed to at every turn… and they could be the most indebted generation in modern history.”
“When these students start out in the working world, many use their credit cards to fund a richer lifestyle (that they have grown accustomed to) than they can afford, get by between jobs, or cover emergency expenses. The average credit-card debt among 25-34-year-olds was $5,200 in 2004, 98% higher than in 1992.”
They exemplify “a generation with an unusual sense of entitlement. They were brought up as consumers, comfortable with prosperity, certain of their eventual success. For many 30-year-olds, establishing themselves takes longer and is more complicated than they thought it would be.”
Meanwhile, back at the ranch
I was raised with different axioms: The world owes you nothing. Life is tough and unfair. There is always some poor SOB that has it worse than you do. Thank God for the gifts He has given you. Be thankful. Appreciate what you have and take care of it. Finally, stop your bitching (what can I say, my dad was a Navy man).
I'm trying to teach my kids to appreciate what they have. To not have a sense of entitlement. However, it seems everything is against me. Go to a grocery store or many other businesses and your kids get candy or suckers. Take your kids out to dinner and they get crayons and coloring books, balloons, toys.
Resistance is futile. We took the kids to McDonald's one morning after Mass. Didn't buy them Happy Meals, just a burger. Guess that's against the rules. The manager of the store came out with Happy Meal toys and gave them to our children. He probably thought we were mean parents and he was a generous soul to do this. What he didn't get is that we didn't buy them Happy Meals for the very fact we didn't want them to have the stupid toy! The world won't end if they don't get a toy every time they go somewhere.
My kids are not deprived. They have far more than I ever did as a child and I had a good childhood. We weren't wealthy, but we weren't poor either. My parents could've afforded to give us more "junk" than they did, but consciously chose not to.
Now that I'm a parent, I appreciate my parents' prudence and sense of what is proper. It's not easy to put your foot down because you so often want to give in, to give your child something that will put a smile on their face. However, that smile on their face will turn into a surly attitude if fed with all this consumerism and sense of entitlement.
I don't want my kid to grow up and balk at the idea of making $60K a year right out of the shoot.
Michael ended up studying accounting...at St. John's.