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And now there are four… We had an interesting turn of events this weekend, and we now have four 17 year old boys living with us through the school year. My two boys, our foreign exchange student from China and now a friend whose family is living in New Zealand. They have a blast together, and we are excited to have him.

I’m finding I really enjoy teenage boys. They engage in passionate conversations with me, they jump in and try new things with abandon, they are witty and adventurous. I’m having to parent, but in a different way. I think there are some major misconceptions about teenagers in general, and particularly this “millennial generation”.

ME ME ME Generation

I read a very interesting article by Joel Stein in Time Magazine which dubbed this generation the Me Me Me generation. He shared some statistics that I chuckled at, having very close contact with these Millennials:

  • The incidence of being narcissistic (excessively interested in oneself) is 3 times higher for people in their 20s that people over 65.
  • Millennials got so many participation trophies growing up that 40% believe they should be promoted every two years, regardless of performance.
  • They are fame-obsessed: four times as many middle school girls want to grow up to be a personal assistant to a famous person as want to be a CEO of a major corporation.
  • The guiding morality of 60% of millennials is that they’ll just be able to feel what’s right.
  • Their development is stunted: more people ages 18 to 29 live with their parents than with a spouse.
  • They are lazy. In 1992, 80% of people under 23 wanted to one day have a job with greater responsibility; 10 years later, only 60% did.

Love Hate Relationship

Doesn’t sound promising…and it doesn’t really sound like the boys that live in my home. As the article continues, the author talks about how these kids got to this point, and then finishes by saying this generation just may save our world…didn’t see that one coming did you?! His proof:

  • They’re earnest and optimistic and they embrace the system.
  • They are pragmatic idealists, tinkerers more than dreamers, life hackers.
  • Their world is so flat that they have no leaders, which reduces rebelliousness.
  • They want constant approval and have a massive fear of missing out.
  • They want new experiences, which are more important to them than material goods.
  • They are cool and reserved and not all that passionate.
  • They’re financially responsible; although student loans have hit record highs, they have less household and credit-card debt than any previous generation on record.
  • They love their phones but hate talking on them.

So why in the world am I talking about this?? I’ve been hiring for what feels like forever. And a lot of the applicants have been millennials. They are blowing me away with their lack of respect for the hiring process. I get it now that I read this article, but what they don’t realize is that I’m doing the hiring…and I’m not a millennial! My favorite applicant: She texted my office manager to confirm she had an interview the following day. My office manager told her she did, to which she replied, “will you remind me what time it’s at, and do I need to dress up?” My reply – you only need to dress up if you’re interested in ACTUALLY GETTING THE JOB!!

How to get Along with Millennials

So we have to coexist, all of us “older than millennials” and these younguns. For all you parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, friends and neighbors out there, this is for you. (hopefully you fall under one of those categories!)

  • Give Frequent Feedback:  Millennials are used to immediate feedback on how they are doing. It comes from their digital world. Keep it ongoing and tell them what they did well as well as how they can improve.
  • Coach and Mentor Rather than Supervise: Many Millennials are used to multiple supportive adults in their lives who indulged and praised them. They respond better to coaching and mentoring that focuses on the end result.
  • Explain What you Expect and Why: People sometimes assume that Millennials are rude or disrespectful of authority. More often than not, they are just used to having what they want laid out for them. This comes from their life experiences. Set up rules for your home, your workplace, and typically they won’t resist. They just need guidance.
  • Support work/life balance: These younger generations have seen the toll that work has taken on some Boomers and others and decided that they want some balance in their lives. Give them space to do what they enjoy and they will deliver what you want as well.

We used these guidelines last night and sat back in amazement. I’d been concerned about their electronic useage (what parent isn’t) so I asked them to think about all their goals for the next 6-8 months and what it was going to take to get there. Then, I had them write an Electronics Agreement for our home. Wow. They wrote it better than I would have, and frankly, were more strict with themselves than I might have been. They included time to be on their phones and computers (that’s the balance), but set guidelines for themselves (that’s creating an expectation). Rather than me pounding the rules down their throats, I let them figure it out (Coaching), and I let them know how great it was (Feedback).

Now lest you think I have this down perfect, this was my first attempt :). It just happened to work just like promised! So take what you might need out of this oddball post and embrace the people that are different than you! Next week I might get back to writing about dentistry!

Dr. Michelle Jorgensen

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