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Why are so many young people incompetent?

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Ever been frustrated by the Millennials in your life? You'll relate to this!

Why are we producing so many incompetent young people? This may just prove to be the most important question of our time.

Lacking basic life skills, but whose fault is it?  Picture: Shutterstock.

Lacking basic life skills, but whose fault is it? Picture: Shutterstock

Of course, the question is underpinned by the notion that we are producing incompetent young people - and more so than in the past. It also requires a definition of incompetent.

Let me address with the second issue first. Setting aside dictionary definitions, I am defining ‘incompetent’ as the ‘inability to function effectively and efficiently in the world, dealing well with the multitude of issues that life throws up, without the support of their parents’.

Read more from Philosophically Yours: Positive self-image, your greatest gift to a child

To the first point, Australian social psychologist Hugh McKay's research suggests that counselling 19-22 year olds through their first and second years away from home is not only one of the fastest growing areas of psychology, it is at almost epidemic proportions.

There is a saying that if a pre-war child was dropped in the bush, 300km from civilisation, they would find their way home, while a post-war Baby Boomer would find their way home from 160km and Generation X adults could navigate 40km, while Millennials would struggle to navigate 3.2km.

Millennials may have mastered the digital environment, but all too many seem to lack the skills to navigate the real world and all the challenges it has to throw at us.

Hugh McKay suggests that Millennials are arguably the least equipped group of adults to ever exist on this planet.

They often stay at home well beyond adulthood, needing the emotional and practical support of their family as well as financial support.

There is a great deal of evidence to demonstrate that they simply lack the skills to deal with everyday life issues, which previous generations never gave a second thought – many still takea parent to the doctors when they go, ask a parent for a lift to and from university, seek parental support in completing simple government forms, and consider any conflict in the work environment as bullying or intimidating.

They are taking more sick days and needing much more emotional support.

Why is this so?

McKay suggests that there are a number of contributing factors, including:

  • Parents, particularly mothers, communicating the view that perpetual happiness is a legitimate and achievable goal, and then doing everything possible to help their child avoid any stress or unhappiness.
  • Parents in general believing the myth that the world is so much more dangerous than it was when they were a child. As a result, they keep their child on a short leash at all times, preventing any danger and most challenges.
  • Parents, particularly mothers, wanting their child to have everything they never had and doing whatever is necessary to ensure this is delivered – taking away any sense of self-sufficiency that the child could develop.
  • Parents who organise every minute of every day of their child's life with sport, dancing, study, music lessons and the rest, leaving nothing to the developing imagination and no room for them to develop personal management skills.
  • To this list, I would add:

  • Schools creating an unrealistic view of the world with their everyone-gets-a-prize mentality. I have been to so many assemblies at so many schools where kids get awards for just breathing, as if this occurs in the real world.
  • The efforts of schools and parents to extract all potential conflict from a child’s life and label such conduct bullying, well before it is. Kids made to expect that life is all sweetness and light, that they can avoid bad things, told the bullshit that they can be whatever they want.
  • Political correctness and creating perceptions in the child that are not reality. A school teacher friend was recently told by a child that a boy in the playground would not share his toys with her – expecting, based on her mother’s comments, that the teacher would fix this. Fortunately, the teacher responded by suggesting that while the boy might not have been behaving well, the toys were his to do with as he pleaseds.
  • Young people are getting wrapped in cotton wool. Parents who think they are protecting their children are being selfish, condemning them to live with incompetence that will damage their quality of life.

    In addition to the issues I have noted above, these young adults are less resistant to illnesses, more likely to have allergies, more likely to have emotional problems, less socially equipped and more likely to suicide.

    When I was at school, I lived in the country. My teacher father used to kick we kids out of the house at 8.30am after breakfast on school holidays and tell us not to come back until lunch time. We would play in the bush and the river, and if we did remember to come back for lunch, we did the same thing in the afternoon.

    What's more, there were no more child fatalities then and there are less child abductions now. The only thing that is different is the competence of our youth as they enter adulthood.

    So tell me, has this been your experience? I'd love to know.

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