Coddling And Cocooning Have Drawbacks

Could very well be that you see yourself or someone you know in this piece. You know, that overly protective parent that wants the absolute best for their growing child and in a misguided effort to protect them from some of the rough patches, sets them up for some tough life lessons later on. They raise a person who has been and perhaps continues to be sheltered, coddled and cocooned against the normal growing pains and then with little exposure and experience eventually has to fend for themselves.

When their small, parents generally safeguard their children from potential danger. Everything from sealing up electrical outlets to buying furniture with rounded edges is done with the little one in mind. As the child grows from baby to toddler; from youngster to teen, most parents adjust their protectiveness somewhat. There’s that first time the child gets to ride around the block without a parental escort, that first independent walk to school, being left alone for a few hours while the shopping is done etc.

All the above are just a few of the normal activities which set up growing independence in our children, preparing them for the time ahead when they’ll be on their own and will need some life skills upon which to build their own. For many, the first time away is in College or University; that 2-4 or more year period which often signals the transition period from living under the parents roof to eventually getting their own.

Now some parents are better at setting their children up for successful transitions than others; just as some young adults are better adapted to taking on personal responsibility for their success or failings than others. Eventually everybody comes to the point when mom and/or dad aren’t there and you’re on your own. If mom and/or dad have done their job to lead and the child/children have done their job to learn, the odds rise for reaching success.

At play here are a number of issues for most adults as they raise their children. For starters most parents want the best for their children. Most of us also recognize that while we’d like to insulate them from the catastrophic disasters in life, it is necessary and actually a good thing that they struggle with manageable challenges. Why? Primarily because in dealing with challenges, whether ultimately successful or not, there are lessons to be learned which make future challenges of increasingly more significance easier to tackle.

That’s a key concept here; essentially using past experiences upon which to build moving forward. When facing a problem or challenge, drawing on what worked or didn’t work so well in the past to find how to approach things in the present. The more we’ve had experience with something, the greater the possibility that we can transfer what we’ve learned and apply it to a new challenge. While successes are wonderful and to be celebrated, failures are equally good assuming a something has been learned in the process. The learning that occurs not only helps us to approach this current problem with a new strategy or approach, but it also helps us when facing challenges down the road.

Cocooning a child, teen or young adult from such challenges may seem to save them some grief in the short-term, but down the road they may not be as well prepared to deal with a greater challenge having not had exposure or experience to resolving a somewhat easier challenge for themselves in the past.

Many of us have experienced or know of someone who benefitted from their mom or dad landing them their first job. They knew somebody and made a call or two, pulled some strings and got junior their first job. Nothing wrong with that is there? Well probably not. However, how many jobs should a parent ‘get’ for their child or intervene in any way other than to be a cheerleader from the sidelines?

Years ago I remember clearly a man who not only applied for a job without his sons knowledge, he drove him to the interview intending to sit in the interview with his son! When he was told that he wasn’t welcome to do so, he became indignant and took his son home without the interview ever having taken place.

Applying for a job and working with other people is a great experience that provides many learning opportunities. Applying for a job and being passed over in favour of someone else can be a negative experience. I’ve found however that young people are pretty resilient. They are generally good at looking for and finding other jobs to apply to and learning from their experiences.

Of course as parents we’ve got a role to play to guide, instruct, help and support our children as they transition from depending on us to being self-sufficient. It can be stressful trying to decide when to let our children learn on their own and when to give them the solutions which we’ve found on our own through trial and error. And our kids? They don’t always want our advice anyway do they? I mean they know and want to find out things for themselves.

Yes it can be a fine line sometimes. Maybe the best we can do is give them the benefit of our experience and then let them go. Perhaps we’ve done our job at that point.




Millennials And Mr. Morneau

See if you haven’t heard these statements before:

“No one will hire me because I don’t have experience. How can I get experience if no one will hire me?”

“The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.”

Combine the two of these together and we’re all headed for a future led by people lacking practical experience and we’ve got ourselves to blame for not giving it to them.

The very people who are in the very highest positions of power, making key decisions and issuing policy directives on the direction of our national, provincial and municipal governments probably haven’t had much experience themselves when it comes to struggling to find employment. Why this week alone there was a comment on the news from a Federal politician who advised Millennials to get used to a lifetime of precarious employment; short-term jobs and plenty of them.

It seems to me that youth have only one of two responses to offer in reply; accept this forecast or reject it. Some have already made their choice and when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to address a crowd of them at their school, they stood up and turned their back on him while others openly shouted him down and refused to hear his words.

Unlike in other countries where a such scorn for a message might be met with rock throwing, death threats, riots and injuries, those in attendance that day just heckled him and sent him packing with their message clearly resonating with him instead of his politically motivated public relations message echoing with them.

So youth of this generation are going to have if you believe the message, a far different employment / career path than those of their parents generation. They will have more jobs, many of short-term duration. They will have to be far more adaptable to the changing employment landscape. They cannot rely on working in one company for 20 or 30 years and they will change fields entirely over their lifetime – possibly working in several fields requiring retraining.


When that politician – the Federal Finance Minister to be precise – said youth had better get used to working and living in the world he envisions, I wonder if it possibly occurred to him that many of us currently in the existing workforce have been living and working this way for years? The difference between him and us of course is that I doubt many Canadian workers have had the same life of privilege that he’s enjoyed.

I also suspect that unlike the esteemed and honourable William Morneau, many youth of today don’t want the 20 or 30 years with one company job outlook he seems to think they do. I imagine as well that a large number of youth if polled actually relish the idea of frequent change and re-inventing themselves.

Our parents often in the past got a job in their 20′ s and stayed with a company for life, getting promotions over the years and feeling pretty settled in until the big retirement party. The current generation of workers is one of transition; where there are still some working in those companies, but others are finding their industries are less stable, resulting in workers having to change jobs, organizations and going to school for retraining.

However the Millennials? They are a different breed, emerging into the world of work in a different time and they are bringing a new attitude that Mr. Morneau isn’t giving them credit for. You see, he said, “they’d better get used to it”. In fact, Mr. Morneau, their attitude is that they don’t all expect or even want to work for single organizations in the same roles for 20 or 30 years. This generation is made up of risk-takers, optimists, innovators and game changers. They don’t mind change; they seek it out and bring change into their own lives by design not waiting for it to ‘happen to them’.

Millennials I suspect do want to gain some experience but not necessarily in the same way generations before sought experience. This generation works from home, wants flexible hours, changes in dress codes, welcomes body art in the workplace; why even animals and music that fuels their creativity. There’s a blurring between the office and personal life when Cooks are on the payroll to make lunches, games rooms and fitness rooms are on the 3rd floor, and collaboration is everywhere with the integration of technology.

What young people do want is in other ways what we wanted ourselves when we were young adults; a fair living wage that makes renting an apartment or home ownership possible. If it doesn’t seem viable, they’ll get creative there too. What they want is meaningful experiences, to travel, to express themselves in ways that connect them to others and to have fun.

Optimism Mr. Morneau; not a forecast that they interpret as, “You’re working life will mean lots of low-paying, short-term jobs with little security and you’d better get used to it.” I’m surprised honestly that more people haven’t questioned why we have an official representing us in the party of political power who feels so down on our Canadian youth and their futures. Presumably this man and his party are THE ones if any, who are in a position to actually scrap their financial plans if they are so bleak and replace them with ones that reward youth employment, apprenticeships, entrepreneurship’s and manageable risk.

Conversations With Young Adults

If I were in the position of being a Professor in a University or College, or if I found myself commanding the attention of any young people in fact, I’d tell them that above all the other skills they could master, communicating effectively through conversation would top my list.

The stereotypical young person is pretty savvy with most forms of electronic devices; they use cellphones with ease, have I-pods and or I-pads, tweet their friends, and are knowledgeable when it comes to using various apps. However, put away the electronics, turn off the phones and start a real conversation and often a weakness arises.

Now to be fair, what I’m saying doesn’t apply to every young adult I know. But with some, once past the surface issues such as the weather, health, recent school performance and known personal interests, I’ve observed a lack of comfort engaging in meaningful conversation. I can read the expression on their faces as they blankly look off to the left or right, the tight forced smiles which come as they strive to survive a conversation as if they are being interrogated.

Maybe it’s the intimidation factor of being young and talking with older people in general. Is it having a lack of things to talk about or not knowing what to share or ask? I do give young people credit for being information smart. Once a topic is introduced that they have discussed in school for example, they can readily give you their own take on what was presented and what they think of it. In fact, these moments wash over them like a wave of relief when they can share what they know.

Conversation fundamentally is a two-way interaction. If one person is doing most or all of the answering and one is doing most or all of the questioning, it’s trying on both people; the one to keep coming up with questions and the other to keep answering. There are some things one can do to improve the flow of conversation.

For starters, create an atmosphere or environment where questions and conversation in general is encouraged and safe. If you were hosting a University placement student, you’d do well to introduce them to everyone, and to have told everyone prior to their arrival who they are and to have encouraged everyone to welcome them and make them feel comfortable. It’s hard enough on anyone when you meet many people at once. Having one person specifically prepared to play host also gives the student someone to adhere to and look for support and guidance from.

As a young adult, it’s also good practice to keep up on some current affairs in the news. Being ‘in the know’ about some major news story can readily give you the feeling of inclusion; you’re able to participate from a position of knowledge in a conversation. If you don’t know what’s being discussed, you are again in the position of being informed or taught, and that separates you again from those around you.

Sometimes when I’m sitting with young adults in my workplace, I’ll ask them a question such as, “What would you like to ask me? – no question is too bold or off the table.” This allows them to ask anything, go anywhere, and because the invitation has been extended, the conversation begins. Sometimes it’s a tried and true, rehearsed kind of question like, “How did you get started?” Fair enough. Their young, I was once young and in their shoes, wondering at that time how to get started myself. Be prepared to answer or volunteer this information for a young person.

People generally like to talk about themselves, what interests them and share things they find interesting. One thing a young person can do – all of us in fact – is consciously make an effort to ask about the person we are talking with. If you turn all your conversations back to you and how you are doing, what you are feeling and what you hope to do etc., that gets tiring real fast. It’s important to ask about others, how they are doing, feeling and what they are up to.

You can and should practice just talking. Get beyond one syllable answers and really engage in conversation. Every parent can probably identify with the teen/young adult where the conversation goes like this:
“Did you have a nice day today?”
“Learn anything new?”
“Not really.”
“How are things generally?”
“Fine. I’m going to my room.”

Come to think of it, we can probably remember being on the other end of that conversation too if we are old enough. That wasn’t so much a conversation as it was a mandatory daily interrogation where both parties go through the motions; the parent struggling to engage, the teen or young adult seeking to disengage at the first opportunity without being overtly rude. Neither leaves feeling entirely satisfied.

The world of work demands verbal communication skills. Few people can just turn the art of being a true conversationalist at will like a light switch. You’re going to need to speak with co-workers, clients, customers, your boss, folks in other departments, on the phone, in-person. People skills take time to truly master and the sooner you start, the more you enhance the skill – as with any skill.

Love to hear your thoughts on this.