Generation Snowflake: Melts?
When we were growing up, in the late seventies and eighties, our parents were in charge. Well, Dad was anyway. If my younger sister Karen and I pushed our luck with our mum, we’d soon be silenced when she coolly delivered the killer line: “Just you wait until your father gets home.” The thought of incurring the wrath of our riled-up dad, bone-tired after a long day at work and a stressful commute, was enough to send us quietly retreating to our respective bedrooms without another word. Depending on the crime, we knew we’d be sternly reprimanded for our bad behaviour – both verbally and physically. It wasn’t uncommon for our dad – or anyone’s dad in those days – to dish out a beating if we so deserved it.
The same rules applied at school. I can clearly remember being held up by one arm in front of my baby-faced classmates aged five whilst my teacher smacked me hard on the backside with her free hand. The crime? Holding two stubby fingers aloft in a reverse V to indicate I had two of something in my possession – misinterpreted as swearing by another child, who duly reported my misdemeanour to ‘Miss.’ I had no idea what I’d done wrong at the time – but whatever it was, I wouldn’t be doing it again in a hurry. Being swatted with a wooden ruler was a regular occurrence for most of my classmates and I; I wasn’t an especially naughty child – it was a deterrent as much as anything. When the ruler was brought down hard on the desk next to your hand with a loud thwack, you certainly learnt to sit up straight and listen. Teachers would continuously dream up new and resourceful ways to keep unruly pupils in line – from slinging board rubbers at heads to launching students’ rucksacks from second-floor windows, which would land on the playground below with an ominous crunch. If your belongings inside were damaged, tough. A Jiff lemon squeezy bottle administered to the earhole was one particularly innovative technique adopted by our English teacher.
Since 2004, when smacking another person’s child became outlawed, and physically disciplining your own offspring frowned upon (though it’s not illegal) there has been an enormous shift in the behaviour of children. Whilst I’d never advocate using unreasonable force on a child, knowing that an adult cannot touch them at all has caused a seismic shift in power: now the kids are in charge. And it’s not a good thing (it might also go some way to explaining why a worrying proportion of Millenials can’t even spell or form grammatically correct sentences, but that’s a rant for another blog post).
Gone are the days when us kids were “seen and not heard.” In a real-life interpretation of Pink Floyd’s trippy film The Wall, the tables have turned on teachers and parents. Put simply, the children aren’t afraid of adults anymore. I know some of you will be reading this and thinking: “Yes, and that’s a good thing – I wouldn’t want anyone laying a finger on my precious little Anastasia.” I get that; really, I do. But this, this pedestalling of our children is spawning a nation of – dareIsayit (yes I do!) – lily-livered lightweights. Instead of children obeying their parents, now we have parents obeying their children. The pendulum of power has swung too far the other way. Gone are the days when the parents were the centre of a child’s universe, when we’d be dragged around Working Men’s Clubs or left in the car for hours on end because, well, we were the kids and we had to do as we were told. Now it’s quite the reverse: parents completely sacrificing their own lives for those of their children, giving the kids an inflated sense of their own self-worth. Now the parents are the ones left waiting in the car while the kids have all the fun.
We’ve all witnessed it – behaviour that in our childhoods 30 or 40 years ago would have warranted a sharp slap across the back of the legs is now met with a gentle: “Oh don’t do that please darling” and a self conscious giggle, to which the “darling” in question shrugs and continues with aforementioned bad behaviour, completely undeterred.
The result? The Snowflake Generation (or Generation Wuss as Brett Easton Ellis describes them so well in this article for Vanity Fair). This moniker has been given to the thin-skinned children of the nineties and noughties (or should that be ‘naughties’) who have never known discipline; for whom taking part is what’s important, rather than winning; the cotton-wool kids who will still live with their parents well into their thirties (unlucky, mates with kids!), the cry-baby boomerangs; delicate little snowflakes who we have to pussy-foot around with increasingly PC language for fear of offending their flimsy little egos. (For the record, I was living abroad by 21 and bought my first property at 24; the occasional beats certainly drummed a strong work ethic and independent nature into me from the get-go).
These days, however, we have to take off our heels and tiptoe gently around him or her – hell, we’re not even allowed to call some of them by their gender anymore, for fear of fracturing their eggshell-fragile exteriors – no, instead of “he” or “she” we now have to address them as the non-binary “they” instead. Pur-lease. Do me a favour! There’s even talk of entire gender-neutral schools, FGS! <eyeball roll>.
So are we creating a bunch of snowflakes, who will literally melt at the slightest touch; fall apart at the first sign of trouble in their overly-protected lives? Well, there is now a name for bringing up our kids as supersofties. It’s called Gentle Parenting, apparently. I see it in action every day, as I work with the public: mums following this “gentle” model – or trying to. I’m told it’s all about getting to know your child as a person, understanding their feelings and responding accordingly. All very well in theory, but have you ever tried reasoning with a tired toddler who is throwing the mother of all paddies, beetroot-faced as they lash out in all directions, hell-bent on destruction? Did the hippy-talk work, causing them to calmly get back in the buggy and smile sweetly whilst you continued with the weekly shop? Nah, thought not.
So what’s triggered my rant, the inspiration behind this post? Well it’s something I’ve observed over several years but which got me thinking recently, during a storm in a teacup on Facebook. I’m a member of a group, UK Makeup Addicts, made up predominantly of young women in their twenties. Almost 50,000 of them. A thread was started by a disgruntled young woman, expressing her outrage at being treated less favourably by society when dressed down and un made-up as opposed to when wearing a full face of makeup. The responses came furiously, in their hundreds – how dare anyone judge us for our looks. I’m sorry, what?! Like it or not, it’s human nature to judge one another based on appearance, at least initially, whether subconsciously or otherwise: if someone has taken the time to brush their hair, apply makeup and dress nicely they command more respect than a slob in a tracksuit or out shlopping (sloppy shopping) in their pyjamas – another thing my generation would never have dreamed of doing but is commonplace nowadays.
When I gently pointed this fact out to the group, supported by a link to an article in Forbes magazine highlighting it, I was met with outrage. Of course, applying makeup is a chore and you can be forgiven for going bare-faced occasionally (or all the time if you like – it’s your prerogative) but there’s no doubt that rocking up to work looking well-groomed and poised will earn you more respect than scraping your greasy locks into a slick pony and with sleep in the corners of your eyes. Personally, no matter how hungover, jaded or depressed I’ve ever been I’ve never rolled into work ‘sans maquillage’. For me, its a matter of self-respect. Anyone would think I’d just said I liked to put kittens in the microwave, the reaction I got. Seriously, girls? It’s hardly a ground-breaking revelation, yet some sensitive little snowflakes lost their heads over this statement. It caused a whole snowstorm of upset; an avalanche of offence. Oh get over yourselves, kids! (Wo)man up!
Listen, I’m not saying we should be rude to one another, intentionally hurting each other’s feelings. Of course not. A bit of kindness and sensitivity is the oil that keeps the engine of life running smoothly. But all this overly-PC namby-pamby mollycoddling has to stop. If we shield the eyes of the young from reality in order to protect them, are we really doing them a favour? What happens when they finally decide to tentatively step out into the real world, wobbly-legged like Bambi, only to discover that real life isn’t the Disney film they thought it would be? That coming fourth doesn’t win any medals, let alone pay the mortgage? Do the long-suffering parents come to the rescue once again to bail them out, dog-eared copy of The Gentle Parenting Guide tucked under their arm and equally-worn cheque book for the Bank Of MAD (Mum And Dad) in hand? Hmm.
What a bunch of melts.
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