I was casually talking (as a coach) to a teenager recently (as requested by the parents) who was conflicted with her father over career choices. As she shared her thoughts and feelings, I realized she was ‘totally not getting’ the one directional conversations with her father, who would keep advising her without understanding her point of view. She had surmised that he had an ulterior motive which she would ‘unearth later’…
Recently, a friend had severe back pain and lay in bed as the family gathered around him. As they were discussing known orthopedics to consult, his 10 years old niece chipped in asking If he had considered a “chiropractor”! My friend had to quickly google up to know what that means.
Trump posted a shockingly unexpected win over Hillary Clinton, and I overheard my 14 years old son have a lengthy ‘on-line group chat’ about the ‘pros and cons for Indians and Americans’
At the age of 11 years, my daughter and her friends started an initiative for stray dogs in the neighborhood for feeding, vaccinating and providing collars and coats for winter. They went door to door, requesting residents to be more caring and giving.
Every day there is news of progressively younger kids creating innovative solutions to solve challenges, many of them in India too. (https://blog.ipmetrix.in/2014/11/13/young-inventors-of-india/ )
Welcome to the world of ‘Generation Z’…! These are children born between 1995 and 2015 (dates vary as per different sources) and living in a bewildering world, alien to earlier generations.
By 2020, Gen Z will contribute to 40% of total consumers globally. Closer to home, by 2020 half of India’s workforce will be Generation Z. (i.e less than 25 years of age).
By 2020, almost 500 million Indians will be having smart phones or connected through various devices, and will cover a significant portion of Gen Z, especially those aged more than 10 years.
Termed as ‘educated, industrious, collaborative, eager to build a better planet, competitive and yet caring, digital natives, careful spenders’, the Gen Z remind us more than ever of Khalil Gibran’s words:
“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself “…….
……”You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”
Growing up with social media, treated as ‘mini adults’ in online interactions and data at their fingertips, they have seen a very different world since they opened their eyes.
According to psychologists, the age till 7 years is when there is maximum impact on the subconscious of a person, laying the foundation of behavior. The world shift (Technology, Economics, Politics, Terrorism) seen in the late nineties onwards has catapulted this generation into a ‘different orbit’, which we may find difficult to comprehend. Consequently, successful parenting may require a paradigm shift, away from the learnt traditional ways of Generation X and Baby boomers.
Trying to cover a large topic in a short post, (taking my amateurish learning as a parent and coach) I will try address some important do’s and don’ts which I feel might help parents guiding their Gen Z children.
1. “Papa don’t Preach !”: This eighties song of Madonna would be more true now. As parents, don’t ‘throw’ data or judgement at them. They have enough (and more) data coming at them and are more efficient in making sense of it. Also, being used to multiple perspectives on every subject, they intuitively know that truth comes in ‘shades of grey’ and there are no absolute judgements. Rather, share your perspectives and experiences, and think along to help them reach their own point of view. That will help them respect you more!
2. “Please stick to the point”: With the ability to manage simultaneous streams of information, they are adept at multitasking but have an attention span which is a fraction of Generation X or Gen Y. They can think parallely (unlike traditional ‘linear’ thinking) and interconnect creatively. Any long winding monologue may switch them off. Also, please don’t bother if your child is not looking at you while you speak… she is absorbing better while multitasking. The Gen Z prefers to communicate in images and sounds, so we may want to calibrate our conversations accordingly, to garner their interest.
3. “Am I feeling your pain?”: Though the Gen Z are more inclined to caring for the earth, avoiding narcotics, collaborative and caring, this generation will be more competitive, frugal and result oriented. As they grow up, technology will exponentially expand into traditional ‘right brain’ areas to take away their jobs in large slices. Thus ‘empathy’ will be a much sought after trait for excelling in ‘left brain’ activities. As they are more inclined to socialize online, they would need to develop the basic human skill of empathizing with a face or a voice. As parents, we could spend more face to face time (or on phone) discussing emotions, experiences and helping them feel the same. It would enrich them immensely.
4. “What am I creating?” : Having abundance of information, multiple perspectives, immediate feedback on their fingertips , ability to think parallelly and online ‘respect’ which is age neutral, the Generation Z are poised to think boldly and creatively at a very early age. ( http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/5051-young-entrepreneurs.html ).
They would hate to be bogged down by linear thinking, slow hard work or procedures. Parenting which ‘thinks along’ with them and support them to move into their rightful ‘creative space’ would be most useful for them. Your child might surprise you by sprouting ‘wings of creativity’ at an age when you were beginning to understand your world. Most importantly, do not suppress his attempts. As they grow up into a new world order, the two most powerful weapons for them would be Creativity and Empathy.
5. “Please don’t litter ”: Things like kindness to animals, saving the earth, digital etiquette, compassion, same sex marriage, LGBT, racial equality or going ‘vegan’ would be more natural/acceptable to them. They are probably rebels in a different way… more focused on long term consequences of their actions. They may need help in building their perspective and priorities in these areas, with pragmatic and ‘adult to adult’ discussions. As parents, we can join in their excitement to ‘change the world’, help shape their priorities and of course, learn from them.
6. “Do I know myself?”: The Gen Z are quite self- aware, with a realistic view of their own strengths and frailties. Continual digital engagement, feedback and exposure to information helps them assess themselves with respect to others on various parameters. But they want to further explore and hone this awareness to improve their decision making and effective dealing with situations. Parents should not ignore or turn down requests to discuss themselves, as parents sharing their own experiences and learnings could add to the child’s self- awareness.
7. “Help me take my own decisions”: Last but not the least, I suppose the Gen Z is most aware of the fact that they are better equipped than their parents to take their own decisions. Thanks to information at their fingertips, abundant analysis and superior ability to process the data, they perceive gaps in their parent’s ‘linear thinking’ and so do not accept it readily. Parents need to humbly realize that the best thing would be to provide learning from their worldly experience and add value to the decision- making process of the child for a win-win solution.
The last word is from Hannah Alper, a 13 year old Blogger, Activist, Eco-Warrior and Motivational Speaker (among many other things)….”We are a generation that cares. There are so many do-gooders, and so many amazing minds in this generation that have already accomplished so much. I think our generation will be the one to change the world”…Amen to that!
Comments are welcome !