The term “Snowflake” to describe a person or group of persons is relatively new. It seems to have arisen around 2010 and is defined as “individuals or a group or class of people that have an inflated sense of uniqueness, an unwarranted sense of entitlement, or are overly-emotional, easily offended, and unable to deal with opposing opinions.” The term has been applied to colleges that promote safe spaces, new accommodations in the workplace, political identities, support animals, and a general revision of cultural norms to fulfill the “needs” of these overly sensitive individuals.
The term “Snowflake” is commonly associated with Millennials, BUT it is true that there are individuals in all age groups that fall into this definition. Personally, I hate to generalize regarding individuals or groups. For many individuals, special accommodations ARE needed. For instance, support animals for individuals suffering from autism or veterans impacted by PTSD represent a significant step forward in helping these individuals assimilate into life. However, this is not true for others.
Many reasons have been posed for why society has become more sensitive, overly-emotional, and unable to cope. Some blame an over-reliance on electronic devices. Others blame over-worked parents. Clearly, turning our hearts away from God is a factor. Still others claim that the need to “protect” children from any possibility of harm is the root cause. Whatever the reason (parental choices, social media, affluence/poverty, etc.), I believe that there are things that we – parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors, bosses, friends, coaches, and influencers – can do to guarantee that tomorrow’s adults will be more independent, capable, and resilient.
Let’s look at 10 things I believe we must teach and instill in our children to prevent the continued epidemic of “Snowflakes” in our society:
- There are consequences to your decisions and actions – Good or bad, we reap what we sow. Too many individuals have failed to learn this basic truth. When you make bad choices, don’t expect good things in return. When we fail to teach our children about consequences, we allow them to assume that any choice is good and that adverse consequences are not their fault. Individuals must learn that OUR choices impact what comes next. When kids think that nothing in life is their fault, they assume the role of victim whereby others should be expected to correct the “wrongs” that have befallen them. Parents, please teach your children that they have to live with the result of the decisions they make… and, don’t bail them out when they make wrong choices. Doing so, encourages future poor choices.
- You can’t always win – Learning to lose is an opportunity to learn and grow. Children must understand that life doesn’t always go their way. You don’t always get a trophy at work when your competitor beats you. You won’t always get the promotion you want, the job that looks perfect, or the accolades you feel you deserve. Teaching our children to be good sports must begin early and be re-enforced often. I spend a lot of time with my 5 year old grandson. When playing games, he often wants to change the rules to his advantage, so he can always win. Don’t let your children always win! Show them that they can still have fun even when they lose. Sometimes the journey of life is more fulfilling than winning in the end. Kids learn this at an early age. When they fail to learn this, every loss or disappointment represents a failure that can drag them down into victimhood.
- Bad things can and sometimes do happen – How we respond to adversity is a measure of our character. When things do go wrong, do we respond by learning from it or do we pout? Teaching our children that, in fact, life will not always go their way is important preparation for adulthood. Show them that responding to life’s bumps can be rewarding. Teach them to look for alternatives or detours around life’s roadblocks. Demonstrate to them how to react when unexpected negative events occur. Help them learn to react calmly, rather than with anger or resentment.
- You get ahead by earning it – Children must learn that work has value. They must learn that those things we value most are things we earn, not the things we are given. Too many children fail to learn this because we give trophies to those that do not win; we eliminate awards because we do not want to offend the losers; or we expand the requirements to make it easier to achieve. Parents, we need to teach our children that work is good, not something to be looked down upon. We need to teach our children the difference between effort and results. Too many young adults have never worked in their lives until they graduate from high school or college. As a result, they have not developed the discipline required (be on time, do what is expected, do it day-after-day, etc.) to be successful. Parents, that is on us!
- Kindness and respect are always appropriate – People today are fed-up with rudeness and disrespect. You don’t have to scroll far on LinkedIn to read an article talking about how hiring managers now value kindness. You can’t get far in today’s world unless you respect others, especially those different from you. Kindness and respect are learned early in life. Parents that allow children to control them are beginning to spiral into abuse and disrespect. Children need to learn early that there are limits and boundaries that cannot be crossed without consequences (see item 1 above). The most important factor in learning kindness and respect is to observe how others (e.g., parents) treat people. If your parents were kind, chances are you “learned” that kindness is a basic expectation. Don’t fail your children by allowing them to disrespect others, including you!
- Serving others takes the focus off our own problems – It seems to me that much of what currently falls under the “Snowflake” umbrella these days is a result of self-focus. Safe places are needed because one needs to be shielded from perceived oppression. I want… I feel offended… I am angry… When we focus all our attention on ourselves, the world naturally begins rotating around us. By helping our children (or, employees in the workplace) learn the importance of serving others – putting the needs of someone else ahead of their own – their entire perspective will change.
- Perseverance and patience are learned – I have been in a number of positions in the workplace in which we hired college graduates with little or no experience. I remember, more than once, one of those individuals coming to me after six months on the job asking, “What do I have to do to get promoted here? I have done everything anyone has asked and it seems like my career is stagnant.” Can you imagine? Parents, teach your children the value of working hours or days or months on a project. Teach them that patience has its rewards down the road. Show them the importance of working patiently to accomplish something. Help them see that immediate gratification has its risks and costs.
- We have to solve our own problems – I frequently read articles from well-intentioned parents talking about how to plan play dates, seminars, conferences, camps, and organized activities to occupy their children during all their “free” time. Don’t “schedule” every hour of the day. It does not do your children a favor to remove from them the opportunity to find their own activities. When parents feel the need to orchestrate every activity of the day for their children, the kids often fail to learn to solve their own problems and do basic things for themselves. How many stories have you heard about parents walking their young adults to college registration, finding classrooms, and eliminating every potential unknown before leaving their child alone on campus? Do you think that actually helps the student? I have heard stories of parents coming to their child’s workplace to help them solve issues regarding work schedules or issues with coworkers. Parents, let your child learn by doing. Let them solve their own problems. Begin by allowing them the “burden” of being creative in filling their own time.
- Authority must be respected – If you cannot submit to others, you’ll never be successful in work or in life. A child that fails to learn to respect authority will never be a good worker, a good parent, a good spouse, or a good friend. When I look back to individuals I have known that have experienced a lifetime of struggling with work – finding, keeping, and thriving in the job market – almost every individual is one you might conclude has a problem with authority. Parents, teach your children that we all answer to someone. We all have to submit to some individual, some authority, and to God. Learning to place our own desires and demands aside for the greater good is essential for future success.
- Be grateful because much of what we have (including our freedom) came through the sacrifice of others – Finally, every child needs to learn to be patriotic…to be grateful. Everyone needs to understand our history and how our freedom was won. We all must understand that our freedom was earned by the blood of others. When children fail to learn this, they grow up feeling entitled. They fail to respect what they have. They fail to be grateful. Expressing gratitude – for our freedoms, for our blessings, for what others have done for us – is a character marker that will impact that individual’s success and contentment throughout life.
If we teach these things, and demonstrate them through our actions, we can guarantee that our children will not become “Snowflakes”. When children grow into adulthood with these truths embedded into their hearts, their character, and expressed through the actions of their lives, they will almost assuredly be participating, contributing, and independent adults. After all, isn’t this our primary responsibility as parents?