We walk into the room and there they sit: heads down, laptops open, television on, cellphones buzzing with earbuds emanating sounds of the bass or lead guitars blaring out of their heads. Our immediate first reaction is to say, “What the…?” And then they look up at us in wide-eyed shock and whine that they are studying. We can’t see how they study with all of those distractions.
And yet, by and large, this is how our children in the Millennial and Post-Millennial generations study and communicate.
You ask them to explain a concept and they begin by first acting like they didn’t hear you, next reaction is “I don’t understand,” third reaction is “I’m tired,” fourth reaction is “I know what I want to say, I just can say it,” and fifth reaction is to explain the concept in their words and their language. You sit dumbfounded that it took all of that to get to the response. And you are right to be irritated.
You ask them to wash clothes and clean the dishes; however, what you should say is wash the clothes today; wash whites and colors separately. Use laundry detergent. When the clothes are washed, now here is the kicker, PUT THEM IN THE DRYER AND TURN IT ON. Once the dryer has stopped and the clothes are dry, take them out, fold them and put them in the drawer or hang them up. I know — who has time for all of this?! And we haven’t even started on the dishes yet.
I attended a women’s conference and one of the breakout sessions was about communicating with younger folk and how they think versus how we think. So I decided to do a little research, and of course there are differing justifications for a thought, so don’t hold me to any of these ideas. Just ponder them and perhaps one or two will fit, as we all struggle to parent in these days of the 24-hour news cycle of way too much information and not enough compassion.
There are several general age groups, according to Pew Research: The Silent Generation, born 1928-1945; Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964; Generation X, born 1965-1980; Millennials, born 1981-1996; and Post-Millennials, born 1997-present.
As a Baby Boomer parent, I learned that the Millennial and Post-Millennial generations think differently. Boomers and older are linear or target thinkers, and the Millennials and Post-Millennials are spider web thinkers.
When you are playing darts, you are trying to hit a target, the bull’s-eye. The dartboard center is the bull’s eye and the actual dartboard consists of circles inside circles. The spider web has a similar shape, but the spider is not concerned with the center. The spider sits waiting for the insect to fly onto any section of the web and get stuck. The sticky web is woven together in all directions connected by circles of the web. The target thinker thinks linearly in that there are steps to get to the end result. The web thinker is all over the place, not concerned with the end, enjoying the journey. Web thinkers make quicker, less detailed decisions that might appear haphazard. The web thinker stresses out the linear thinker and the linear thinker can’t understand the web thinker.
So if our children are spider web thinkers and we are target thinkers, how do we communicate with them? We can, No. 1, be a coach first and parent next; No. 2, loosen the tether; and No. 3, communicate in great detail, leaving no ambiguity.
I know, I know, our parents did none of these things. It was my way or the highway; I brought you into this world and I will take you out; if all of your friends jumped off the roof, would you; and, finally, as long as I pay the bills, you will do such and such or not do such and such.
Give it a try anyway. It won’t hurt. And, of course, always pray, keeping your knees in good kneeling order.
- “Are you a Target Thinker or a Spider-Web Thinker? Disruptive Decision Making for the Social Entrepreneur” by Kari Enge, March 21, 2017.
- “New Guidelines Redefine Birth Years for Millennials, Gen-X, and 'Post-Millennials'” by Jay Serafino, March 1, 2018.