Are We Raising Generation Y-Me?

Our four-month old little girl, can’t quite roll over yet. She’s getting close. She’ll rock quite a bit. I wonder what would happen to her learning to roll over if Julie or I held her all the time.

I’m sure several months from now she’ll have seen enough walking to also want to try it. She’ll need to learn to balance on those two (wobbly) legs. I wonder how long it would take her to learn that necessary balance if Julie or I constantly held her hand.

If we’ve done some things right, several years from now, my daughter is going to head off to college. She’ll need to learn to manage her money with a whole new set of obligations. I wonder what would happen to her learning about managing money if Julie or I were to simply give her money to live on, no strings attached.

Love Hurts (And So Does Life)

I’m sure it’s partly my own biases, seeing things through my own lens, but it seems society is bent on making our kids the softest, weakest, most selfish, spoiled brats the world has ever known. Are we raising a Generation Y-ME?

Now in little league, everyone gets a trophy. In spelling competitions, nobody has to go sit down at their desk if they misspell a werd. The Wii is replacing the We in “We’re going outside to play hard, for hours, because we’re kids and wii we have boundless energy.” The word allowance is fundamentally flawed. Is the rising generation going to be a bunch of spineless pushovers? Let me rephrase: are we raising the rising generation to be a bunch of spineless pushovers?

Hold that thought, because we’ll get back to it in just a second.

A Dwindling Perspective from a Wiser Generation

The crowning achievement in personal finance for my grandfather and his generation was to “own your home” (and it was likely 1,000 square feet — not 2,000+). It seems the Baby Boomer changed that clarion call to something along the lines of, “leverage what equity you do have in your home to fit a lifestyle you can’t afford.”

(Now generations don’t live in bubbles, and we’re seeing plenty of the grandfathers out there adopting the “enlightened” way of thinking. It’s sad and extremely frustrating. Don’t touch that reverse mortgage!)

You Big, Impatient, Selfish Baby

This trend is dangerous. Treacherous.

I want things now. Now. NOW. NOW!

And there’s no sacrifice to get it. If we screw up, we look for a bailout. If we’re duped, we look for a regulator to prevent us from being duped again. (Failing to mention the fact that we had huge dollar signs in our eyes and the LARGEST of fine print wouldn’t have deterred us from signing on the dotted line.) If we want it, we swipe for it. We have no patience.

We are acting like a bunch of spineless pushovers and our kids are following suit, becoming a bunch of selfish, spoiled, now-oriented, spineless pushovers.

Just like my four-month-old baby. If she wants to eat, she cries. If she gets too tired, she cries. If she is sick of lying on her back while Julie desperately tries to get things done around the house, she’ll cry (the Baby Einstein Musical Octopus toy distracts her for about 9 seconds).

But if we always carry her, she’ll never roll over.

If we always hold her hand, she’ll never learn to walk.

If we give her handouts, she’ll never learn to work. Sacrifice. And win.

Take offense, or take action — it’s a choice. I vote to raise a strong, independent, take-no-prisoners generation that thrives on difficulty, loves a good fight, and has instilled in them down to their very core the knowledge that school is tough, kids are mean, work is brutal, money is tight, life isn’t fair — and they’ll be just fine.

41 Responses to “Are We Raising Generation Y-Me?”

  1. Steve

    Your post reminded me of a recent quote I stumbled across that falls along the same lines as what you are saying.

    “A happy childhood has spoiled many a promising life.”
    Robertson Davies – (Author: “What’s Bred in the Bone”)

    All good points Jesse, I couldn’t agree more. Thanks.

  2. WairereRose

    “In spelling competitions, nobody has to go sit down at their desk if they misspell a werd.”

    Hehe, was that intentional Jesse?

    Like Steve, I very much agree. It’s tough letting our kids face consequences sometimes, but so very worth it. Much easier for them to learn it while they’re little, than have to figure it out when they leave home and the consequences are so much harder.


  3. Pattivi

    Amen Jesse!

    By the way, I loved your play on “werds”! Something that drove me absolutely nuts while my kids have been going to school is the fact that they’d get “A” grades on papers that were misspelled and had poor grammar. Lack of expectation equals lack of proficiency… Now that they are mostly grown up, they don’t even text me on the cell phone without using proper English, because they know what MOM expects of them. I realize that this is just one small example of the attitudes you were talking about, but I feel it’s a relevant one.

    It’s an uphill battle to accomplish raising self reliant children, living in this present culture of victimhood, escapism, and apathy due to “technology-facilitated information overwhelm” (how’s that for a mouthful?) …but it can be done, at least to a greater degree than is the perceived “norm”. Everything you stated was “spot on.” Thanks for speaking the truth about this pervasive phenomenon.

  4. Rob

    Amen to that Jesse! I couldn’t agree more. I am glad that someone is willing to come right out and say it.

  5. ansrfaq

    SO TRUE, JESSE! After having a difficult day yesterday with one of my teenage daughters over a simple chore request, this was the perfect encouragement for me this morning! So many parents hand children everything they want, and as a teacher, I see parents at school all the time…not to support the teachers and school but because in their eyes the teacher must be doing something wrong if their child isn’t getting an A! Thanks for posting something so honest!

  6. Chris

    I couldn’t agree more. Although I must say that when our son was only 1 month old he couldn’t stop standing up on his toes. Not to mention the fact that my mother almost dropped him when he turned his entire body over because he heard my voice as I was entering the hospital room the day after his birth.

    Trying to change a teenager’s mindset, that’s a lot more difficult if you haven’t had enough time with them. I recently asked my older nephew (15 years old) if he wanted to earn extra money doing some general labor work on a house I was rehabbing. He said yes. Out of an 8 hour day, he put in about 4 hours of real work. So I paid him for the time that he wasn’t just walking around breaking windows (that were being thrown out) for no reason, etc.

  7. Chris

    Caveat emptor regarding the “allowance” thing. We give our children and “allowance” as we call it, but it’s more of a “commission” on performing things that need to be done to help around the house. If they don’t do something that is necessary (i.e. complete a task completely), then they are monetarily penalized by $0.50-$1.00.

    This has also given them a method to learn spending habits early on. If they say “I want an MP3 player” (as one of them said a while back), we worked through with them how they could save up enough money to pay for it, on top of paying themselves 25% of their earning first … into a savings account at ING Direct.

  8. Sid M

    Great comments Jesse, and I definitely agree with you, for the most part… but there is a happy medium I feel.

    My wife is a child therapist, and I am regularly exposed to the raw details of her work and I know just how much damage can be created in an adult’s mind due to the seemingly harmless actions of their parents or primary carers when they were in the first three or four years of life.

    You might say, “well these scars are just part of being tougher, and tougher is better” – I had a fairly tough childhood myself and a few years ago, I would have absolutely agreed with you… but it’s not quite that simple, because these scars/experiences go on to affect the way in which we relate to everything around us. It permeates every decision you make about your life, and every aspect of your character. Those first few years of life require extra special care and attention, and should not be confused with “pampering” a child who will eventually turn into a spoilt adult.

    I completely agree with the “now” culture having spiralled out of control, but I believe our route to a better place starts by highlighting the importance of having an “emotional education”, just as we receive an academic education and place that in such high regard. Our ability to process emotions and understand the true impact of the things that happen to us is, in my view (and the view of many therapists), the key factor in leading a happy, balanced and productive life.

    Being impatient, spoilt, irrational and dependent on others are all signs of ‘imbalance’ and need to be addressed – we both definitely agree on that (and on the grammar/spelling issue @Pattivi!) – but the solution lies in parents understanding how to support their child’s emotional development properly in the early stages of their life, so as not to cause a different set of imbalances in the process of avoiding the former.

    If anyone is interested in reading more about the emotional development of children (and it’s a fascinating subject), there are two key authors who have driven the research in this area – Winnicott and Bowlby.

    Just reading one of these books would be an eye-opener, I assure you!


    Oh, and congratulations on a great budgeting program – I’m a .NET developer myself and I use your app every week, like clockwork! :-)

  9. uptown

    Very timely, Jesse. I had a similar conversation the other day. The main theme was how little, formal, financial education my generation received (I’m 43) in the public school system (don’t worry, I’m not missing your point on self-reliance); and how important it is to give our children the tools they will need to avoid the pitfalls we read about in the newspaper (there – you see? More on this below).

    As an aside regarding financial education in the primary curriculum, I have seen at least some dialog emphasizing this need. Think about the current drain on the tax payer and the economy from the bailouts caused by poor decisions. Financial education in the public school system would be a good use of taxpayer money to help mitigate the drain on the government coffers (I know I use business and financial principles a lot more than Calculus – not knocking Calculus). For example, how many who signed up really understood the pitfalls of ARM’s or knew what one was? How many are relying on Social Security? How many purchase new, $30,000+ automobiles that depreciate immediately (perhaps a 3-yr, or even a 7-yr old model is more cost effective)? How are you funding your retirement? How do you know you are saving enough? Popular advice from media and some financial gurus includes emphasis on “knowing your FICO score”. Why? It won’t matter if you are applying for a mortgage you can afford, etc…

    So…as Jesse so exquisitely stated above, it’s our responsibility to teach our children self reliance. I came across an excellent book for youngsters (and adults) called “The Young Investor,” 2001, Chicago Review Press, by Katherine Bateman, Ph.D., former school teacher and financial industry analyst, serving as Financial Advisor for the Illinois Educational Facilities Authority as of 2001. This book covers savings vehicles, check writing, the stock market, even micro and macroeconomics and provides a detailed literacy of every-day financial life. It doesn’t cover all the financial topics that I mentioned above, but it provides a sound financial literacy. My 12-yr old and I read it and benefited greatly.


  10. John H.

    I am glad I am on the way out rather than just coming in. We are raising a world of entitlement people. It’s scary!

  11. recovering me addict

    Every night when I put my 5 and 7 year old to bed, in the same room as I’m trying to teach them they will always need each other, before we say our prayers I ask them both a very simple question: What are you greatful for today?

    When I first started this they’d say “I don’t know”. Now, with some nurturing of course, they say things like: a bed,covers and pillows to sleep on, Daddy’s job, food in the fridge, the swimming pool, God, Mommy and Daddy, our friends, our neighbors, our garden, etc… Sometimes my oldest will say: and I Carly, her favorite tv show but then she’ll add: and the tv to watch it on and daddy’s job that pays the cable bill.

    I do not keep my children in the dark as I was kept. My parents both got snared in to the credit trap and so did I because I didn’t know any better. And that’s unfortunatly where most young adults are today, they truly believe that everything is about them because their parents were too busy to teach “the attitude of gratitude”, or flat out didn’t even know it themselves.

    What startles us most is how horribly neighbors treat each other. It took my husband and I a long time to figure out what we were doing wrong, and what was wrong around us. And it’s just plain selfishness. So yes Steve, you’re right we are raising the y-me generation all about victimization, but the truth is it’s actually been going on for several generations.

    No offense to all of you working ladies out there, I was one of them for a long time; unless you are single, or widowed you aint got no business working. Your husband and kiddos need you. per Genisis chap. 3, you are the helper. It’s your call, it’s your role, it’s why you feel the internal conflict to stay home when you have a baby. Stay home, take care of your family… with good budgeting, and reduction in life style (that you work your tail off for and leave your children in someone elses care for) you can live on one income and be there for them. It is possible. My husband and I did it. Instead of managing a business, I now manage a household like it is a business.

    Thanks for the article Steve.

  12. Carrie

    The mortgage crisis is due just as much to the greed of the mortgage companies and banks as it is to the people who signed on to mortgages they couldn’t afford. I agree that people need to be careful about debt, very careful. But I do NOT agree with giving a pass to greedy banks who were playing very fast and loose with money. Bear Sterns got bailed out by taxpayers – the “gimme” attitude is not just in individuals.

    Sorry, but it goes both ways.

  13. recovering me addict

    Sorry about that Jesse, typo. Thanks for the article.

  14. fishstick


    I think you may take a bit of what Jesse said out of context…

    I think his main point is teaching kids early on to be held accountable for their actions (wants and desires..etc) I don’t think he is implying making it hard for children in order to teach that lesson. More of “There are consequences for the decisions that impact not only yourself but others also.” In the end though I think it still leads to your points that balance is the key to a good upbringing. Learning how to deal with adversity and learning to be responsible for one’s actions are key to being successful later on in life.

    The biggest thing that bothers me about some of the younger people and even adults is the complete lack of accountability. It scares me how it’s never ‘my’ fault..always someone else’s….yikes..

  15. Sarah

    “Is the rising generation going to be a bunch of pansies?”

    I have to say, I’m disappointed that you feel the need to use a homophobic slur to make your point. Regardless of its merits.

  16. Natalie Robson

    Well first of all YNAB is the best investment I ever made! Thank you so much for doing all the “hard work” for me, I am on my way to Africa in 16 months thanks to YNAB! As for the new generation I am only in my 20’s and I never got an allowance! If I wanted something and needed money to get it I had to do jobs around the house and not things like packing the diswasher mind you, I mean doing the weekly washing for 4 people in a twin tub washing machine, and that only got me $2! I still don’t have a credit card and have never had a loan or bought something with someone elses money, those that are younger than me and those from my generation that got an allowance never learned to live within their means. So I totally agree with you let your darling daughter get frustrated and cry and throw a tantrum until that desire to roll over completely overcomes her and she does it all on her own! That may not sound fair but in the words of the wisest man I know (my dad) “LIFE’S NOT FAIR, if you want it you’ll work for it!”
    Thanks again for YNAB!

  17. Jesse

    @Sarah – another reader actually emailed me pointing out the same thing. Perhaps I’m showing my ignorance of the English language, but I had never heard the phrase used in the way you’re describing until I was pointed to a definition. My intention was to describe spinelessness. I will whip out my EDIT pen now.

  18. Jesse

    @Carrie – I agree that everyone involved in those transactions was looking to make an easier buck than normal and now it’s coming back to haunt us all. It certainly does cut both ways.

    I suppose what I want to emphasize is that we focus on where we have control and take responsibility for those areas. While it’s true that, through regulation, oversight, etc. we have some control, I think we’ll get a lot more bang for our buck by looking back at ourselves and deciding what we we personally can do (or should have done) differently.

  19. Carol

    I love brand new parents and “parents” without kids. They always know everything and have all the answers. I knew much more about raising my kids before they could roll over too. Hope that you have the nice easy life where it is as simple as “go outside and play” instead of hours of PT to feed herself. Or “maybe next year you’ll win the prize” instead of “sorry honey, kids like you can’t play on that team.” I think the wiser generation “good old days” mantra is every bit as annoying as the “fair for everyone” mantra. If you’re buying a 9 month old a movie to keep her quiet, you’ve already given a pretty good indication of if you are a “Wii” family or a “we” family.

  20. Chris Phillips

    “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…whose face is marred by blood and dirt and sweat, who knows the great devotions…and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

  21. Jesse

    @Carol – I feel I should clarify a few things for you (and perhaps write clearer in the future so the confusion doesn’t happen again).

    1. Lydia is our third. Porter is 4 and Harrison is 2.
    2. I’m not quite understanding your reference to “hours of PT to feed herself” but if that has anything to do with raising a disabled child (?) then I would rewrite my post (or not even write it at all). Entirely different circumstances.
    3. Great play on words with the Wii…the Baby Einstein reference is to a toy octopus that plays music — not a movie. We actually don’t own a TV so plopping the kid(s) in front of the TV isn’t possible.
    4. You’re right though, I do still really want a Wii. But then we’d have to buy a TV.

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  23. Sid McVeigh


    Completely agree with you, after having re-read what Jesse said at a slower pace (I was at work, and didn’t read the whole article, I have to admit).

    I think there are some great comments on this post, I think Jesse has hit a nerve, or struck oil! ;-)

    Still read those books though, anyone who’s interested – fascinating stuff!

    Cheers :-)

  24. NickF

    (Sorry – first time post to a YNAB entry, but feel strongly about this).
    An aside (but relevant): we have a (really nice) LCD TV (thanks, Amy) which is used…maybe…4 times a MONTH. Did I want it? Yeah, and the PS3 that came a few months later. Boy, do I love having the capability. (Forget the Wii – go with the PS3!! Kidding….) I’m a gen X-er, but the “gotta have it now” is there/

    Point being, I developed this “gotta have” while still in the nest, as well as after I left it. But I also developed a sense of self-accountability. I received some tough love, and I resent no one. I was spanked, and I was told “no”. My hands weren’t held every step of the way, and I certainly wasn’t coddled. And you know what, I turned out OK. And my (future) children (God willing), will receive similar parenting. If you hold on to how YOU were raised, your children’s outcome might not depend on their nifty generation-defining, behavioral generalization. In other words, be a good parent, and the little one’s will turn out good too, no? “Gotta have it now” and “why me” are learned. If the kids don’t learn those traits, but instead learn self-accountability and resourcefulness, well then, where’s the shift? Full disclosure – I don’t have children. So what do I know. Wait – I know I want children, and I know how I want to raise them.

  25. Kim

    Your points are well taken. It starts with us parents. We need to be the ones to first examine our own lives and not look around and condemn others. If I want my children to grow up learning restraint and delayed gratification, then I must practice it first.

  26. Jesse

    Kim’s comment should have been appended to this post as a concluding paragraph. These are all great comments!

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  28. momsn2ition

    When my daughter (now a 23 year old colledge grad with a JOB) was 16 she wrecked her 10 year old Toyota Camry. We bought her that car because she needed one, she had completed some tasks (including earning a percentage of the money), she had an after school job and we lived in a rural community without public transportation. She was responsible for the upkeep (oil changes, tires, etc.) Because the car was PAID FOR we could get by with only liability insurance. We explained to her that any accidents were going to be her responisbility. We had, after all, bought her a car. With the typical teenage attitude, she complained that “EVEYONE ELSE” had a NEW car. We just shrugged it off and explained that cars are expensive and loose thier value very quickly, and that when she graduated, she could buy her own new car. Anyway, the accident damaged the front fender, hood and bumper. The repair bill was a little in excess of $900.00. The car was driveable, but not pretty with the damage. She worked for 7 months before she earned enough money to have the car repaired. I was told by several of the folks I work with that I was “too hard on her” and that I ought to have her car repaired, since it was her first accident. When I pointed out that, while I had bought the car, I did not wreck it, and although I know she didn’t mean to, that repairs still must be made, I was told by many that I should be ashamed for making her dirve a damaged car. These were the same folks who thought it was awful that I made her pay her own cell phone bill.

    Her second wreck occurred just after she started college. She rear-ended another driver. This time, it took even longer for her to save the money, since she was now responsible for the increase in the auto insurance. Lots of folks think it’s harsh to require children (young adults) to be responsible. I can say that she hasn’t had another accident since her Freshman year. She understands the value of money. Her dad and I offered to make the downpayment on a new(er) car for her for her graduation gift. Needless to say, by that time she really needed another one. Her old car was all but dead. Instead, she asked that we put that amount of money in her savings account, because she eventually wants to buy a house. She bought a used car (very nice), with payments of less that $200 per month, beacuse she didn’t want to “waste” her money on a car. I guess you could say her lesson was learned. The folks who were giving me such a hard time now have a 5th year college senior with no job and a sixth year college senior, both driving new cars that mom and dad are paying for.

  29. Michael

    Reading this made me think of an Oprah show my wife was watching and I couldn’t believe what I was watching. A mom of 6 children spent 400 a month at starbucks and spent her whole time with the kids shopping every day. She liked it so much she would sell what they bought for pennies on the dollar after a few weaks. Her husband would see credit statements for large amounts, but wouldn’t engage into the family finances. She did the finances…

    The family finds themselves on Oprah thinking they owed $50,000 in credit card debt. They were so out of touch with their lifestyle and finances that the Mom told the audience that she just doesn’t want to cost her family their home and wants to remain at home with the 6 kids. She says this when she thinks she only owed 50k! In the end she actually owed $135,000 in credit cards, 3 car payments that are like 1,700 a month, and two house mortgages for $686,000. I think one of the houses was actually a negative amortization. They strapped so she used cash advances from one credit card to pay another. Her children also don’t have health insurance so she could continue her habits of spending.

    She is shocked when she is told you need to sell everything, move to another state, and hunny you will be working.


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  31. Melissa

    I will never forget my first day of school when my dad took me aside to teach me how to make a fist. He said I should always stick up for myself, and I did. I wasn’t a bully, but if pushed I would bite. Sometimes I look back and wonder if I inflicted any long-term emotional damage on my “victims”.

    My dad was a product of a much more cold and unfriendly time and place, and as a result I suffered more than I would wish on anyone because of the emotional baggage he has carried since childhood. Yes, he taught me independence, self-sufficiency, and instilled in me the drive to fight and win (as you say). But all of the other stuff that came with it; the price of his generation, was a lot to bear long into my adult years.

    The challenge for me as a parent is to strike that perfect balance and I often wonder if it is possible. So, bottom line: I agree with you about as much as a victim of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of a depressed alcoholic can.

  32. Jesse

    I’m contemplating writing a followup to this post for clarification. I think if I had used the example of a lazy 25-year old still living at home rather than my fourth-month old daughter, my message would have been taken very differently.

    My intent (famous last words) was to stir the pot of thinking about raising (or not) a generation that has the “victim mentality” where they constantly point the finger of blame anywhere else but back at themselves. Instead the interpretation (again, a weakness in my writing is likely the culprit) was that we should be really tough on our kids. Should have used that lazy adult example instead…

    @Melissa – that perfect balance is absolutely essential. My feelings, based mainly on these comments, is that self-confidence is key.

  33. Dr Glyn Parry

    Here in Australia we are amazed (stunned?) at the way Americans conduct themselves. I say this not to be critical, it’s just our observation. Easy credit, zip responsibility. Fast food, obesity blowout. Now the fallout of really insane lending has reached our shore, and we can scarcely believe what we’re seeing. C’mon, America. Wake up before it’s too late. Take control. (Aussie kids look up to you.)

  34. Lola

    I agree with momsn2ition, I had a second hand car when I was 20 (it was my mothers before that)mum bought it second hand when it was 2 years old and I inherited it when it was 12 years old. Mum didnt want anythng for it, just that it was looked after properly.
    By that time it had been the first car for my brother and I to learn to drive in
    and was definately not immaculate. My brother and I drove everywhere in that car.
    I can still remember a colleague at work turning up her nose at my old car and saying with a sneer that she didnt like it, it was so old. When I asked her what she drove she said she didnt have a car!!!
    Mummy had bought her a brand new car the previous year which she wrote off 4 months later. We had to go to a meeting and I gave her a lift, you guessed it, in my old car.
    Her mother couldnt afford to replace her car and she had no money for another.
    If I had written off my car it wouldnt have been an economic disaster and as no one in the family had been paying car payments for the last 10 years we would just have got another old car.
    Perhaps that is why my son has now inherited my old car which is 16 years old.
    I bought a very nice 2 year old car for cash, for myself, so again no payments for a car. This car should last untilI retire!

  35. Lola

    I would just like to add that my son is paying for himself through University(no mean feat) from his savings and from his part time job.

  36. Neall


    Some people seem to be reacting to what you wrote as if it was an attack directed at them personally when, for some, it doesn’t exactly apply to their situation. Chill, people! I, for one, found wisdom in your words, even if I did have to adjust it a little to fit me. I think it was Abraham Lincoln who said, “You can’t please everyone all of the time.” That’s not to say that you shouldn’t attempt to.

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