I guess every generation has had plenty to say – not much of it good – about the ones that come after it. Historians say people were doing that as long ago as Ancient Greece, and if every generation really was worse than their parents’ one was, we’d be in a pretty sorry state by now. I don’t believe it’s true, really. Look at the Greatest Generation, who got through the Depression then won the Second World War. They sure weren’t the product of 3,000 years of decline.
On the other hand I think this time, just once, older people today might be right about the next generation. Look at today’s young people. Defeat the Nazis and Japan? This lot can’t even hear a different opinion without feeling “triggered” and needing to hide in a “safe space”! They’re mentally fragile in a way we never were. Lots of experts have talked about why this is, and they have plenty of theories, but in among talking about safety culture and helicopter parenting there’s one thing I think they’re missing. If you want my opinion, young people today are so fragile because they can’t do anything that doesn’t involve poking a screen.
The truth is, these kids have hardly had to do anything for themselves. It’s not their fault; a lot of it isn’t even their parents’ fault. We just live in a society with so many conveniences, and so many cheap goods available, that people don’t need to do much for themselves. Why learn to prepare a chicken when it’s available in a tray, ready to stick in the microwave? Why repair clothes when they’ll be out of fashion in a couple of months anyway?
The good news is it doesn’t take a lot to build some confidence, even in a 21st century snowflake. Teach them a few simple skills, give them the knowledge to do things for themselves, and pretty soon they’ll realize that not having every single thing go their way isn’t so emotionally devastating after all. Here are a few suggestions on what every nervous young person should learn.
#1. Missing buttons make clothes look sloppy. In bad weather they also let body heat out, increasing the risk of hypothermia. Anything stored in an unbuttoned pocket is prone to falling out and getting lost – if you’ve ever served in the military you’ve probably heard an NCO barking, “Do that up, or it’ll be an ammo pouch next time.”
If you know how to sew on a button that’s a big help in keeping your clothes smart and serviceable. It’s also a simple enough job if you know the basics, and gives someone a good start on having the confidence to fix their own clothes.
#2. Once they know how to use a needle and thread, a lot more options open up. Missing buttons are bad, in a survival situation; gaping holes in a coat or pants are a lot worse. Knowing how to do basic repairs on clothing is an essential skill. Anyone can shove a needle through both edges and hold it together for awhile, but pretty quickly it’s going to fray and tear open again. Teach your kids how to do a repair that lasts and they’ll be much less likely to become snowflakes.
#3. It used to be just about everyone who drove could competently change a tire. That doesn’t seem to be true anymore. Part of that is that it doesn’t need to be done so often – modern road surfaces are a lot more forgiving, and steel-belted radial tires can take much more abuse – but general loss of skills comes into it too. The thing is, changing a tire is no harder than it used to be, and it’s still an essential skill if you drive. Sooner or later you’re going to find yourself sitting on a flat; why call out a recovery service when all the tools you need to fix it yourself are sitting in the trunk?
Related: Lost Native American Survival Skills
#4. Young people don’t write letters anymore. They text and email and send snapshots of everything they do, but they don’t write letters. And they should.
Writing a letter is a more serious, thoughtful way to communicate. It takes some time to write a letter, showing that you’ve put consideration and effort into it. A letter is also more permanent. Drop your cell phone in a lake and everything stored on it is gone, but a letter tucked away in a box at home will last for a lifetime. A letter bringing good news will become a treasured possession that brings happiness every time it’s read; we should all know how to write one.
#5. Young people love their organic, non-GMO foods – but do they have a clue how they’re grown? Usually not. The thing is, when I was a kid I loved growing stuff. Mom and dad grew vegetables, and they gave me my own little plot so I could join in. I learned that there’s a lot more to growing things than scattering some seeds and coming back a couple of months later to fill your basket. I also learned just how satisfying it is to eat something you grew yourself.
#6. It’s easy to make dinner when all you need to do is stick a tray in the microwave or pick up your phone and call out for pizza. The trouble is, if that’s how you roll you’re going to be in real trouble when, one day, your microwave and phone don’t work anymore.
Everyone should know how to prepare a chicken for the oven, roast it, and cook up all the trimmings that go with it. The same skills will let you cook plenty other things, too.
#7. It’s never been easier to get credit than it is now, and a lot of young people are awash in debt as a result. Credit cards, student loans, car loans – it adds up fast, and many people in their 20s already have debts they’re going to struggle with their whole lives.
People need to learn that they can’t have everything that they want right now, and that if they can’t afford something it isn’t a capitalist conspiracy. Sometimes you’re going to have to get a loan – a mortgage is the classic example. Usually it won’t kill you to wait until you can afford what you want.
#8. I lean to the political right. A lot of my friends are more to the left. They’re still my friends, though. Why? Because I’m not a hysterical idiot.
My leftie friends want the same things as I do – a strong country, more wealth, an end to poverty. We just disagree about how to get there. They’re wrong, of course, but they’re not actually evil. Just because someone doesn’t share my opinions about the economy it doesn’t mean they’re a literal Marxist who wants to destroy America. Most lefties want America to thrive, just the same as I do. The only difference is they’ve picked the wrong solutions.
#9. It doesn’t matter how good you are; you’re not always going to win. That’s true in competitive sports – “competitive” means something, after all – but it’s true of life in general, too.
When things don’t go your way, just accept that sometimes that’s how it works out and move on with your life. There aren’t many losses you can’t recover from, so get on with recovering from it and don’t whine about how it wasn’t fair.
#10. Maybe the worst thing about snowflakes is that nothing is ever their fault. When they mess up it’s always because their professor said something they disagreed with, or their grade school teacher yelled at them, or mom and dad told them Santa isn’t real. They seem to have an excuse for everything.
Well, that just isn’t good enough. Maybe the most important thing we can teach young people to do is take responsibility for their own actions. If you screw up, don’t go looking for someone to blame; go looking for a solution. Admit your mistakes, fix any damage as well as you can, and do better next time. That’s the only way to grow as a person, and everyone – including our easily-melted young people – needs to remember it.
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