August 17, 2013
I find myself confronting two very different emotions when I think about the future and our children; I have both a niggling fear and a quiet optimism. The fear comes from witnessing the year-by-year, generation-by-generation disempowerment of our youth. The optimism? Generation Z are developing an amazing awareness of global issues and are incredibly eager to make a visible and constructive difference.
Let’s cover the disempowerment first. One of the best books I have ever read is The Logic of Failure, where Dietrich Dorner demonstrates through real life case studies how often what seems to be the logical solution can turn into disaster. For me, this is exactly what is being played out with modern parenting. Yes, it seems logical in theory to give our kids more attention than we received; to give them the best opportunities for development with a plethora of extra-curricular activities. And because we love them, we wrap them in a cloud of cotton wool protection.
It seems logical to mortgage ourselves to the hilt to give our kids the best educational opportunities. We think that’s the only way to success. And yes, of course it’s logical and rational to have the 20 something ‘child’ at home – why should they leave when it means they can save money for a house of their own?
Logical measures. Well thought out plans. There is no doubt we are acting out of care and love. But are we in fact slowly killing our kids with kindness? Are we producing a generation who not only don’t know how to think for themselves, but expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter and require constant stimulation to keep them amused? We seem to be developing a world in which, despite ultra-competitive alpha parents, children are taught that ‘you don’t have to succeed to be a winner’.
In a work environment, this translates to employees who aren’t prepared to do the tedious jobs, and don’t understand they need to earn the right to greater responsibility and progression. Churning out employees who aren’t risk takers and can rarely think for themselves – who constantly need to be told what to do when. Where will we find the risk-takers, the innovators – those who will future-proof our planet – if we don’t allow children to fail and learn to do things the right way, not the easy way?
In contrast to this – luckily – Generation Z are developing an incredible world-view where they want to make a positive impact on the planet. They seem to have a weird collective consciousness of unspoken frustration to fix the broken world that their parents and grandparents are leaving them. They aren’t burdened, nor are they enamoured, with Gen X’s myopic need to achieve (or their guilt), nor Gen Y’s hypnotic interest in the inane and themselves. Instead? They appear to be hell bent on sustainability, collaboration and ethical actions.
This is why I still hold optimism for the future.
And yet… this opportunity to create an amazing era where ‘do-gooders’ will actually do good is in serious jeopardy unless we cease our helicopter parenting and critically overhaul our outdated education methods. We need more risk takers. We need more creative minds not hindered by the ‘system’. We need unfettered imagination. We need self-starters and misfits far more than we need order takers and MBAs.
In my view we need more entrepreneurs – or specifically, more social entrepreneurs – those who can combine commerce with doing good.
It is with the intention of helping this new generation use their powers for good rather than the mundane that I founded Club Kidpreneur. It’s a social enterprise which uses business as the platform to inspire under 12s with tangible ways to make a difference – not to mention developing crucial financial literacy skills. This month we launched our most ambitious project to date – the Fifty Dollar Challenge. This is a six-week program where 2,000 young leaders from over 200 Australian primary schools will launch their own micro-businesses, with the aim of raising at least $50 for the charity of their choice.
They receive a Business in a Backpack, with all of the raw materials to create one of five businesses together with business cards, a registration certificate, shopkeeper’s apron, I Can Build A Business Handbook and more. The aim of course transcends business, and is about embedding crucial life skills of initiative, imagination and resilience. These are the skills our future world-changers are in desperate need of developing because of our spoon-feeding approach to their upbringing and education.
This is a rare generation. We have a once in a millennium opportunity to get this right – and only time will tell if empowerment programs like the Fifty Dollar Challenge will help swing the balance from bland to brilliant.
Photo courtesy of istockphoto
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Posted by:Creel Price