JANUARY 01, 1967 by JOHN C. SPARKS
Mr. Sparks is an executive of an Ohio manufacturing company.
The perennial complaint among many of the current younger generation is that adults do not understand them. Perhaps it is really a counter-complaint stemming from criticism by a few of their elders that the younger generation is "going to the dogs."
Whether their complaints are well-founded or not, an erroneous attitude can develop among the youth that could be detrimental to their progress. And this erroneous attitude can be fed and fostered by oversolicitous adults who attempt to bring about understanding by too much listening and too little teaching. This part of the problem is of concern to me, but not the attempts of youngsters to win understanding from adults by an airing of "grievances."
Imagine the reaction by the veteran major league ballplayers if the season’s crop of rookies were to file complaints that they, the rookies, are being misunderstood by the old pros! Or the new tenderfoot Boy Scouts complaining that the first-class scouts do not understand them! Or college freshmen lamenting their "unfair" status before the college board of trustees!
All have this common characteristic: They are the "Johnnies come-lately." They are "green" in the presence of those who traveled the same road some years before and "learned the ropes" through experience. So it is with the budding adults of the younger generation, just beginning to discover their physical emergence into manhood and womanhood. Their chronological age proclaims this amazing change. There is a headiness about becoming one’s own boss as parents gradually relinquish the reins. Only a year or two earlier, father and mother had made almost all the decisions, or at least exercised veto power. Now — a short time later — circumstances have changed. The youth is away from home — attending college or learning on a new job. Without that familiar parental supervision, it is not surprising that he should make some mistakes and commit some embarrassing blunders in his decisions as a tenderfoot in an adult world. And will adults then illogically show excessive sympathy for the whimperings of the inexperienced? Thus, to aid and abet any young adult’s prolongation of childhood would be a sad disservice to him.
A young person has to earn the right to be called an adult. He alone can earn such recognition for himself, by acting grown-up in situations calling for self-responsibility and self-reliance. This may be easier to say than to achieve. Deep and abiding self-responsibility does not come from merely wishing it. It can only be gained by learning and building, surely and steadily, on a firm foundation of moral values and principles.
It is here that elders have the responsibility to teach, rather than listen to trivia. As adults, our duty is to usher into the world a younger generation prepared to behave as responsible adults — not irresponsible children. Reasonable patience, yes. But don’t pamper the rookies as they reach for maturity!