Did the stranger danger message and helicopter parenting have a negative impact on a whole generation. How Gen Y is changing the workplace
Did the stranger danger message and helicopter parenting have a negative impact on a whole generation. How Gen Y is changing the workplace

Two words that screwed Gen Ys


I'M A millennial, and whenever I write about my generation I always find myself thinking about the same thing: helicopter parenting and their "stranger danger" mindset.

It explains almost everything.

I've written a lot about Millennials. I've written about emotional fragility among Millennials.

I've written about social media addiction. I've written about how Millennials craveresponsibility in their lives. I've even written about the lack of support for free speech among Millennials.

I was blessed with amazing parents who understood the dangers of helicopter parenting, but without sounding crude, many Millennials weren't.

We're the most helicopter parented generation of all time.

What are helicopter parents, you ask? They're parents who hover around their child, ready toswoop in if they see them challenged or distressed.

They don't let their kids walk to school on their own. They interrogate their kids with the "who, what, where, and when" every time they leave the house.

They pave their kid's road to success for them. They micromanage their kids' schedules. They shower their kids with cash. They do their kids' homework for them.

They don't let kids resolve disputes among themselves.

They resolve fights between their kid and somebody else's kid by calling the other kid's mum. They answer questions that are intended for their kid, on behalf of their kid, when their kid is standing right next to them.

Helicopter parents are obviously kind, loyal and loving people. And if the victims of helicopter parenting are products of their time, the perpetrators of it are too. They're well-intentioned.


The original Safety House logo.
The original Safety House logo.


But then again, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Rates of mental illness are soaring among my generation. We're the most depressed, anxious and suicidal generation in recent memory, while simultaneously being the most pampered and looked after. How is this possible?

Even with unparalleled financial and emotional support, I often hear my fellow Millennials say that their "life is a mess" and how they need to "get their life together" - the latter of which I hear a lot.

Millennials are struggling with finally being responsible for themselves. They're struggling with juggling basic expectations of adulthood.

Most 20-year-olds are uncomfortable with even being called an "adult". But can we really be shocked that adulthood hasn't come naturally to a generation who've been treated like toddlers their entire lives?


Has the stranger danger message affected a whole generation?
Has the stranger danger message affected a whole generation?



The average millennial enters adulthood in three turbulent stages. Let me paint the picture.

To begin with, they're narcissistic and entitled. This is the first stage. They rush into adulthood overconfident and naive. They've given themselves credit for the success their parents gave them.

So for a short-time, their expectation of getting everything they want spills into their experience of adulthood and they become extremely demanding.

They chalk down initial setbacks to "no one understanding them" and they develop victimhood mentalities: they're perfect and it's always somebody else's fault.

But then, the second stage hits. The setbacks build up. The real world breaks through their narcissistic surface and a traumatic crisis of identity occurs.

They get hit by obstacle after obstacle and eventually, they realise their incompetence and begin to fear the world.

All of sudden, society is a scary place fraught with dangerous hurdles that didn't exist before.

Blame "stranger danger" - history's most well-intentioned, yet misguided lesson. I'm glad to see that the phrase is slowly dying.

Millennials were actually taught that every adult they didn't know was a "danger" to them. It astounds me that anyone thought this was a good idea.

There is a middle ground between teaching kids basic street smarts and teaching them to fear everyone they don't know.

Thanks to helicopter parenting and "stranger danger", Millennials are scared of the real world and can't fend for themselves.

They've been taught to always rely on the help of an adult - but not just any adult. Adults are dangerous! Only trust your parents!

After an 18 year high, Millennials finally crash-land into adulthood after realising how unequipped they are to survive by themselves. Life is no longer the cosy and comfortable place it once was. It's a scary, competitive world where success takes time.

The third stage lands the knockout blow.

They start feeling like failures.

In the second stage, Millennials realise they can't get what they want just because they want it. In the third, they realise they don't know how to get what they want regardless.

They've been robbed of the confidence to solve problems by themselves. So what happens when their parents ditch them? They feel scared, alone and most of all, helpless.

Their whole sense of self comes crashing down as they realise their road to success is a lot longer and bumpier than the instant gratification their parents gave them.

They realise the superficiality of their childhood success and how it was built on the foundations of their parents' support, not their own brilliance.

They stop blaming others and begin blaming themselves.

They go from believing they have everything in control to the exact opposite.

Parents nowadays see their kids as blocks of granite from which they can sculpt the perfect human being.


These Millennials look happy, but maybe they’re only at stage one at this point.
These Millennials look happy, but maybe they’re only at stage one at this point.


Millennials see success as an obligation, like paying back a debt.

So when they're thrown into (what they perceive to be) the deep end, they feel guilty for feeling like they can't provide a return on their parents' investment.

They blame themselves for feeling unworthy of their parent's support. And worst of all, they don't have the know-how to repay their parents even if they wanted to.

So parents, what were you thinking? I couldn't think of a worse combination of messages to send to budding adults.

You've simultaneously made them fear the world and feel obligated to achieve success.

And you haven't equipped them with the life skills necessary to achieve that success.

For Millennials, life is like playing Roger Federer in tennis without a racket, and being expected to win.

Can we really be surprised that rates of youth anxiety, depression and suicide are so high?

Make no mistake, this is a crisis.

Millennials have been robbed of the very essence of human wellbeing: responsibility.

This is Jordan Peterson's message: that Millennials don't feel in control of their own lives.

This crisis of responsibility has bred a crisis of meaning. After all, meaning in life is derived from one's responsibilities.

But how can Millennials be responsible for something or someone, if they're entirely dependent on other people? Millennials don't feel useful, so they're asking questions like "why am I here?" and "what's the point?"

If you treat kids like helpless pets, they'll end up feeling like purposeless social experiments. They either won't feel in control of their own lives, or will struggle with being in the driver's seat after decades of being a passenger.

Parents exist to make their children not reliant on them. Unfortunately, Baby Boomers greatly over-estimated their role in their children's upbringing, and a whole generations of kids have been left miserable, helpless and fragile as a result.

It's about time we left helicopter parenting and stranger danger to die in the scrap-heap of history.

Follow Luke Kinsella on Twitter @luke_kinsella

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