The Know-it-all Generation | Teen Ink

The Know-it-all Generation MAG

December 14, 2009
By pochacco1014 BRONZE, Chandler, Arizona
pochacco1014 BRONZE, Chandler, Arizona
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

I rolled my eyes as I watched a mom help her five-year-old daughter out of the pool: “Honey, you're amazing. You'll be the next Olympian!”

In reality, she swam more like a flailing pigeon than an elegant swan, but the daughter beamed with confidence. This example epitomizes the problem with our know-it-all generation. We're programmed to devour compliments, and our gears break down when we encounter a new type of software: criticism.

Praise can be necessary for boosting confidence. However, my generation is offered it to the point of overkill. The gold stars on papers with mediocre scores and the unspoken promise of ice cream after any “accomplishment” ­solidify a craving for meaningless compliments. Elders essentially ­worship children until we become ­condescending jerks; then students run home complaining about teachers who don't dole out sweet words, and their parents ­become verbal punching bags. It has ­become a vicious cycle.

Aside from the rush of adrenaline and reverberating feeling of satisfaction, this insatiable addiction invites pom­pousness. The teenage attitude – the eye-rolling, attention-craving mindset – is a product of this cycle. Protected by flattery, children create an aura of specious perfection around themselves, and while we consciously understand we can't be perfect, this idea somehow never reaches the subconscious.

Instead, deep down, we envision ourselves as a medley of superheroes: ­invincible. As social ­Batmen, our cunning strategies never fail. As ­intelligent Flashes, answers come naturally. Most importantly, as indestructible Violet Parrs we're immune to anything and everything. The first encounter we have with the real world is almost like hitting the motherlode of Kryptonite, uncovering the truth and shattering the image we have of ourselves.

The first time a fellow student ­criticized me, it was hard to get past the initial shock. I was actually being criticized. Not just a minor scalding, but a broiling. Sitting there, I came to the brutal realization that even I ­romanticize myself to a point beyond recognition. We are nothing close to perfect, but a tiny inkling of us thinks we have a close resemblance. It is society that forces us to literally look in the mirror and realize that our reflection is far from divine.

We're so self-involved that we don't believe criticism has a place in our lives. Even “constructive criticism” is often a code word for praise. It is vital that we become ­comfortable with the harsh comments others throw at us and take them at their face value. They aren't invisible weapons, but rather small doses of ­reality to help us better ourselves.

Raised in a culture gorged on constant praise, it is hard not to yield to the ­inflated sense of self-worth. It is important to realize that self-esteem is dramatically different from ego. Psychologist Jean Twenge recommends humility, self-evaluation, mindfulness, and thinking of others as a cure for this sense of entitlement. ­Cutting ourselves off from the constant praise will drastically change the way we perceive ourselves and those around us – an important step to ­reversing this epidemic.

Before we can set goals for solving poverty, establishing peace, or eliminating any worldly troubles, we must first address the critical faults within ourselves. We are nothing close to the flawlessness we believe we represent, and we must embrace criticism. My generation is wearing horse blinders. Unless we reverse this vicious cycle, our world will still retain its false ­“perfection.”



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This article has 21 comments.


on Oct. 25 2016 at 12:02 pm
Astridology BRONZE, Parma, Ohio
4 articles 0 photos 13 comments
I would almost say this fits the previous generation, but not this one.

on Jan. 31 2014 at 2:36 pm
ashtheunicorn SILVER, Chesterfield, New Jersey
6 articles 29 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"You must always remember... you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." ~A.A. Milne

This article was written amazingly. However, I would have to diagree with you, in that many teens actually look down, rather than up, on their image and self.  I would say that it does apply to some people, but most of the time, not. Great post, however!

on Oct. 22 2012 at 2:03 pm
TerraCotta GOLD, Cupertino, California
17 articles 0 photos 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
“A man, who has no conscience, no goodness, does not suffer.”

Very nice perspective. Good use of devices to enchance your writing. Keep up the good work!

Nelu96 said...
on Aug. 17 2012 at 11:02 am
I would give you a high-five if  I could. I feel exactly the same. People actually prevent us from reaching our full potential because the make us think we are perfect. I understand that of we sometimes need to recognise the accomplishments of others. But only  criticism opens doors for improvement. We are not perfect!  

on May. 21 2012 at 3:52 pm
aspiringauthor_ BRONZE, Fairfield, Connecticut
1 article 0 photos 326 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." - MLK Jr.

I agree with Lindsey31 completely. Although I definitely can see where the author is coming from, I also feel that there are slight generalizations in this piece. The author makes it seem as though all people of this generation fall into this "know it all" category. However, as I have personally observed, there are far fewer "know-it-all's" than the author makes the number out to be. It's my humble opinion, but I just wanted to point out that slight generalization I noticed.

Lindsey31 GOLD said...
on Apr. 8 2012 at 10:33 am
Lindsey31 GOLD, Rockford, Minnesota
11 articles 11 photos 52 comments

Favorite Quote:
LIVE life ~ LAUGH always ~ LOVE lots

I think the Know-It-All Generation might be there for some teens, but for the others, it is not there. I'm not sure there is enough people that deveour these compliments to collectively call them a "generation," but that's just my opinion. I like the words you use in this!  

123Sesame said...
on Feb. 27 2012 at 6:48 pm
123Sesame, New York, New York
0 articles 0 photos 36 comments
I 2nd that! :)

on Jan. 11 2012 at 7:28 am
Balletgirl6 BRONZE, Columbus, New Jersey
1 article 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Common sense would tell parents never to send their children to a ballet school. Common sense would tell teenagers that there is a wider and happier world beyond the grueling strictures of daily barre and class. Common sense would tell the graduating student that there are infinitely superior ways of making money than joining a professional ballet company. Common sense would tell a young dancer that very few (laughably few) of his or her colleagues will ever make it to the top or even near the top. Yet... there remains the dance and the dancer.” - Author Unknown

I completely agree with you! Children are practically worshipped by their parents because their children are "the perfect children" and their children can "do no wrong." Parents are unintentionally making their children big-headed spoiled brats who aren't ready for the real world. We all need to realize that no one's perfect- a perfect person is a complete illusion.

ZeenatRogate said...
on Jan. 11 2012 at 7:27 am
ZeenatRogate, Columbus, New Jersey
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments
I agree but i think that we need both in moderation.

on Sep. 30 2011 at 7:37 pm
fortheloveofwriting GOLD, A Place, Oklahoma
11 articles 13 photos 30 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life."
~Pablo Picasso


Love is patient, love is kind; it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
1 Corinthians 13:4
A man's ways are his own, but the LORD weighs the heart.

While I agree with the fact that people tend to take criticism too harshly, I don't think you can safely say that we all think we're close to perfect. Actually, some of us think oppositely and have to be convinced otherwise. I think it's a well written article but we don't all expect praise for every little thing like 'good job! you took out the trash!' I think credit should be given where it's due and more sides thought of than one.

on Feb. 10 2011 at 5:48 pm
Hawthorn BRONZE, Nowheresville, Maine
3 articles 0 photos 55 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Know Thy Enemy" Sun Tzu

Well personally I thought there were far to many generalizations. I don't know wether I am the exception or the rule but I know my weaknesses and though I do roll my eyes a lot (Might have something to do with my dads Jokes) I am far from attention craving. I don't know about the rest of humanity but thats how I see it. 

on Oct. 4 2010 at 7:04 am
xAllegria BRONZE, Singapore, Other
1 article 2 photos 112 comments

Favorite Quote:
Ça fait tellement du bien d’aimer les gens qu’on aime, que ça finit par faire mal. Je sais pas comment on survit a ça. Non franchement, je sais pas. LOL (laughing out loud) ®, Lola.

This is full of generalizations. There are many other factors: whether the kid is an only child (yes, because if they are they will get all the praise and are less likely to be in conflict for attention with anyone), how they socialize and other things. Kids tend to be more self-involved, it's a fact, and they do need to be encouraged although over-doing it as you said won't work. They can't take criticism because it's harder for them to understand different viewpoints. This comes with time and with the factors I have mentioned earlier- school, for example, is one place where young kids try to "compete" to be the one with the best drawing, story etc. Complimenting one may boost the other to try and do even better. If they are criticised, kids will back away or if they try to get better it won't be for themselves, but for the attention of that critic. This leads to lack of self-confidence. So I don't disagree completely but what I'm saying is: don't criticize, just focus the compliments on WHAT CAN ACTUALLY BE COMPLIMENTED. Hope you'll take this "constructive criticism" the right way ;)

on May. 20 2010 at 9:46 pm
sophietle BRONZE, Houston, Texas
4 articles 3 photos 34 comments

Favorite Quote:
"As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters." - Seneca

There's a book I read that talks about the same things you address in this piece, the over-praising and such (very well written by the way). The book is called Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. 

Skeezics GOLD said...
on May. 18 2010 at 9:44 pm
Skeezics GOLD, Eatonville, Washington
12 articles 0 photos 87 comments

Favorite Quote:
A childs voice, however honest and true, is meaningless to those who have forgotten how to listen.
Everyone faces obsticals. What defines you is how you overcome them. -J.R. Celski

I also agree with this article to an extent. But "goddess_of_the_moon_123" i  agree with alot of what you are saying. one part of this persons article gets my goat however the part when the writer says "the eye-rolling, attention-craving mindset" not all teenagers are like that at all. There are alot of us who are not like that at all and i think it is very steriotypical for you to say something like that. there are alot of people under the age of 18 that are not at all in that mind set. And almost the entire planet knows that none of us are perfect but it is still nice to hear that even if we aren't the best at the present time that we can get better. Like what you said as the opener of your article, the girl was 5 for crying out loud she was still learning. and without some praise she would have been distroyed because she was 5. Once if she were older i would consider it a valid thing to say but she was 5 for crying out loud give her a break.

E.Hartell said...
on May. 14 2010 at 8:53 pm
E.Hartell, Undisclosed, Virginia
0 articles 0 photos 25 comments

Favorite Quote:
Half of being smart is knowing what you're dumb at. -David Gerrold

“Fundamentally, all writing is about the same thing; it's about dying, about the brief flicker of time we have here, and the frustration that it creates.” (Mordecai Richler)

I'm in agreement with your point of view, but also what [Goddess of the Moon] said about generalizing.

Another thing: when constructive criticism is given correctly, it's not praise. It' can be difficult to find people who do it correctly though. It's not "Gee, you work is awful," but "here's what you could do to improve."


on May. 6 2010 at 11:51 am
caketin8pence, Surrey, Other
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
I completely agree. Adults critises us and we crumble we seem to have a very delicate but huge ego that once it is lightly tapped with a negative word and they deflate making us quivering wrecks. As a generation we are to self-involved and can only deal with the nice things in life, the moment we move out and face the real world. Well who knows what will happen to us?

on May. 5 2010 at 3:32 pm
goddess_of_the_moon_123 SILVER, Beaverdam, Virginia
5 articles 0 photos 71 comments

Favorite Quote:
'To unpath'd waters, undream'd shores' ~ William Shakespeare, A Winter's Tale

 My one issue with this (well written) piece is this:

Most of your points were generalizations. Not all teens are pompous jerks by the time they enter their twenties. In fact, most of the ones I associate with a very well mannered and get along well with their parents. So, while I think there is definitely some truth behind your opinion, I think there are some other points on which you may want to touch to make this piece as effective as possible.


on May. 5 2010 at 10:14 am
effortlesslove BRONZE, Westminster, Maryland
3 articles 0 photos 53 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A friend is someone who can sing the song in your heart when you have forgotten the words"i

You really put all your thought into this and this is very well written this is true people who havent even reached their 20's act like 'we' know it all when at times we really dont and i think you got that message across.

serena said...
on May. 3 2010 at 6:50 pm
It's an interesting perspective and I agree, but you have to hit a happy medium. You shouldn't praise or reward too much, but obviously you can't just put down everything. But then, everything has that tricky medium. :)

on May. 1 2010 at 3:11 pm
DorkyDory BRONZE, Brimley, Michigan
2 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
Just Keep Swimming!

I hate to say it because of how well written this is and how much you back yourself up, but I disagree. I think teens are absolutly sulking in theirselves. It always seems as though they're not good enough. I can't really say any of my peers think overly high of themselves. Maby an ego is better than being emo. Don't you think.