Sobel, the mother of 16-year-old twins in Sherman Oaks, Calif., says they could tell “what was real and what was fake,” even when very young. “I was tired of going to the sports field and seeing moms say, ‘Great job at going up to bat.’ It hit me early on that kids could see through inane compliments.”
Those often-empty phrases, however, raised a generation. Kids born in the ’70s and ’80s are now coming of age. The colorful ribbons and shiny trophies they earned just for participating made them feel special. But now, in college and the workplace, observers are watching them crumble a bit at the first blush of criticism.