I knew it would be coming… There is a significant shift happening in “parenting rules”. Today, as I drove my daughter to middle school, Kidd Kraddick on the morning show discussed an article from Tim Elmore about the three mistakes that parents are making that are harming our children:
We risk too little
We rescue too quickly
We rave too easily
And I had to laugh.
No, we’re not just waking up and realizing this. The generation in charge of parenting is changing. The Baby Boomers have been in charge, and as they become grandparents, the Generation Xers are taking over. And the “rules of parenting” are changing along with them. Every generation looks at the excesses of the generation before them, shakes their heads, and says “I won’t make THOSE mistakes!”
Quick academic discussion of terms- I tend to use Howe and Strauss’s divisions, but I also realize that these are approximates. My loose definition is that new generations are created when there is a cultural shift, based on a significant event. Generational shifts happen every 20 years or so, so it’s handy to examine them in these chunks. No one completely fits into a generation, but there are generational norms that tend to peak every 20 years or so. Quick set of definitions:
- Greatest Generation, or GI Generation, born approximately 1900-1929, Century to Great Depression
- Silent Generation, born approximately 1929- 1945, Great Depression to WWII
- Baby Boomers, born approximately 1945-1961, WWII to Kennedy.
- Generation Xers born approximately 1961-1981, Kennedy to Reagan
- Millennials born approximately 1981-2001, Reagan to 9/11.
During the 1950’s, Baby Boomers were raised by the “Greatest Generation” parents who had just been through the Depression and WWII. The “Greatest Generation’s” version of love was sacrificing and providing working really hard and providing food on the table. These parents saw that their parents before had had to go hungry and fight dictators; they were determined to provide and to raise children who would never fall for a Hitler or Stalin. Baby Boomers were raised with “tough love” and “question authority”. Their dads never went to baseball games; their moms always cooked home-cooked meals. Parents rarely engaged with kids, other than to be wise, distant figures. “Leave it to Beaver” and Andy Griffith extolled the virtues of cute kids and wise grownups. They were raised in optimistic, economically growing time.
During the 1970’s, Xers were raised by Silent Generation parents who had just gone through the Civil Rights Era. Their parents saw the parents from the 1950s as traditionalists who had certain assigned roles based on gender and race, and this Silent Generation parents were determined to break the status quo. The Silent Generation parents were culturally allowed to divorce and did so. Everyone worked, especially moms. Crime rose. School drug use rose. Gas wars increased tension. The Xers were the “latchkey” kids- who came home from school with no one there. Caring for children was not high on the cultural priority list, and with the advent of birth control, children were optional. You can see it in the movies of the day “Damien”, “Children of the Corn”, “Rosemary’s Baby”… these are not movies that extol the wonders and virtues of children. They were raised in pessimistic, economically challenging times.
During the 1990s, Millennials were raised by Baby Boomer parents who had gone through the go-go growth of the 1980’s. These Boomer parents had seen the neglect of the children earlier, and needed to make sure that children felt cared for. Millennial children were coddled and protected. “Baby on Board” signs, seat belts, and child care were put into place. Parents went to Little League games and gave trophies to everyone who showed up. Movies went into raptures about the joys of raising and being children- Three Men and a Baby, Big, High School Musical. Grownups were humorous buffoons who either ruined or went along with their children’s antics. They were raised in optimistic, economically stable times.
And now it’s the 2010’s… and the Xers are coming into parenthood. The Xers have gone through the 2000’s- fighting a never-ending war, losing faith in government and other large organizations. This generation of children, sometimes called the “Homeland” generation, are going to be raised by parents who value individualism, who do not trust institutions, who were neglected as children and have an “up from their bootstraps” attitude. They are looking at these cosssetted darlings from the 1990s and are going to be raising children who are survivalists, entrepreneurs, and tough in the face of uncertain times. “Les Miserables” about an orphaned child is an early huge hit. This Homeland generation is being raised in pessimistic, economically unstable times.
As an Xer raising Homelanders, I know that I tend to try to value children who are independent, and who have ideas that they can then act on. In an earlier post, I remarked how the job of parents is to raise our children not to need us. That comment is very reflective of my generational position in the cycle of parenting.
So- expect some pretty dramatic parenting statements coming about how to raise children and how to “undo” the mistakes of the past. Expect a change in movies and media about how children are on their own. Because the Xers are here, and their parenting style is-to quote the anthem they heard growing up- “Welcome to the Jungle!”