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Millennial vs. Boomer Parenting Styles

A GaGa Sisterhood member wrote to me with an interesting question: “I’ve heard that millennials parent differently than boomers. Can you give me some examples?”

Millenials are the cohort born between 1980 and 2000. There are an estimated 10 million millennial parents in the U.S. today and the number stands to grow exponentially over the next decade.

“Millennials are often inaccurately portrayed through the prism of youth and all the character traits that go along with it — narcissism, rebellion, and entitlement to name a few,” writes Jeff Fromm, author of Marketing to Millenials. But millennials are growing up and embracing parenthood albeit somewhat differently than their parents did.

According to an article by Pop Sugar, “they want to be more involved than baby boomers, for whom ‘parenting’ wasn’t even yet a verb, but they want to hover a little less than those helicopter moms of Gen X. Just as they believe in a diverse portfolio of social media accounts, they are aiming to employ aspects of many different child-raising philosophies in their homes. They see a happy median between baby-wearing, organic-puree-making moms and free-range parents who don’t believe in boundaries.”

Boomer parents have taken flack for giving our kids too many trophies and too much praise. But the drive to instill self-esteem may have paid off when it comes to millennial moms and the grades they give themselves as parents. According to a 2015 Pew Research study, 60 percent of millennial moms think they are doing a “very good job” raising our grandchildren.

Millennial mom and writer, Sadie Ball, offers five ways millennial parents are changing parenthood:

  1. Discarding one-size-fits-all parenting. Millennial parents are open-minded and recognize there’s not one ‘right’ way to raise children. The availability of books and the Internet provide a wealth of resources, different parenting ideas, and culturally diverse perspectives from which parents can consider information and opinions when crafting their own individualized approach to family life.
  2. Maneuvering social media. These tech-savvy parents have their fair share of self-doubt and turn to social media to seek advice and share experiences. Though they find connections through this form of social bonding, they are wary of the pervasive nature of social media and use privacy settings to ensure safer sharing.
  3. Embracing changing norms. Millenial parents have a more open-minded and unconventional perspective of what modern family life looks like. Parenting among this group has become more team-oriented as millennials depart from traditional gender roles in raising children. Moreover, this divergence has translated to a heightened sense of cultivating kids’ identity and gender neutrality unlike the generations before. Millennials are also defying conventional notions of marriage, with a lower percentage indicating that marriage before children is essential for parenthood. At the same time, they are more likely to be stay-at-home parents than both Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers.
  4. Reflecting and questioning. Millennial parents are moving away from the helicopter parenting of their predecessors, defined by the hovering, hyper-parenting and over-scheduling of the 1990s, to embrace an overall ‘relaxed and responsive approach.’ Millennial parents appreciate that unstructured playtime is just as important as other activities, providing kids with much-needed space for independent learning and growth. Backing off in a big way, millennials are approaching family life in a more democratic fashion by questioning themselves and asking children for input in decision-making. Plus, these parents are emphasizing a renewed focus on empathy to help children garner a greater understanding and engagement with their world.
  5. Helping children cultivate a strong sense of identity. Millenial parents are posting everything from ultrasounds to unexpected success and failures. They foster a greater sense of identity and individuality, more so than previous generations, in simply naming their children. A Time Magazine survey indicated that 60% of millennials believe that children should have unique names, compared to 44% of Gen X’ers and 35% of Baby Boomers.

When it comes to nutrition, millennial parents are more likely to breastfeed their babies and in general, they’re very concerned about the foods they feed their children, favoring non-GMOs and organic foods.

Millenial mom and blogger, Jamie Kenny, summarized her generation of moms as “socially and politically engaged in new and sustainable ways, perhaps even more so than our famous Baby Boomer Hippie predecessors. Our moral convictions affect much of what we do as parents, from the food we feed our children, to where we buy their clothes (and what kind of clothes we buy) to the stories we read them before they go to bed at night. We’re awake, aware, and angling for change, and we’re getting our kids on board with that, too.”

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