On Millennial Parenting

On Millennial Parenting
Helen Rose
December 12, 2018

Millennials take a lot of BS, y’all.

We’ve ruined so many markets that I’ve lost count. We’re entitled, spoiled, obnoxious takers who don’t understand the value of hard work or struggle, and we’re passing all these terrible qualities down to our kids.

I don’t have the time or energy to address everything that is wrong with these common perceptions of my generation, but I would like to address that last point for a few reasons:

  1. It’s egregiously untrue
  2. I strive to be nonconfrontational and peaceful, but I’ll go to the mat with anyone who attacks my parenting abilities

I see a lot of stuff floating around about how parenting used to be “in the good ole days.” For example:

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I’m just confused as to why people are so nostalgic for mostly bygone eras of abusive and authoritarian parenting.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued guidelines regarding effective discipline. (Spoiler alert: hitting your kids is abusive and ineffective.) These guidelines are grounded in concrete scientific research and somehow still hotly debated.

The overwhelming theme of rebuttals to statements such as this are “Well, I survived.”

I just feel like childhood isn’t something that kids should have to merely survive, and I feel like we owe our kids a better start to life than, “sit down, shut up, and listen.”

Kids are people – entire people in little bodies trying to figure out how to function. We owe them explanations about why things are the way they are. We owe them compassion when their little systems become overwhelmed by the big world. We owe them grace when they make mistakes – especially considering how very little life experience they have. We owe them respect as human beings with inherent worth and dignity.

Our children may exist because of us, but that does not make them subservient to us. They do not owe us blind obedience. They do not owe us unwavering and unearned respect. They do not owe us undying gratitude for meeting their basic needs when that is literally our jobs as parents.

I see no reason for parenting to be a power struggle when it can be a cooperation. (Though I fully admit that my child is a toddler and I may be eating these words when he is a teenager.)

When Henry refuses to take a bath, hold my hand in a parking lot, or eat, we talk about it. I ask him, “what do you need right now?” and most of the time, he just needs an explanation, a few minutes to adjust or to be held. He is only two and doesn’t always know what’s best for himself, which is why I’m around making sure he doesn’t eat cleaning products or play in traffic, but he does deserve the opportunity to have some autonomy over his life.

My role as his mother is not to tell him what to be or how to be it. My role as his mother is to help him learn how to effectively be who he already is. He came into this world with a distinct personality and purpose – it’s just the housekeeping things (financial literacy, hygiene, manners, etc.) that he needs help navigating.

I am not a perfect parent by any means. I’m definitely guilty of saying, “You were 10 pounds at birth – just freaking listen to me!” but statements like this are the exception, not the rule. My rule for how I treat Henry is the same as for any other human – how would I want to be treated in this situation?

If I was so tired, overwhelmed, or confused that I felt moved to lay down in the middle of a grocery store or parking lot, would I want someone to yell at or hit me, or would I want someone to help me understand what’s going on and communicate my needs?

If I was so frustrated that I could not stop crying, would I want someone to tell me they will give me something to cry about, or would I want someone give me a hug and validate my emotions?

I honestly think that many members of past generations have somewhat dehumanized their kids because it’s easier than really dealing with them. If their children are subhuman and only capable of being conditioned to obey, then the parents are not responsible for any more.

The thing about millennial parents is that we recognize this, and we reject it. We recognize our kids for the amazing little humans that they are. These little people we have been entrusted with are the future leaders of the Universe – why wouldn’t we do whatever we can to nurture and teach them?

These little people are going to be tasked with fixing a world that the grownups have already monumentally screwed up – they deserve so much more than “sit down, shut up, and listen.”

I saw this sign recently and it drove me crazy:

The children are the leaders. We would all do well to sit down, shut up, and listen to them.

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