“Kids these days have it too good with their new-fangled technology and whatsits and thingamabobs! When I was your age, I had to walk fifteen miles to school in the snow! Uphill! Both ways!”
I know, I know. We’ve heard it all before.
The latest generation, Generation Z, is broadly defined as the generation born between the mid-1990s and the early-2000s (nobody can quite agree on the exact range of years). Everything from what they do for fun to the type of environment they grew up in are completely different from what we’re used to. It can be a little worrying to send our little (and not-so-little) ones out into the strange new world we live in, but every bird must eventually leave the nest.
As their parents and predecessors, it’s our responsibility to prepare them for whatever their future may bring. How can we help this generation achieve their fullest potential before then?
We spoke about parenting styles and how they can influence your child’s development before. Children raised using authoritative parenting styles in particular tend to grow up healthier and happier than their peers. How can we best apply authoritative parenting to help your Gen Z’er grow?
- Establish a trusting relationship
One way you can help your child blossom is to insert yourself in your child’s support network. That means that you need to present yourself as someone that your child can trust their secrets in, without sabotaging your position as an authority figure.
Be supportive, not judgmental! The problems that your kid is facing may seem inconsequential from your point of view, but your child doesn’t have the years of experience that you do. To them, even the heartache of quarrelling with a good friend can be very, very real. You want your kid to be willing to come to you with their problems. I know there are things I never spoke to my dad about; when I was struggling in school (with stress, friendship problems, and other cornerstones of typical teenage drama) and went to him for help, all he had to tell me was to cherish my time as a student and study harder, because working life was worse. Then I got scolded for wasting his time.
Wow! Thanks, Dad! Suffice to say, in the future I went to my mother when I needed emotional support.
- Help them foster their passions
It’s scary to hear your kid say they want to be an animator or stage actress when they grow up, but withhold your judgment just for a little while. The real world is harsh enough for idealistic dreamers as it is without your parents getting on your case.
Listen to your children when they share about their passions with you. If you can afford it, send them to a class to hone their budding skills. Generation Z is widely regarded as being more cynical and pragmatic than previous generations. It won’t hurt to help your kids hold on to the excitement and passions from their childhood for just a little while longer.
- Treat them with respect
Remember being a kid and having that one relative you just detested? I had a grand-aunt like that. Grand-aunt Irene’s favourite past-times included talking down to me as if I was four years old and disrespecting my personal boundaries. She particularly enjoyed squeezing my shoulders—and never stopping when I asked her to!—with all the intensity of an angry crab. I hated Aunt Irene, and I don’t think she ever understood why.
No one likes to be disrespected, right? Even as a child, I knew that Aunt Irene didn’t quite see me as her equal. It’s important that you start treating your kid as their own person as they start to grow up. Knowing that your opinions and autonomy are respected regardless of your age does wonders for your self-image.
This becomes especially relevant as your child hits their teens and starts to become more independent. Most teens just want to be treated with respect and to know that their feelings and opinions are valid. If your kid proves that they are responsible enough to warrant being treated like an adult, I don’t see the harm in giving them a little more independence.
- Let them know it’s okay to fail
Researchers have observed Generation Z to be more risk-averse than their predecessors; given the state of the world today, we can’t really blame them for their caution. Taking risks isn’t all bad, though. Many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs wouldn’t be where they are today without a healthy attitude towards risk-taking.
Part of the reason why many people are afraid of risk-taking is that they are afraid of failure. The inability to control the outcome of their actions paralyses many young decision-makers. As parents, it’s up to us to equip them with the tools they need to get past that stumbling block.
Start by creating a supportive environment where they can feel free to experiment and take chances. Don’t scold them too harshly for committing small mistakes; instead, gently chide them if necessary and help them understand where they went wrong. Of course, I’m not saying to shelter them from the severity of their mistakes. But punishing them too harshly for deviating from the norm will only serve to swear them off experimenting for good.
- Tech is okay—but in small doses.
The problem with kids these days, people like to say, is that they spend too much time on their phones/tablets/computers/etc. Never mind teenagers—everyone has something to say about the parents they saw at the restaurant who just handed their toddlers a tablet while waiting for dinner to be served. Or the people on their daily commute who have their eyes fixed on their mobile phones. Or—well, you get the picture. What with how smart-device-saturated society is becoming, how much technology is too much technology?
Generation Z has been described as the first “true” digital natives, having been born into a world where smartphones and social media are the norm. While you should still try to introduce physical activity and offline pursuits into their daily routines, you don’t need to fret if your child spends a little bit of time online every day. In fact, a 2017 study on English adolescents found that increased technology use among “light” users of technology improved their overall wellbeing.
What about toddlers? In 2011, the American Academy of Paediatrics advised that children under two years of age not get any screen time at all. Even educational T.V. shows like Sesame Street are only beneficial if your child can understand and process the content.
- Moderation is key
Working parents who don’t have much time to spend with their children may be tempted to shower their kids with love and affection to make up for their absence. On the flip side, some parents might go too far in the other direction and become overly-strict disciplinarians. Neither of these parenting styles is beneficial for your child in the long-run, though. Balance displays of affection with enforcing discipline and boundaries. A balanced, authoritative parenting style has been shown to be most effective in raising children who are well behaved, socially competent, and confident in themselves—perfect traits for your kids to possess in the face of an uncertain future.
Ultimately, Generation Z is just like us; they have their own hopes and dreams, and increasingly —like many of us did—they need our guidance and support to navigate the world.
American Academy of Pediatrics. “Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years.” Pediatrics 128.5 (2011). Electronic. 2 July 2018. <http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/128/5/1040.full>.
Przybylski, Andrew K. and Netta Weinstein. “A Large-Scale Test of the Goldilocks Hypothesis: Quantifying the Relations Between Digital-Screen Use and the Mental Well-Being of Adolescents.” Psychological Science 28.2 (2017): 204-215. Electronic.
VisionCritical. “The Everything Guide to Generation Z.” n.d. VisionCritical. https://www.visioncritical.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/GenZ_Final.pdf. 3 July 2018.
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