Parenting is an interesting concept – it is one of the few things that can be so universal yet so varied at the same time. There’s no manual nor is there an absolute way to parent, but what’s common is the wish of all parents that our children grow up healthy and well. While there is this common intention across all parents, the method to get there varies largely across generations. Let’s have a look at how certain parenting styles have evolved across generations, and get down to why different generations can’t seem to see eye to eye with one another’s way of parenting.

Does anyone else find it interesting that a generation of parents tends to parent their children in a manner that’s almost opposite to what they experienced from their own parents?

With the Silent Generation (1927-1946), they were laid-back and casual with their children, often leaving them to their own devices. Their concept of love was to work hard in order to support the family, and it is from this circumstance that the generation of latchkey kids were born.

When these children, known as the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers (1945-1980s), became parents themselves, they swung as far as they possibly could to the other end of the spectrum. They became the helicopter parents, known for micro-managing every aspect of their child’s life. Children virtually lived in a state of protectionism – with everything from their social life, school life, and even their diet, controlled by their parents. For this generation of parents, parenthood was their entire life – they could sacrifice their hobbies and social life for their children.

Right now, we’re at the generation of the Millennial parents (1980 – 2000s). This generation, having had enough of being controlled their entire childhood, ditched the helicopters and opted for drones instead (‘drone parenting’). These parents hover but don’t direct, and they take on a more responsive approach when interacting with the child. Amidst parenthood, they also try to maintain some semblance of their own lives.

The Values I Want My Child to Have

Over the years, as circumstances changed, people’s values evolved alongside, and naturally they would try to impart these values to their children.

For the Silent Generation, parenting in a period of economic instability forced them to hustle really hard to provide for the family. The belief in hard work, grit, and determination for survival transcended all else for the Silent G, and they definitely aspired to pass on these values to their children. From here, the Baby Boomer generation, known for their diligence and commitment to their work, was born.

The Baby Boomers however weren’t as occupied with moulding their children into workaholics as their parents were. This generation, having been brought up by detached parents, poured all their time into their children. They are known for their self-esteem parenting, where parents are focused on developing their child’s confidence. It is also from such a parenting style that their children, the Millennials, became known as the ‘Trophy Generation’.

The Gen Xers, having seen the mistake of the Baby Boomers in developing the trophy generation, decided that their children needed to be more selfless. They thus try to instil social awareness and empathy in their children. On top of that, their disillusionment with institutions (these are the people who campaigned for Brexit and Trump) drove them to groom children with a sense of individualism, of being independent and fighting for one’s rights.

With the Millennials, oh boy, are they different. The Millennials grew up amidst so many changes that they have grown accustomed to change. It is no wonder that they encourage their children to keep an open mind, be tolerant, and practice empathy in all situations. Kudos to them, because open-mindedness is very possibly one of the most crucial survival skills in today’s world.

“You would much rather follow a random stranger’s advice than ask me for help?”

When we talk about the use of digital devices during parenting, there’s very possibly no generational difference quite as big as this one. There’s essentially only two camps for this – the Millennials, and the non-Millennials.

While the non-Millennials (aka. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers) learned parenting via books and their very own parents, the Millennials bypassed the parents and went straight to the Internet. It was much faster, there were many more perspectives, and they were free to choose which advice they wanted to follow.

“It’s really not about you Mum, it was just much faster to ask Google.”

While the non-Millennials scrambled for pacifiers and toys to stop the child from creating a ruckus in the restaurant, the Millennials have no qualms about letting their child play games or watch videos on a digital device. Such methods were often much more efficient at shushing the child, but also fuelled an obsession with digital devices that would be a nightmare to stop.

While the non-Millennials printed out pictures and stored them in photo-albums, the Millennials post the pics on Instagram instead (sometimes just Instastory would suffice). These are digital natives who are so accustomed to sharing their lives on social media, sometimes they create Instagram accounts for their children even before the child can crawl.

But even as we try to pinpoint and explain the differences in parenting styles, we all understand that one fundamental trait stays the same – all parents want the best for their child, and they will strive to achieve that in the way they know best. Whether that be giving the child more freedom, or micromanaging the child’s life, there really isn’t a parenting style that’s perfect nor completely flawed. We all just have to learn along the way and adapt, don’t we?


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Sarah Holmes –

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