Monday, May 1, 2017

Parenthood: Week 202 – Why Modern Parents Rock

Instead of responding directly to common arguments about why modern parents are messing up the current generation of children, I’m going to talk about why modern parents these days are amazing. Similar to some of the criticism of “parents these days,” my observations are based on personal anecdotal encounters and not on quantitative studies based on representative population or qualitative research, carefully done over long periods of time.  These generalizations of course do not apply to all modern parents.

We see the future.
Parents these days understand that the choices they make now will affect their children’s future. There are more parenting books, blogs and online discussion groups about parenting then ever before.  This come from an understanding that parenting is important and that parents are eager to get things right. Yes, it is crazy to plan which college your toddler is going to, however making choices to help your child reach that stage of their lives is providing an important longitudinal perspective. The focus on the future is sometimes detrimental, but it can lead parents to slow down and focus on the moment. Many parents realize that it is the quality of the moment that leads to a brighter future. A kid is a lot more likely to reach a brighter future if parents envision it for their children.

We care about feelings.
The generation, many of which who grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood now watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with their children. Both shows teach people how to handle feelings through acceptance, and validation. Gone for many parents is the notion that you can talk about your feelings too much and the idea that there are “bad” and “good” feelings. In its place are parents who encourage their children to talk about their feelings, express themselves, and feel comfortable with the spectrum of emotions. While I’m not sure how to feel about the fact that one of Ollie’s favorite toys is a stuffed Anger toy from Inside Out, I’m glad that he has the words to talk about how he feels that he learned from this film.

We see gender differently.
Yes, it’s annoying that toy aisles in stores are so clearly separated by gender and boys clothing is dominated by graphics with sports iconography and cars. However, it’s encouraging that so many parents are annoyed about these issues. From female leads in action films like Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and more inclusive toy lines like Legos with new sets geared towards girls, it has become clear that parents have different expectations for gender identity than previous generations.

Gender stereotypes are still pervasive in all parts of our culture, and affect our children from the day that they are born, but what is different is that parents these days are aware of this fact. They are actively doing things like making sure that they have children’s books that have female main characters or encouraging their children to name their stuffed animals non-gender specific names. Modern parents' awareness of these issues is changing the conversation around genders in ways that no generation of parents have ever done before.

We accept the plurality.
More then any other generation, parents these days welcome the possibility that their children may be homosexual, transgender, may marry someone outside of their race, may not have children, may end up choosing their own religion, break out of gender norms or be a student with special needs. We have evolved from not even considering these possibilities to dreading these outcomes to preparing our children to celebrate these facets of identity in who they may become and the people in their lives. One of the most important ways that we make progress is how we raise the next generation. With parents these days, we are heading into a huge jump ahead in the next generation, for justice, diversity and inclusion.

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