Depending on who you ask, millennials are either the best or the worst parents ever. Generational characteristics run the gamut from compassionate, idealistic, and progressive to entitled, narcissistic, and lazy. They're generalizations at best and stereotypes at worst, but there's no doubt that every generation raises children differently. Millennial moms and dads have a lot of things going for them, but older Americans aren't impressed. In fact, there are quite a few things millennial parents do that horrify '80s parents.
I'm an Xennial mom, so I'm guilty of roughly half of these. That makes sense, since I'm part of a micro-generation born between 1977-1983 that serves as a bridge between Digital Natives and Generation X. I had a classic '80s childhood, full of making mud pies in the front yard, watching Sesame Street, and cutting My Little Pony's hair while unsupervised with scissors. It was great, and I admire the Love and Logic approach my mom used. I consider myself a lighthouse parent (a happy medium between helicopter and free-range), but I often fall into the millennial traps of posting too much on social media and being overly protective.
There's plenty millennial parents are doing right, from teaching their kids to be open-minded to being environmentally conscious in their parenting decisions. However, I'm the first to admit we can be a little "extra," and when '80s parents roll their eyes over the following, they're not totally wrong:
They Make Parenting Performative
With millennial parents, everything is a show from the get-go. Gender reveal parties are now a thing, even though the whole idea is actually terrible (let's impose gender stereotypes on fetuses!). But the sharing of curated content doesn't stop there. Every milestone is a damn spectacle, in which parents use kids as props.
It's understandable that '80s parents often find themselves wondering what it will do to a child's self-identity when their parents have not only publicized, but driven their personal narrative.
They Hire Tutors For Their Preschoolers
Millennials are on track to be the most educated generation in American history, according to the Pew Research Center. Naturally, they're concerned with schooling, but millennial parents trade play for flash cards to the detriment of their children. Play is essential to healthy child development, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and when young kids spend all their time studying letters and numbers, they miss out on the important work of their age.
It's not totally the fault of millennial parents. The emphasis on testing has made the pendulum swing too far toward academic standards. When I entered kindergarten in 1986, my readiness checklist had things like "can write name" and "hops on one foot." Truth be told, I could only do one of those things, and they still let me in.
They Label Their Parenting
Millennial parents love to categorize themselves: silky, crunchy, or scrunchy? Helicopter, free range, or lighthouse? Enlightened, authoritative, or third child? On the other hand, '80s parents didn't have all those categories. In fact, you either followed Dr. Spock's advice or you didn't.
They Put Their Kids In Front Of Screens
It's not that '80s parents didn't plop their kids in front of the television, because they definitely did. I consider Jim Henson another parent, and Saturday morning cartoons were a staple. Kids today have a lot more options, though. If they were allowed to, they could watch content specifically designed for them 24/7 and on any number of devices.
Considering that their kids found their friends based on where their bikes were piled in the neighborhood (in front of the abandoned house, duh), '80s parents understandably balk at a first grader with an iPhone.
They Discourage Risk-Taking
Millennial parents are worriers, and as such, many tend to keep their kids indoors or at least fenced in. I take my kid to the park, but I'm definitely a hoverer. It makes '80s parents twitch when they hear us say, "Be careful!" for the twelfth time because science says what they've known all along: risky play builds resilience, self-esteem, and problem-solving skills. Not only that, but being risk averse is associated with sedentary behavior and anxiety.
They Go A Little Crazy With The Safety Measures
OK, I'm going to go ahead and say that my Graco 4-Ever car seat is a solid improvement from the phone book in the back seat, '80s moms and dads. Millennial parents insist on helmets and latch heavy dressers to the wall, and they're right to do so. However, I do understand why older generations laugh at us and our baby knee pads and potty mitts. You can pry my video monitor from my cold, dead hands, though.
They Make Everything A Competition
I have seen millennial parents brag about the complex sentences their 18-month-old can say, announce the elite preschool their kid got into, put their baby in pull-ups just to say they're potty training, and broadcast their child's latest award (newsflash: these days, they all get one). It makes the rest of us feel bad about ourselves and even pulls us into participating in the pissing competition.
Most '80s parents know that comparison is the thief of joy. They're right when they say it's not good for a parent's identity to be so wrapped up in the "accomplishments" of the child.
They Post Incessantly On Social Media
Documenting everything? Guilty as charged. I posted monthly pictures of my daughter during her first year of life (with cute age blocks and a stuffed animal for comparison!) "for the benefit of family and friends who are far away." But honestly, I really liked the "likes." I mean, I sent a picture of my daughter's first poop in the potty to more people than I'd care to admit.
By comparison, '80s parents didn't have Facebook or Instagram, and they don't really get why we have to tweet every cute thing our kid says (get a baby book, weirdos). For them, # is the pound sign, not the symbol that makes their kid's name a hashtag.
They Ruin Halloween
As far as I can tell, '80's parents have strong feelings about Oct. 31. I mean, I remember the good old days when I crafted my own janky costume out of thrift store finds (my dad made my Tinkerbell wings out of a coat hanger and some tissue paper). But y'all started it with the individually wrapped candy (after the razors in homemade treats fiasco).
However, I'll agree that it's a bit ridiculous to shut down trick-or-treating after dark and that traumatizing your kid for the chance to go viral (I'm looking at you, Jimmy "I Ate All Your Candy" Kimmel) is just plain mean. But if my family Halloween costume (millennials love themes #SorryNotSorry) is harshing your mellow, you'll just have to get over it.
They Pinterest The Sh*t Out Of Everything
Speaking of Halloween costumes, millennial parents are all about the DIY. Gone are the days of PB&J and juice boxes. Now, it's all about the bento. Birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese? Surely, you jest. I've designed an elaborate doughnut-themed party complete with photo booth and homemade Plinko board. Millennial parents see your classic 1980s sleeping bag and popcorn sleepover and raise you a lighted teepee and cake pops.
They Make Childhood Magical
The summer before fourth grade, my family drove in our candy apple red station wagon and tent-camped all the way down to California for a Disneyland trip. These days, you have to order matching Mickey Mouse shirts, concoct an elaborate surprise, and oh my God, you made a reservation at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, right?
'80s parents know that just as magical as a clever Elf of the Shelf (f*ck that guy, man) or 200 fun Fall activities is time spent alone exercising one's imagination.
The Pick "Unique" Names
'80s moms and dads wore out Jessica and Jennifer, but they wouldn't be caught dead putting Talightacandle on a birth certificate.
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