Have we parents changed from generations past or are we repeating history with just a few “twists”.
The recent interest in “parenting styles” brings a question to mind. I decided to write from my “Generation X” (born between 1965 and 1980) and the “Thirty-Something” point of view. This is also the majority of parents that are raising young children and adolescents today.
The “want” and genuine interest in the building of a child-parent dynamic is nothing short of a golden opportunity for all involved. It is the “involvement” in which I think is the entire “buzz” these days. Are dad’s really more involved than in the past and are moms speaking out more? Parent-child dynamics are being put under the microscope, and beliefs are being judged. Parents of generations past didn’t have these issues…or, did they? Was Ward Cleaver really that different than some fathers you may know today that represent what we may still call “traditional”, or even had in the 70’s as your own father? And is the “Modern Family” a mix of what used to be and what is, just put on display more for our commentary and scrutiny?
The children of the “Baby Boomers” generation are definitely more vocal about the parenting and family matters of those of our parents. It has been said often by my parents and friends of theirs that “our” generation (Generation X) “talks” about everything. We have current family dynamics that resemble those of traditional families of yesterday with working fathers and stay-at-home mothers and yet we also have a new twist on the primary caregivers by seeing some stay-at-home fathers, while mothers earn the household income. This leads me to question whether or not the parenting styles are truly that different between the two generations or are we just more open to discuss what’s going on at home?
It’s a tell tale sign of our virtual socialization as opposed to the dinner table conversations of the 60’s and 70’s, that we are definitely supporting, helping and also comparing and judging fellow parents of our age and those of the past. Do we parent more or less than our parents did or are we just discussing it so much more that the differences seem larger? The discussions that we have and the research that is so much more readily available to us may have us doubting and questioning our parenting before even attempting it. The anxieties we may have as parents at any give stage of our child’s upbringing is enabled by the thousands of books and resources that contradict one another on which “way” is the best way. And knowing that we did most of our growing up in the 80’s and 90’s-we are the generation that wants to be “the best” at everything we do. There isn’t a lot of settling with us and if there is a less than perfect situation we are definitely those who want to be fixers as well.
The “what happens behind closed doors…stays behind those doors” is no longer part of society’s thought process. The who, what, where, when, why and how are on display and much to our allowance. We are open with our ways and we want to defend them until the judgment stops. The dilemma with this belief is that we are putting our selves out there for just that-judgment. I think the intentions have and always will be good-that’s just my “Polly-Anna” way…but the truth of the matter is that we are by nature a comparative and competitive society and we are more similar to our parents’ generation than we think.
The children of the 40’s and 50’s (Baby Boomers) were raised in post war times and grew up in actual war times. We, also, were raised in post war and grew up in actual war times. The difference in “types” of wars is relative to “the times”. We only know what we experience. This will forever be an unspoken competition among Gen Xers and their parents and will no doubt be a staple conversation for our children and us in the future. The competition is a sad and happy one, simultaneously. Who had it worse? Which decade was the best of times to grow up in? Both of these questions are broad, yet basic. We both think we have had it worse than those that came after us, and we both feel that the years we grew up in were truly “the best of times”. There is no doubt that we think our youth had the greatest music and movies to listen to and watch, while our parents will argue there’s no way that’s true because theirs’ was for sure.
The parenting styles, however different, can be viewed as across the board during any time period. There are those that are authoritarian, strict beyond reason and limit children in their families to be seen but rarely heard. Doing as you are told to do is an understatement and behavior is managed often through fear of disappointment to the family and overall community. There are also the permissive parents that are liberal to the left as far as they can be within law and limit, which they of course protest against whenever they have the opportunity to do so. These are the families that raise children with few limitations and boundaries and encourage the children to speak, feel and act in a manner of free spirit and want them to experience freedom during all stages of development. Then there are the parents that are a “mix” between the two and are authoritative with permissiveness twisted in within reason. They aren’t as much right and they aren’t as much left, they are in between and sometimes dab a little one way or another. Are you asking if these are the parents of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s or the parents of today? Any of the time periods fit and would be correct. Each generation of parents has the extremists on both sides and those that are grayer in their ways. If you were to stop and think about the network of parents you know your age and the parents of those in a different generation, you’d be able to find one of each breed in all the groups.
The funny thing about parents is we all talk about raising our children in comparison to our own childhood and upbringing. Are we repeating what we remember or are we drastically changing our ways?
I have noticed the nostalgia amongst my peers and we are looking back at the time period in which we were children and our years of adolescence and young adulthood. We are reminiscent in our late thirties and forties of “those years”. It’s almost as if we are longing a bit for our youth, now that we are parents. I think it is a natural step in the life span to do so, especially if you are observing children going through stages you have gone through and listening to their grandparents, your parents discuss… “I remember when you were little….”
This leads me to only one conclusion. As long as we are “ever present” in our children’s lives while they are young, so they know we are truly “there” for them and give them encouragement with tools we’ve learned to use to make heartfelt decisions when they are older …The type of “style” we choose to use probably won’t stop them from thinking:
“Man, we may have had it rough….but we grew up in the best of times!”