I believe we not only have a new generation of kids, we also have a new generation of parents.
I have not seen a more engaged batch of parents since I began working with students more than 30 years ago. Today, two of three parents define the “American Dream” as leaving their children financially better off than they were.
This evolution of events has produced a new generation of parents more focused on their children than anything else in their lives. At times, however, I wonder if this absorption with kids is entirely healthy.
(Some are unique to this new generation of parents; others have existed for years.)
Let’s explore these parenting styles and see what they are doing to our culture and to this rising generation of adults.
A New Generation of Parents – Helicopter Parents
Problem: This new generation of parents don’t allow their kids the privilege of learning to fail and persevere. They prefer to prepare the path for the child instead of the child for the path.
Issue: It is very possible parents can become helicopters because they possess a controlling spirit.
Adults who struggle with feeling out of control or who find it difficult to trust others tend to hover and micromanage as parents. They feel it is up to them to insure life turns out well for the kids.
These adults must learn that control is a myth, and the sooner they acknowledge this, the more effective they’ll be as parents.
A New Generation of Parents – Karaoke Parents
Problem: This new generation of parents often don’t provide their kids the clear parameters that build security and self-esteem. They’re more concerned with being liked than with being respected.
Issue: The parents often assume the karaoke style because of their own emotional insecurities. They may worry about aging or struggle with the need to be liked or feel uncomfortable with adult responsibilities.
These adults will rationalize why they do what they do, but the only remedy is for them to embrace their own age and stage in life.
They must relate to the young people in an appropriate manner and focus on the kids’ needs more than their own. They need parents they can look up to and respect.
A New Generation of Parents – Dry-Cleaner Parents
Issue: Some of these parents delegate their responsibility because they feel that connecting with kids is just not their specialty, or they may have inadequacy or identity issues or just don’t feel up to the task.
Others are just self-centered and oblivious. This new generation of parents needs to run toward the very challenge in which they feel they’re weak.
Examine their schedules and priorities to make room for actually relating to the children they are raising. Relationships make it all happen. Parents must build bridges of relationship that can bear the weight of truth.
A New Generation of Parents – Volcano Parents
Problem: This new generation of parents still have some unrealized dreams from their past—sometimes an unhealthy past—and try to fulfill them through their children. They also have issues with self-control and fuzzy boundaries between themselves and their children.
Issue: The child represents the best way for the parent to accomplish the dream he or she gave up on years earlier, even if it is vicariously done. Their behavior is often the result of past baggage.
The best step these adults can take is self-care. They must address their own emotional health and deal with their own issues, so they don’t further damage a child in their wake.
Once again, kids have a better chance at growing up if their parents do so first. The best way we can help kids become healthy leaders is to model it for them.
A New Generation of Parents – Dropout Parents
Problem: This new generation of parents fail to provide a healthy role model of finishing what they start, and in some cases, they fail to provide the tools their child needs.
Issue: The parent wasn’t mature enough to have children in the first place, and not ready for that kind of responsibility. They aren’t even able to lead their own lives well, much less help a child launch into the world.
The best course for this parent is to seek out counseling and discover what’s happening inside, to find out why they are unable to lead their child in a healthy way. Then, they should reengage as a parent…beginning with an apology.
A New Generation of Parents – Bullied Parents
Problem: This new generation of parents lack the courage and strength to lead their strong-willed children and prepare them for a potentially harsh adult world. The children are leaderless.
Issue: They may fail to lead their children and become whipped due to an intense desire to be liked and accepted by their child. Often the child’s personality is stronger than the parent’s.
This kind of parent must find some allies, a counselor or a parent support group in order to develop some backbone. Determine what values will govern their family and choose to fight for those values.
“Choosing your battles” is a term often used to refer to times when we choose not to fight over a trivial matter, but it also means that sometimes we do choose to fight worthwhile battles to uphold what is important.
A New Generation of Parents – Groupie Parents
Problem: This new generation of parents fails to recognize that kids need leaders, not servants. They enjoy their precious moments with their children, but they fail to equip them for the future.
Issue: This is often a reaction to a past experience. Due to the absence or neglect of their own parents, they may swing the pendulum to the other extreme, determining to never miss any milestone their child experiences.
But by lavishing too much time and attention on a child and never denying the child anything, groupie parents can increase that child’s self-image to an unhealthy level.
This new generation of parents must work to grasp the reality that loving their children means treating them as people, not idols.
It means learning to say no when appropriate and requiring them to serve others…as well as learning to work well even when the focus is not on them.
A New Generation of Parents – Commando Parents
Problem: This new generation of parents are focused on attaining compliance and perfection instead of growth and improvement. Their children may live in anxiety, frustration, or exhaustion just trying to meet expectations.
Issue: Commando parents have their own issues. They may feel their own reputations depend on their children’s performance.
This new generation of parents cannot stand a poor showing on the Little League field or in the classroom because they feel it makes them look bad.
I suggest they watch other families, consider other models, look for opportunities to practice being less rigid, and take baby steps toward flexibility.
This new generation of parents needs to see that life is about love and empowerment, not command and control. High standards are good as long as they fit the young person and are balanced with equal levels of responsiveness to what the young person needs.
Dr. Tim Elmore is the founder and president of Growing Leaders, a non-profit organization created to mentor youth across the globe.
With more than 30 years of experience and expertise in generational leadership, he and his team train middle school, high school and college students on thousands of campuses in the U.S. and internationally.
He also holds parenting events across the country sharing insight and practical steps on how to creatively parent the Millennial generation.
Tim has written more than 25 books, including the best-selling book series Habitudes®—a leadership curriculum that has been translated into nine languages, and his latest, Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future.