Generation Gap in Parenting?


I was listening to my partner’s – Dolly Yeo – “Stop Parenting, Start Coaching” radio programme last night in which one caller asked about the differences  between parenting in generations before and now.  It is a very valid and interesting question given that we believe it is time to call for a different parenting style.

One of the parenting styles Dolly mentioned is the authoritative style widely practised by older generations.  Some over-compensate by being too permissive.  Playing good-cop-bad-cop gives off  mixed signals that can be very confusing and damaging to a child’s development.

So why does the old parenting style – mainly authoritative – work then but not now?   I agree with Dolly’s views of the different lifestyle people are leading today.   These may just be the symptoms and not the root cause.  Let’s look at some of  these differences.

Education – Forty to fifty years ago, the majority is not literate.  Any wisdom acquired is through generations of hang-me-down sayings, life experiences of their own and their immediate community.  Life is simple.  With little exposure, creativity is limited and the values they impart are restricted.  Children brought up then have narrow perspective and smaller capacity for imagination.

In contrast, children today, especially those living in the urban localities, are  widely exposed and better educated.  As such,  for both parents and children, demands in life have also become more complex and sophisticated.  The  social and technological changes are piling up so quickly that many of us are left breathless trying to catch up.  The stresses in modern living compounded the many issues in parent/child relationships.

Children are responding more to reasoning than direct orders or demands.   They are better off for it as this helps them to grow to become more responsible adults.  Their power of reasoning and application of values are thus strengthened.  By being authoritative, parents are not going anywhere with their children.  When there is a discord in expectation, all communication breaks down.

How is education a big contributing factor in parenting gap?  I am sure each generation is better off than the last one way or another although the difference is affected by the degrees of change.  It is the increasing magnitude of change over the last decades that causes this dramatic call for a review in parenting style.

Attention – Most families in the early days have their mothers staying in most of the time and even if they were working, they worked from home.  This gave them ample time with their children since there was little or no other form of entertainment except for the radio, the most they could afford.  The opportunities for quality time together and sharing values were greater.

Some parents recognize this and have chosen to give up their careers for their children.  However, working parents can still manage if they know how without having to give up their jobs entirely.

In today’s typical family, both parents work and their priorities are sometimes indistinct and misguided – worrying more about their careers than their children.  Many jet-setters travel 30-50% of the time and thus spending less time with their children.  Whatever that is left its quality is compromised by inattention and the after effects of tension suffered from work.  It is said the young today is brought up more by the domestic worker than their parents.  All the parents wanted are obedient children that give them no trouble, a stereotype of themselves when they were young forgetting that times have changed.

The phase “spare the rod and spoil the child” is still very much alive and evident in spite of exposures to the importance of emotional intelligence in relationship management including those between parent and child.  Still, knowing and applying are two very different things.

Children are very susceptible to adults’ behaviour and model after them.  If parents are not giving them the time of the day, children will eventually act likewise and parents wonder why their children are not sharing anything with them.  They may have tried but parents are not listening and over time the relationship is damaged and may become irreparable.

Some parents moan about their teens not wanting to go out with them while there are some whose children felt no compulsion doing that and are just as comfortable as they are out with their friends.  The latter type of parents has succeeded at becoming friends with their children and that is the crucial point in being parent leaders.  Knowing how your children think, feel and act give you the extra comfort and trust that they can be depended on to lead a healthy and responsible life.

Actually, looking at a deeper level, the core issues of parenting is not just about generation gap as it first appear.  If we look at the dysfunctional families of today and generations past, the fundamental issues are the same: misalignment of expectations and poor communication.  The only difference is in the increase in social consciousness and awareness.  There will always be generation gaps, large or small.  So we could not lay blame on generation gap for our poor parenting.

Take heart the next time you speak to your children.  Be mindful of your presence when dealing with them as the first step in cultivating an everlasting strong bondage.  Need assistance?  Get a coach to help you through.

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