Our topic today: parenting differently than your parents did. There’s no denying there’s been a paradigm shift in how parents learned to parent. I asked mom, “when you had problems with me or my brother, how did you learn to solve them?” and her answer was so foreign to me as a millennial parent, just having to imagine being in that situation gave me anxiety. She answered, “most of the time, I thought back to a semi-similar situation I’ve experienced before – either with you, with kids I babysat, with kids I grew up with, with my Mom and my own siblings, or by observing other parents – and if I felt how they handled it was effective, I mimicked it, and if I felt it wasn’t handled effectively I did the opposite.” My Mom was an amazing mom, so this definitely worked for her, but how terrifying is that thought of not being able to look up a study, or even check in with a friend, when you’re trying to solve a problem with your kids?!
Our parents did their best with what they had.
Our parents had their lived experiences and maybe a book from the library, or if they were lucky, a doctor or a therapist. When our parents criticize us, it’s because from their objective experience, it worked out! They do exactly what my mother described: think back to their lived experience and they either replicate or do the opposite based on how that went. They didn’t have access to the internet! We do! So there’s a fundamental difference in how we solve problems. As Millennial parents we have access to subject matter experts almost all the time. There are sleep coaches, parenting coaches, dieticians, doctors and occupational therapists all at our fingertips with the ability to meet with these people from the comfort of our home!
Grab the scripts for crazy-making behaviour and know exactly what to say next time your toddler, preschooler, or kindergartener isn't listening.
As Millennials, we look to experts. Our parents look to the past.
When your parents are curious about what you’re doing or criticizing your parenting, it’s because they don’t understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. When we do something different from how they remember handling similar situations, it feels like a criticism to them. You doing something different unintentionally says to them, “what YOU DID was ineffective or wrong.” This is why so many parents are scared to really change how they parent. We feel this push and pull between our own lived experience, our parents’ anxiety, and what the experts are saying. It’s also why as Millennials we often feel like we can’t do anything right. Our lived experience and what our parents are telling us to do doesn’t match up with the external information we have. Which often leaves us feeling like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Do you want to do something different than what you experienced as a child but you’re worried about how your parents will react and/or interfere?
Remind yourself that this is your child and you get to decide how to raise them. No matter how close your kids may be with your parents, you will always know your children best. You get to decide what kind of experience you want them to have. Your decision is not a comment on what your parents did, just your own decision. Also plan your response to their criticism if it comes.
You can also invite your parents to learn with you!
My dad was perpetuating some pretty toxic masculinity with my boys and I was like, “hey, so I learned some interesting stuff about the effect of shame on children, and I thought you’d be interested in it.” And because I approached it from the perspective that my parents love my children and want the best for them too vs my parents are the enemy I have to protect my children from, it was pretty well-received. Our parents aren’t googling for answers. The concept of an online parenting support group is foreign to them. Their support groups were the local playgroup where the moms huddled around a coffee pot and swapped war stories.
Pro tip: the more you can relate it back to something your parents taught you, the better.
“Hey, remember how you were always on my ass about my tone of voice? Well, my parenting coach taught me that modelling the tone of voice we want is actually the most effective way to teach kids the correct tone, and shaming them about the tone they used actually reinforces it. So instead of correcting him, we just say it as he would if he could.” Try not to contradict them, you’re not “throwing out” what they taught you, you’re just improving upon it. This can also work if you’re genuinely doing the opposite of what they did by focusing on the goal they were trying to achieve. Example: if your parents think you’re being too easy on your kids, chances are it’s because it gives them anxiety that your kids won’t listen or will challenge authority, and that’s probably because they’re worried they won’t be treated well in other people’s care. So you can totally say something like, “you know how you used to tell me that I need to listen because my teacher won’t let me do whatever I want? Well I’ve been learning about how to teach him to recognize when he’s reaching his limit and how to advocate for himself so the teacher will know he’s not just being defiant, he’s struggling to regulate.” Just like we have to make learning explicit for our kids, we often have to make it explicit for our parents too.
How does this feel? Doable?
What anxieties do you have about how your parents perceive your parenting? Have they stopped you from doing something or using a strategy that you otherwise feel would be beneficial to your children? How have you tried to get them on side? I’d love for you to continue the discussion in my FREE Facebook Group, Parenting Posse.
Another way you can bring your parents into your learning is by signing up for my Scripts to Manage Crazy-Making Behaviour. It’s a package of 10 scripts for 10 really common behaviours, and in the scripts it describes the logic behind the script as well. Each one is only like 2-3 minutes long so it’s a really quick, easy way to bring your parents into your learning. And they’re totally free!