She started a movie for her two-year-old and five-year-old then poured us steaming hot cups of coffee (French press, of course) as we settled in to discuss how parenting styles have changed from the previous generation to this one.
Kate, my blogging assistant, is very much in touch with current thought on parenting. She’s a voracious reader, leads a moms group and often talks with her many mom friends on this subject. As a thoughtful, conscientious and careful parent, she wants to “get it right”.
As she points out, most of us are thrown into the career of parenting unprepared. Our most important job is to raise the next generation of human beings yet we leave the hospital with these tiny creatures barely knowing how to care for their physical needs, let alone any other challenges we may meet in the days ahead.
We both agreed that we wouldn’t want to take on this challenge without the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the God who created these little beings. James 1:5,6 has long been one of my favorite passages because it promises that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” It’s comforting to know that in the midst of a world that is constantly changing the God who never changes is there to give us what we need.
One of the biggest changes Kate and I both recognize is that we now live in an age of information. Technology has made so many advances so quickly that it sometimes feels like a fast moving train that forgot to stop for me! That’s why I have to rely on younger folks like Kate for the technical side of my blogging and on my son-in-law, Alex, an IT expert, to fix glitches in my computer.
It’s comforting to know that in the midst of a world that is constantly changing the God who never changes is there to give us what we need.
For parents, this age of information comes with both a positive and a negative side. Easily accessed information can equip and educate but it can also distract and endanger our children. So the choice ultimately seems to be to either shut it out or choose to use it in the best and most positive ways. Obviously most families are choosing to incorporate technology as a tool for both education and entertainment but are also needing to be diligent in setting up safeguards and limitations for their kids.
Safety issues extend beyond the world of chat rooms and digital dilemmas. With so many instances of abuse from authority figures coming to light, children who were once taught to obey those in charge without question are now being handed tools for setting appropriate boundaries and speaking out when those boundaries are violated. Teaching children respect for authority and at the same time an instinct for their own safety is one of the challenges today’s parents face.
Another instance of how parenting has adapted culturally is the area of discipline. Gone are the days when school teachers and officials are allowed to enforce physical punishment. Some parents are hesitant to spank their kids publicly for fear of someone reporting them to DHS for abuse. Spanking seems to have been largely replaced by time out, loss of media or screen time or some other form of less physical disciplinary action.
Teaching children respect for authority and at the same time an instinct for their own safety is one of the challenges today’s parents face.
Although Kate tries to offer incentives more than punishments she admits that when safety issues are involved, between ages 18 months to 3, spanking has sometimes been an effective tool for discipline and reinforcement. She tells a funny story from her own childhood. Because her mom spanked with a cooking spoon, she and her brothers would routinely throw the spoons up on the roof of their house so her mom couldn’t find them. Eventually when their house needed a new roof, the roofers were confused to find a large assortment of kitchen spoons on the rooftop! Hopefully by then Kate and her brothers had passed the age of needing to be disciplined and their prank had become a source of amusement for their mom!
Another huge cultural shift in the last couple of decades has been that our children have become constant targets of product marketing. Virtually every kids’ show, cartoon or movie (and certainly commercials) is product driven. This can easily leave our children with a spirit of discontent or with an insatiable desire for more and more things.
While Kate sees that for most parents it’s easier to make their children happy than to deal with their discontent, she stresses that keeping them happy is not the primary goal. Since the truth is that happiness is often a choice, she tries to teach her five-year-old that “things” will only make us happy for a season. Ultimately parents have to ask themselves “Will I let the prevailing culture shape my children and who they are or will we as parents take that role?” This calls for very intentional parenting with specific identifiable goals for your family. It requires more effort than just flowing with the cultural current but what on earth could be more important?
Ultimately parents have to ask themselves “Will I let the prevailing culture shape my children and who they are or will we as parents take that role?”
Although there have been many changes in child rearing between my generation and Kate’s, we both agreed that some things never change. Like the need for family time where valuable interaction takes place between parents and children. Where conversation flows, ideas run free and feelings are aired with ease and understanding. And what better place for those things to take place than around the dinner table?
Unfortunately, because of the necessity of two incomes and perhaps because of over scheduling, many families rarely share mealtimes together these days. Although I’m a grandmother and Kate’s a young mom with preschoolers, we both feel strongly about the importance of this family ritual. In fact, she shared with me a passage from a book by Rex Forehand, Ph.D and Nicholas Long, Ph.D. which contained some pretty impressive information.
“Research indicates that shared family meals are related to improved language development and fewer behavior problems in young children, higher academic achievement of older children, and reduced risk of obesity for all children. When shared family meals continue into the teen years, there is even a relationship to the reduced risk of substance abuse, depression, suicide, and eating disorders.”
Sometimes parents’ work schedules or kids’ sports schedules make it very challenging to share mealtimes. To offset the problem, some families declare a family night once a week where everyone is at home together or does an activity together. Other families chose to wait for the last member of the family to arrive home from their commitments and then the family eats together, no matter how late that is. Still others have a Saturday morning breakfast ritual together. What works for your family may be different than what works for the next, but keeping that quality connection time with each other is crucial.
Titus 2:4 instructs that the older women are to teach the younger women to love their husbands and their children but quite honestly, I feel like Kate imparts as much wisdom and insight to me as hopefully I do to her. What we both agreed is ultimately important is that each generation honors the other, that we listen with open minds and that we validate each other’s opinions.
Titus 2:4 instructs that the older women are to teach the younger women to love their husbands and their children
Older moms can offer such support and encouragement for those young moms who are still in the trenches! And younger moms can bring value and worth to more mature women by asking for advice or wise counsel on certain issues. We need each other.
Psalm 133:1 sums it up, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” No, Kate may not carry out her mothering exactly the same way I did. And no, she may not see the world from the exact same lens that I am looking through. However, we have found we are both richer and wiser for having spent time in each other’s company. I value her input and she respects my years of experience. I am always delighted to spend a few hours with this Millennial mama.
And besides, she makes a great cup of coffee!