Millennials catch a lot of flak from other generations about their opinions, political views, personal lives, and jobs. And it doesn’t stop there—millennials are also bearing the brunt of society’s judgment over parenting. And since the demographic includes adults parents born between 1980 and 2000, there’s a ton of variation across the population.
Though researchers have come to their own supposedly scientific conclusions about the personalities of millennials, we’d prefer to think of ourselves as a varied collection of people who happen to have a few things in common. Of course, the main thing is that we were born in similar times, but there are also quite a few parenting practices that millennials have earned credit for.
While it’s not all sunshine and daisies being a millennial parent—crushing college debt and poor job prospects are clear contraindications to growing healthy families—we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve. The goal is to raise healthy and well-adjusted kids that are ready to take on the world—and to that end, we’re doing at least 20 things right when it comes to parenting. Of course, there are three things we keep getting wrong as millennial parents, too, but don’t tell our kids that.
When was the last time you heard a millennial parent being praised for how they acted when at the park with their kids? Most of the time, we catch flak for being on our phones or otherwise being inattentive toward our tots. The thing is, we’re letting them socialize and work things out on their own.
Rather than being the mom who hovers and insists her kid shares, we’re the ones letting our kids use their voices and keeping their own special toys sacred.
Don’t like it? Then you better hand your belongings to the next person who demands them.
How many of today’s teens through adults around age 30 have had to lend tech advice to a member of older generations? I know I have on multiple occasions, and yet we’re regarded as the generation with the most to learn. The thing is, having grown up with technology from the first MP3 player to the latest iPad, millennials recognize the importance of teaching children to navigate tech. Sure, it’s always changing, but we’re also teaching our kids to adapt—a skill that’s helpful in other areas of daily living, too. And, our kids will be the ones developing that new tech someday, so you can thank us later.
While plenty of millennials’ parenting habits are new and “hip,” plenty of us are sort of reverting back to the past, too.
Cloth diapering has come back on the scene, thanks in part to millennial parents, and we’re not averse to working hard for the healthiest of things for our kids.
In addition to cutting back on environmentally harmful baby products, we’re also ditching BPA, reverting to babywearing, seeking out natural and organic food, and even letting our kids run around barefoot to get closer to nature. Balanced with a healthy respect for today’s modern world, that’s basically the perfect approach for growing kids.
Cloth diapers were a thing of the past, and with a bit of innovation, they’re just as eco-conscious as ever but with fun and fashionable new twists. But cloth diapering isn’t the only throwback millennial parents have claimed.
Plenty of forward-thinking moms are adopting a practice that’s actually been around forever, and that’s elimination communication or EC.
You might have heard of it as toilet training for infants, but it’s mostly moms learning their babies’ pottying cues and putting them over the toilet or another small container when it’s time. Sure, it’s inconvenient, but it’s also nearly zero-waste and better for the babies—another point for inventive and frugal millennial moms.
Thankfully, times have changed, and it’s no longer such a taboo to leave a partner who is abusive toward you or simply incompatible.
Both moms and dads are successfully leaving bad relationships or even becoming parents on their own.
And this comes from a desire to give their kids the best future possible—even if that involves parents living separately. The thing is, as hard as it is to leave a toxic relationship, parents these days are stronger than ever in realizing that their kids need stability and good examples more than they need an intact yet dysfunctional family unit.
A lot of modern parents have caught heat for sticking to dye-free, gluten-free, vegan, or other “oddball” diets for their kids. But nixing the unnatural junk from our children’s diets has proven to have some serious benefits.
Kids are becoming obese and sicker than ever, so parents who move to correct their children’s diets are doing great at this whole parenting game.
Whether it’s a veggie- and fruit-filled diet, a grain-free edit, or cutting out sugar and other processed junk, millennial parents are just making mainstream and junk food companies mad. Our kids, though? Healthy as a horse, thank you very much.
Although it’s hard to get on board with toddlers wearing t-shirts with political messages or babies wielding campaign signs, it is refreshing that millennial parents are making their voices heard. In turn, they’re also showing their children that it’s important to stand up for what you believe in while remaining open-minded. Of course, the upcoming generation will be giving millennial parents a run for their money, but there is a big focus on respecting others and standing up for what’s right, no matter what it costs you. If nothing else, the anti-bullying campaigns are a good indication of parents’ moves toward making the world safer for their kids.
Free-range mom Lenore Skenazy started the epic movement, but other millennials are known for their more hands-off approaches to parenting. Lenore let her nine-year-old ride the New York subway alone, while other moms of her generation let their kids play outside unattended, climb trees in the back yard, and go up the slide at the public park (gasp!). But let us defend ourselves:
giving kids room to explore—safely—is paramount to their development.
Unless we want them clamoring for those participation trophies everyone thinks we love, we’ve got to teach them to have some grit when it comes to finding their own way.
Unlike their parents, who often fed themselves microwave noodles or learned to nuke a TV dinner, children of millennials are learning to do a whole lot more for themselves. Home economics may have been phased out, but our kids are learning hands-on what it is to be a responsible person who manages their own lives. That includes things like completing household chores, pouring their own drinks, learning to cook food (safely), and dressing themselves—no matter how mismatched the final outfit is.
So we don’t care how much you huff and puff, grandpa, the kids can make a mess getting their own cereal—at least they’re learning something.
One of the worst pieces of parenting advice I’ve gotten had to do with raising my sons to be “tough.” And honestly, I think part of the problem with society today is that men have never been encouraged to be emotional. Instead, they’re taught that emotions are bad and hitting things (and apparently people) is better.
So I’m one of the proud millennials who tells boys that it’s okay to cry, because we want to raise human beings with actual emotions instead of robots who can’t make a connection with another person unless it’s cat-calling them.
I’ve seen plenty of people scoff at “Please don’t touch” signs on infant babies’ carriers, but millennial parents have good reason to want strangers to keep their hands off. Apart from the obvious—germs and other nastiness—modern parents are trying to teach their babies that it’s not okay for a stranger to touch you just because they want to. The same goes for people we know, too—children and babies have a choice, because their bodies belong to them. Another thing that older generations would do well to learn from millennials’ kids. They learned it in preschool—and those guys still haven’t managed to as grownups.
Another resurgence in the parenting world has been with breastfeeding and more “natural” baby feeding. Rather than turning to “modern conveniences” of formula, many moms these days are trying harder than ever to breastfeed. Of course, it hasn’t been without its struggles, but so many moms are determined to give their babies as much mama’s milk as possible, another departure from our reputation as selfish and ignorant me-me-me’s. There’s also a move away from premade baby foods that are convenient but otherwise not so great—many parents today are more concerned with baby led weaning and other more “natural” ways of feeding kids.
With society’s obsession over cleanliness, you might expect most millennials to put their babies inside bubbles. But most parents these days understand the importance of kids’ exposure to nature, and we’re alright with getting a little muddy sometimes. At the same time, most of us grew up that way—playing outside all day and coming home worn out with our clothes practically tarnished—so it’s not that much of a stretch to see us carrying on the tradition with our kids.
So put down the hand sanitizer, step away from the antibacterial soap, and just let kids be dirty kids.
Do check for poop first, though.
Although there are still a lot of millennial parents who use authoritative parenting to get their kids to listen, there’s a growing segment of moms who realize that kids aren’t just tiny adults.
We get that our kids have big emotions and big needs and that they’re not trying to manipulate us—they’re just trying to live life and learn how to figure things out.
So while it may look like our screaming kids are just having tantrums, you’ll see us getting down on their level and helping them work through big emotions—something many adults still haven’t learned how to do.
Numerous studies have declared spanking and other corporal punishment to be damaging and negative for children’s development. Which is mostly okay by millennial parents’ standards, because there aren’t many of us who stand for spanking kids. The parenting approach that treats children as young humans requiring guidance rather than miscreants requiring a beating has its merits, and one of them is not using pain to try and teach kids. After all, positive reinforcement and authentic connection with kids are kind of basic tenets of millennial parenting, another way this generation is aiming to undo the damage of the past.
Another parenting behavior that’s said to be harmful is timeouts. But if you’ve looked online recently, you’ve no doubt seen tons of parenting posts about using other timeout tools that don’t require the punished child to sit alone and in shame. There are timeout bottles, which are meant to distract kids until they can calm down, and time-ins, where a parent takes the child aside to help them cope emotionally. Of course, some parents catch heat for looking like pushovers, but if the tradeoff is well-adjusted kids who go on to be successful and well-grounded adults, then it’s a job well done on our end.
If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone complain about car seat safety laws with the phrase “well in my day we didn’t ride in car seats and I’m just fine!” While that might be true, when we know better, we do better—hence the updates to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ announcement on car seat safety. Now, it’s recommended that infants start out rear facing and remain that way until at least age two—or to the limit of their car seats. For safety-minded millennial parents, that’s something to be happy about, especially considering the dangers of riding in the car to children as a whole.
If you’re a millennial, you may have grown up with either distant or benevolent yet somewhat lost parents. You probably played outside most of the day, had a lot of control over your experiences and your life, and didn’t feel all that close to your parents. But our generation is changing that—essentially, giving our children what we wish we had had:
plenty of space to explore and become independent, access to both nature and technology, and loving companionship and guidance from caregivers.
Rather than sending our kids out to play when we get home from work or school, we’re trying to connect with them and make family memories.
Long gone are the generations of women who will allow a father to be a deadbeat dad to their child(ren).
Dads these days are expected to pick up the slack when it comes to both parenting and household responsibilities.
Of course, there’s been a rise in the number of stay-at-home dads in recent years, thanks in part to millennial women’s career moves, but regardless of why, dads are expected to contribute more. It’s beneficial for both moms and their kids because children see their dads pitching in and caring for the family while moms don’t have to carry such a heavy load themselves.
While most people agree that raising children without gender is a bit misguided, millennial parents as a whole are embracing their children’s differences more than ever. It used to be that coming out was a nerve-wracking and even dangerous notion, but today’s kids are secure in their support networks and have great relationships with their parents. The result is an openness that previous generations were never afforded, but we’re finally headed in the right direction. After all, if you as a parent can’t accept your child and be a safe place for them when life seems insurmountably difficult, who will?
So millennial parents don’t always get things right—and one place they always go wrong is in being apologetic for their parenting.
The thing is, no one is a perfect parent. But by all accounts, millennial parents are doing their best to raise conscious, kind, upstanding, and hardworking children who will know their worth and act accordingly.
While others may scoff at acknowledging a child’s feelings, allowing them to show emotions, and embracing their gender identity, among other common millennial parenting moves, millennial parents are often apologizing for being an inconvenience to parents who aren’t that invested. And in the end, the apologizing is the only part they should really feel bad about!
How many mom friends do you have who laugh when anyone mentions “me time”? It’s true, most millennial moms are practically losing themselves in their children’s upbringings.
From committing to being a walking human feeder for years at a time to spending all our money on car seats, healthy food, and extracurricular enrichment, millennial moms are pretty bad at making time for ourselves.
Maybe we need to take a page out of our moms’ books and slack off sometimes, bingeing on TV all day while drinking cheap wine or going out for spa time with the girls. Later in life, our kids will thank us for it.
Ultimately, I don’t think there’s anything millennial parents need to be apologetic about, as a whole. And while every parent has their own things they do “wrong,” since no parent is perfect, there’s an awful lot of bickering about how other people raise their kids.
The thing is, as long as you’re taking the same oath as doctors do—first, do no harm—then your kids will probably turn out fine.
So, millennial parent, that means you have to stop feeling guilty about everything you’re doing to try and do right by your kids. You’re doing your best, and that’s all those little rugrats (and the rest of society) can really hope for.