Resilience Parenting – Raising a Self-Reliant Generation

Article by Anne Boysen – Futurist

How will the next generation of young adults differ from the ones growing up today?

The conventional answer is ‘more of the same’. From ad agencies and tech magazines, we get the message that we should expect a generation that is more hyper-parented, more narcissistic, more individualized, more connected, and more inseparable from their digital devices than any generation before them. But are these projections realistic?

The synchrony of biological age and historic events has an effect on our identity and is often called the “generational” or “cohort” effect. We carry into our adulthood some of the child rearing ideas and values that influenced our parents when we were children. We also distance ourselves from – and determine not to repeat – traumatic aspects of our own childhoods. The over-parenting trend we are witnessing in many countries today is to some degree Generation X correcting for their own under-nurtured childhoods that were characterized by latchkeys and dissolving families.

After two decades of the women’s liberation movement many daughters reacted to their maternal trailblazers by shelving their Ivy League degrees so they could stay at home to breastfeed on demand or home school their own children. Suddenly, we were told daycare is harmful for children, and progressive child rearing styles like attachment parenting made strange bedfellows with conservative Christian think tanks like Focus On The Family ( “Choice feminism” now introduced relativism to the women’s liberation movement, signalling that it was OK for professional women to opt out of the workforce. [1]

Until recently the idea that ‘more is better held  sway over  many parenting philosophies. The more  exposure towards flashcards, positive feedback,  rewards and protection you could offer, the better  off your child would be. Borne out of the self- esteem movement, positive nurturing has become  the epitome of a happy childhood and predictor of  future success. At least until terms like overindulgence” and “helicopter parenting” entered our vernacular.

College administrators and job recruiters report unrealistic expectations and smug narcissism. The notable discrepancy between Millennials’ trophy-adorned childhoods and the recession-ridden reality that met them as emerging adults gives us reasons to believe that the “more is better’ approach in parenting is reaching its climax. Which is why we are now seeing growing interest in parenting styles that embrace the ‘less is more” principle. A fringe movement has been dancing to the beat of a different drum for a while, but is now becoming the focus of op-ed pieces and literature. Let’s just call it “Resilience Parenting” – since the overarching idea is to raise kids that fair well during adversity. These approaches are far less glamorous and could earn their pioneers the reputation of being ‘stingy slacker’ parents, so few are willing to be the odd one out.

Instead of touting early academic achievement and reward charts, ‘resilience parents’ strip away extrinsic rewards in an effort to teach fulfilment through personal experiences of mastery. Instead of bolstering success, they allow, even encourage, their kids to experience failure. The idea is that children learn the essential coping skills to move on when faced with disappointment. Boredom is no longer a sign of under-stimulation, but the rare window of protracted time that nurtures creativity. Above all, the ‘resilience parent’ reclaims child-driven autonomy. Without freedom there is no room for personal growth. For the sheltered Millennials who will enter their parenting years in the coming decade, it will be all about finding their own voice, and it’s not that likely they will want their progeny to grow up as supercharged versions of themselves.

Anne Boysen is a futurist who specialises in studying and writing about the future of the youngest generation we know – the generation born after the early 2000s – sometimes called the New Silents, Generation Z or Homelanders. Twitter @aftermillennial

[1] Recent findings indicate the reduction in female employment in the 2000s was due to women reaching an impasse in their careers as they struggle to maintain both careers and families, at least in the U.S. Attitudes toward full time work among mothers show an interesting U-shape with full time work being least popular during the time period when many Generation X parents had young children (see Pew Research statistics). Of course, the resurging preferences for full time work could be a reflection of economic hardship brought out by the sluggish economy rather than a true change in values.
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