The Top Modern Parenting Trends of 2019
As a child psychologist and a Modern Parenting Expert, I’ve worked with parents a lot over the years, and I’ve noticed a slight shift in the priorities of the Modern Parents that I work with.
And you know what? I absolutely LOVE what I am hearing!!
I always say that this is the best time to be a parent because we have access to so much wisdom from science and parenting experts to really do the best job possible as parents. We can use the conclusions gleaned from scientific studies to inform all aspects of our parenting – from the way we discipline our kids to how we schedule their afternoon and weekend “free time”. Anecdotal stories from real-life parents who are willing to let us view their parenting strategies also allow us to weigh the pros and cons of all sorts of parenting strategies – from Amy Chua (The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom) to Danielle Meitiv (the “free-range” mom) to all of the celebrity moms out there posting their parenting techniques on Twitter or Instagram.
I believe that the shift I’m seeing lately in the priorities of parents is a natural response to some of the information that has come to our attention over the past several years. For example, below are some of the concerns that my clients have wanted to discuss with me over this year that I find exciting:
- While research has shown that rewarding kids with participation trophies instead of for outstanding effort has helped their self-esteem, it’s also helped to create a generation of selfish monsters too – how can we encourage confidence without turning kids into narcissists?
- While most parents I talk to aren’t willing to allow their kids to roam around their town unsupervised, they do realize that there is some value to unstructured free-time for their child – how can we encourage independence while still ensuring safety?
- Even though statistics show that both mothers and fathers spend more time, money, and effort on their kids, the rates of childhood anxiety and depression are rising anyway – how can we create close family bonds without smothering our kids?
Questions such as these have helped me see that there are several trends that Modern Parents want addressed in 2019. I’ve begun considering these trends in my writing projects for 2019, as well as in my therapeutic treatment plans in my private practice.
So let me explain the trends as I see them.
Trend #1: Modern Parents want a close relationship with their kids without raising kids who are dependent on them forever.
Generational researcher Jean Twenge knows our kids well. She’s dubbed kids born between the mid 1995 and the mid 2007 as the iGen generation. These kids are notable because they were born and raised in the age of the internet, smart phones, interactive video games, and social media. In order to really get to know this generation of kids, she surveyed the iGen kids and compared their answers to surveys of teens of prior generations.
What she found is that iGen kids are putting off adulthood for as long as possible. For example, iGen kids are putting off what can be considered dangerous adult activities such as smoking, drug use, and sex outside of marriage much later than prior generations of teens.
That’s good, right? But Twenge also found that iGen kids are putting off important benchmarks that help them prepare to be adults when it’s time. The age at which they are performing tasks such as having their first date, getting their first job, and moving out of their parent’s home is becoming later and later.
Statistics also show that iGen kids spend far less face-to-face time with their PEERS and significantly more time at home with their PARENTS. This has served to help Modern Families create a very close bond between family members – but it also comes at a cost.
On the surface, delaying adulthood doesn’t seem like that bad of an issue to Modern Parents. Many parents that I work with get a lot of satisfaction out of having a close relationship with their kids, so delaying adulthood kind of works for them too.
But we can’t let our desire to have a close relationship with our kids interfere with their ability to participate in important milestones that are meant to prepare them for a successful adulthood. I’ve found that many kids who were allowed to put off these important preparatory activities either 1) never developed the confidence to perform them in early adulthood and remained powerless at home with their parents, or 2) became comfortable with never becoming adults and continued to allow their parents to parent them well into late adulthood.
We have to find a balance between developing a close relationship with our kids, but also be prepared to help them out of our (very comfortable!) nest at the right time. I’ll be focusing on helping Modern Parents find this balance in both my writing and my private practice in 2019.
Trend #2: Modern Parents want to find the right balance between coddling their kids and neglecting them
In Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt’s book entitled The Coddling of The American Mind, the concept of creating kids who crave safety (from both physical and emotional threats) is explored. These authors postulate that the reason the iGeners prefer to ignore ideas opposite from what they believe (rather than listen to these ideas and then form their own argument as to why they are not correct) is because well-meaning parents inadvertently taught their kids 3 powerful untruths: 1) the Untruth of Fragility (that kids are fragile and need to be protected at all costs), 2) the Untruth of Emotional Reasoning (that a child’s feelings can always be trusted to be a truthful reflection of a situation), and 3) the Untruth of Us Versus Them (life is a battle between good people and bad people).
By trying to help our kids avoid unnecessary harm, they’re are not learning to be resilient; instead they’re internalizing the message that they should fear things that are hard or different and that someone other than them should solve their problems for them. Even though we had good intentions, many Modern Parents taught their kids that they are easily harmed (both physically and emotionally), they should always trust their feelings over their intellect and hard facts, and that people who have different ideas are “bad”.
Many parents that I’ve worked with lately want to find that balance between caring too much and too little. They now understand that allowing their kids to take some risks and experience setbacks, mistakes, or heartache is actually developmentally appropriate and good for them in the long-run.
The issue becomes this: how do parents know when to let go and when to step in and help their child? Remember, Modern Parents want to have close relationships with their kids (which is a good thing), so learning to let go at appropriate times is a learned skill for many of us.
Trend #3: Modern Parents want their kids to be internally motivated for tasks that will contribute to making them interesting and worthwhile adults
Almost all of my young clients in my private practice struggle with motivation.
It seems that one of my treatment goals for my tween and teen clients always includes increasing their motivation for worthwhile activities. Parents are telling me that they are tired of their kids spending all their free time on video games, social media, and Youtube.
I’ve found that kids are attracted to these activities because they lack a sense of purpose, and part of how I work with parents is to teach them how to identify their child’s natural talents and abilities and use these natural interests to build a sense of purpose
For example, a previous client of mine had a natural interest in cooking. This child (who was 14 at the time) was obsessed with playing video games all afternoon and evening. Once this client’s parents identified that the client had a history of asking his parents to cook (and constantly getting turned down!), they realized that this was a natural interest of his. This client’s mother was a working mom and she had always resisted allowing her son to help her cook because she thought it made dinner prep time more of a hassle and more of a mess than if she just cooked by herself.
However, mom now saw the value in letting her son help with the cooking and we created a plan together on how to begin including part of the client’s afternoon time with cooking responsibilities. Of course, this meant that mom and dad needed to spend a lot of time with the client up front on teaching his things like how to prep food, cook safely, and clean up appropriately, but eventually the child took on more of the cooking responsibilities and his parents less.
Over time, this client really blossomed! Pretty soon he willingly spent only a small fraction of his free time on video games. As his competence with cooking grew, he naturally gravitated to spending much of his free time on researching recipes, creating his own recipes, and experimenting with cooking.
By the time the client had his last session with me, his parents reported that the client was preparing most of the family meals which allowed his parents to relax and spend quality time with their kids at night. In addition, the client’s self-confidence grew tremendously and much of his anxiety decreased dramatically.
If kids don’t begin to explore a sense of purpose based upon their natural talents and interests, they tend to gravitate to activities that simply take up their time without actually being helping them grow as human beings.
Modern parents are beginning to understand that motivation for worthwhile activities doesn’t just happen overnight – this is a life skill that needs to be cultivated during childhood
Trend #4: Parents more than ever find enjoyment and satisfaction in raising their kids within a family environment that is unique to their individual passions, values, and beliefs.
I’m finding that today’s Modern Parents are seeking to create family environments that align with their unique passions, values, and beliefs – even if this means doing things differently from the way their parents did things or even the way their friends are parenting.
This is definitely parenting with intention. Instead of REACTING to parenting situations, these parents have a clear sense of how to parent that is based upon preconceived guidelines based upon values that are important to the parents. This makes sense, right? Parents feel more in control and happier with their parenting decisions when they take they time to think through how they will react to a parenting situation before the situation actually takes place.
Here’s another example from one of my old clients. I helped this particular mom and dad identify their personal passions, values, and beliefs. Once they were clear on the priorities of their family, they created family rules and guidelines that were based on this plan.
Every family will identify different priorities – and that’s ok – but this family very much valued participating in local plays and musicals ad spending time with friends. This meant that decisions regarding family time took into account rehearsals, practices, and social gatherings. Family rules included guidelines for certain grades in school that had to be met in order to participate in upcoming performances.
These guidelines worked for this family because they were based upon their unique passions, values, and beliefs. When these parents were confronted with a difficult parenting situation, instead of reacting mindlessly to the situation, they based their decision on their preconceived passions, values, and beliefs that they had identified.
They reported that they felt happier and more confident after going through this exercise.
Take Home Message
The message here is that Modern Parents are great at using information to inform their parenting, but they want to use this information to help them build a strong relationship with their kids and to raise kids who are internally motivated and moral.
Modern Parents are also experiencing more satisfaction from being a parent – especially when their parenting decisions align with their personal passions, values, and beliefs. Being a parent doesn’t mean that you need to give up your personal identity, and many Modern Parents are figuring out how to create families that are an accurate reflection of their uniqueness.
2019 is going to be a great year or learning and improvement for Modern Parents. Keep coming back to Parenting The Modern Family for more blog posts, videos, and parenting resources that will reflect these, and other, Modern Parenting trends so that you have the best information possible to create the family of your dreams!
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