Photo courtesy of Mats Lindh via Flickr.
People can be obsessive over parents: what makes good ones, and especially what makes bad ones. Modern parents are often saddled with outsiders’ judgement, whether in the form of approval or disdain.
And why not? While not much is at stake when a person makes a sandwich — the quality of which really only matters on an individual basis — when a person makes a person, the societal impact is staggering and complex.
It’s always been the case that parents (along with the world’s teachers) play enormous roles in shaping future generations; they wield this power regardless of competency or goals.
Here are some of the issues driving trends in modern parenting, especially in the US, but globally too:
Sharing & Scrutiny
With the ongoing democratization of technology, everyone has a voice and opinion and the ability to share and spread these at well.
Cue a legion of “mommy bloggers,” reactionary drivel, and outrage. Cue controversy over the public versus the private, allegations of what constitutes as abuse, and bystanders that think they have a right to a baby-free feeds and foods. Cue a plugin that blocks baby pictures.
From breastfeeding, to stay at home parents, working moms, nannies and more, everything shared is up for debate, and sometimes even up for shaming. This is even worse when parents shame their kids online, and are thusly shamed for it, perpetuating a big ol’ cycle of shame.
The court of public opinion is as such that it’s hard to be a parent and not get sucked into it in one way or another. And social media is as such that one picture or post too many could get you branded a narcissist, or worse, a bad parent gone viral over pancakes.
But if you don’t post enough, you may still get flack.
Changing perspectives on family, identity
Society is progressing in a way that — to the dismay of some — represents more than the stereotypical, nuclear family of decades past. With gay marriage legalized in the US and many other countries, single parents raising kids, dads staying at home, and babies born from test-tubes, the new normal is that not everything has to be normal.
Traditional, of course, isn’t bad. But non-traditional isn’t necessarily either: studies find children of gay parents face no disadvantages compared to straight-born kids (in some cases the former may be better off due to less likelihood of accidental pregnancies).
Regardless, parents of all types will have to teach their children that families of all types coexist. Similarly, modern kids may grow up in an age more open to different forms of gender expressions — meaning girls can like what boys like and vice versa — and to different races, as well.
A noted irony of modern parenting is that parents who grew up without intense supervision are, today, watching their children closer than ever. Some call them “helicopter parents” because, you know. Hovering.
Is it paranoia? Maybe partially. Parents may fear their children will be kidnapped or hurt due to constant bombardments of horror stories on the news. But they also fear “good Samaritans” seeing children alone and calling CPS. They may also fear that communities are less protective, as they were when there was a network of stay-at-home mothers looking out.
There’s also been a push against this trend of oversight, called “free range kids:” a philosophy that children should be given a bit more independence, even if it means they have to wear a funny tag that says “I am not lost.”
For what it’s worth, studies suggest that kids with helicopter parents have trouble adjusting come college and have a higher likelihood of depression. But when the alternative is being charged for neglect, this is a tricky area to negotiate.
Lastly, modern parents have the unique dilemma of raising the first generation of technology natives. It’s hard to know absent of long-term studies how much letting little Johnny play with the tablet is good or bad for his brain development.
Most experts agree that it’s best to limit TV and electronic time for youngsters. But due to technology’s growing omnipresence, that’s becoming more and more difficult.
Further, the threat of cyber bullying and exposure to other forms of abuse or, ahem, age inappropriate content is much more arduous to contain.
The moral of the story? Give parents a little bit of a break; they have the future in their hands and sympathy goes a lot further than ridicule — especially on the Internet. And for non-parents: today’s kids will run the world someday, meaning they are your problem too whether you like it or not.