What our parenting generation does well

Despite all the criticism, we are doing more than okay.
Despite all the criticism, we are doing more than okay.  Photo: Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury

Ever feel like we attract a rubbish reputation when it comes to parenting? Our generation has been labelled everything from helicopter to bulldozer parents (ones who clear the way, removing obstacles to ensure success for their child).

Generally speaking, we are more well-off than our parents were. We are more in touch with our feelings and have a desire to offer as many enriching opportunities to our children as we can. This apparently makes us over-indulgent, over-involved, and at risk of creating self-entitled monsters who will neither be able to hold down a job nor fend for themselves.

I seek to challenge this notion that we are permanently damaging our children by looking at some of the child rearing traits we hold that are wonderful rather than woeful.

Shared load and gender equity (well, working on it)

As parents in this day and age, we share the parental load much more equitably.

In a standard household there may be one parent working full-time, while the other works part-time. Out-dated rigid roles where the full-time worker comes home to dinner on the table at 6pm, after which they remove their shoes and pop their feet on the ottoman whilst smoking a pipe, as the other parent takes care of children's bath and bedtimes, are long-gone. The household and child-rearing load is shared.

Which parent works full-time and who works less hours is a completely individual decision made within the four walls of a family's home. It's no longer dominated by society that the man works, and the woman works at home.

Not to mention, with so many changing faces in family structure - we have same-sex parents, step- and blended families, single parents and a gamete of other dynamics - there is no longer a family "norm". Social services that now recognise a growing diversity of families have also provided support that wasn't available when I was growing up.

Workplaces still have significant headway to make in embracing flexible working arrangements. However, my husband and I both work from home, teleconferencing and commuting only when necessary. Rather than subscribing to an obsolete model where we must be in an office every day to show we are working, we can still be productive while working around family needs.

Not all employers, or jobs roles for that matter, are as adaptable but they are certainly an improvement on my parents' working days. My dad agrees that there is more pliability in our concept of work, "you're open to shifting career gears, or whole careers, to achieve better balance at home.  Our generation made all the shifts to accommodate the workplace. Home had to fit around work."

Open conversations

I was lucky enough to grow up in a liberal-thinking household where informal, open discussions were frequently conducted about a range of topics.

Not all my friends were gifted such candidness.

As parents now, our generation is much better at listening to our children and validating their needs. This sometimes lands us in the "soft parent" basket, accused of letting kids rule our worlds but as my parents admitted, "You listen to your kids and respond to needs we would not even have acknowledged."

Less smacks, more praise

A friend once confessed her dad gave her and her sisters a "just in case" bedtime smack each night, to cover bases should he have missed a misdemeanour during the day.

Nowadays, that would be considered child abuse.

The rights of children have undoubtedly become a priority and societal pressure around what is appropriate in the parenting field has infiltrated our homes.

This can be controversial and is often challenged but it has definitely spotlighted the less effective ways to discipline children. Smacking being one of them.

Praising positive behaviour and building our children's self esteem are more popular methods of guidance and child rearing in today's parenting arena.

Environmentally savvy with global awareness and connectivity

The whirlwind advances in technology over the past 30 years mean we are parenting in an entirely new sphere, with global awareness and connectivity that was a mystery to my parents.

Our children are used to a world of information at their fingertips (unless you live where I do, with an internet speed slower than Latvia). They can transcend physical boundaries, chatting to someone on the other side of the world.

Not all these developments in globalization have led to positive outcomes. The World Health Organization references widespread environmental devastation, with 30 per cent of the world's natural environment destroyed over the past 30 years, thanks to increased economic consumerism and unsustainable rates of consumption.

As a result, we are much more tuned in to our impact on the world and committed to educating the next generation in sustainable living and global responsibility.

It is true that each generation of parents will do their utmost to improve on the last. There will be ever-growing knowledge and access to resources we don't currently have that may make our children look back on their childhood and cackle about how backwards we were. But as is the case, with every generation of parenting, we are doing the best we can with what we know and what we have.

So, fellow parents of this generation, I pat you on the back and offer some positive encouragement. Despite all the criticism, we are doing more than okay.