There seems to be a lot of criticism of contemporary parents, but we’re actually killin’ this child-rearing thing.

Parents: Tell me honestly… how many headlines like these have you clicked in the past week?

5 Things Parents Mess Up Daily

Parents are Why Today’s Kids are Fat and Lazy

Why Checking Facebook on Your Phone is Ruining (Destroying!) Your Family Life

10 Ways You are Turning your Kid into an Asshole

7 Foods You Ate Before You Were Ever Pregnant that Damaged Your Current Children

205 Things Parents Do that Could Kill Their Kids at Any Second

It’s not easy to be consistently on the defensive. As if trying to actually keep tiny, germy, accident-prone, reckless humans alive on a daily basis wasn’t hard enough. Then there are all the experts, or the people who think they are…

Manners are the most important thing. Wait, self-expression is the most important thing. No, eating non-processed food is the most important thing. Or is it getting 30 minutes of outdoor time every day? Or reading to each kid for 20 minutes each night before bed from birth to age 5 (crap! missed it!)? No, wait, it’s not letting your kid in the same room as a screen until after they’ve learned to read.

You can find a reason, or a scientific study, or a Bible verse to back up just about any viewpoint on the finer details of parenting but in the end, you can’t do all those “most important” things simultaneously. So you pick the ones you align with and gear up to defend your choices if needed.

Parents have always faced judgment but this generation doesn’t just hear it from people they actually know. Now there’s a whole universe of folks with an internet connection and an agenda. If you’ve ever hesitated before posting a Facebook/Instagram pic because you weren’t sure if the car seat buckle was exactly right, or the food on the plate was healthy enough, or if your child looked rested/healthy/not-bratty enough, then you know what I’m talking about here.

Now let me ask you this: how does all of that constant defensiveness make you feel? Guilty? Bad? Like you are failing at this parenting thing — as your clean children play, disease-free and happy, on the hypoallergenic rug with their kid-safe toys and a roof over their heads?

It’s time to step away from the guilt. You aren’t ruining your kids. You are doing a GREAT job, parents.

I want to make this point early on and it’s an important one for absorbing the rest of this post. By applauding my parenting peers I am NOT saying that we are better than the generations before us or that our own parents or grandparents were terrible ones (generally speaking).

I’m saying that the parents in the trenches right now — comforting newborns at night, potty training (sweet baby Jesus, when will it end?), neutralizing tantrums in the middle of grocery stores, relearning the little bit that we thought we knew about math to meet Common Core standards  — are doing a great job at this raising-kids thing. Any attempt to discredit that as a general statement — from our parents, our grandparents, our peers, pediatricians, psychologists, and more — is flawed.

Here’s proof:

On safety

Older generations may criticize us for cushioning our kids, but our caution works. Statistically speaking, there has never been a safer time to be a child in America. The Washington Post reports that in 1935 there were nearly 450 deaths for every 100,000 children aged 1 to 4 compared to today’s statistics: just 30 deaths for every 100,000 kids in the age group. That’s a decrease of more than tenfold.  The homicide rate for teens ages 14 to 17 was at 12 homicides per 100,000 in 1993 and was at 5.1 in 2008 — a record low.

Child homicide via strangers account for just 3 percent of deaths this way, and all the stats collectively point to just 3 or 4 stranger abductions every year (hat tip to our blogger Joshua Johnston for compiling these and other safety stats in this post). Between  1993 and 2013, the amount of kids hit and killed by cars dropped over 66 percent (that’s a drop from 800 to 250 deaths).

Less kids are dying — it’s a fact.

There are likely a lot of reasonable factors as to why, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the biggest reason is that parents are heeding the research, the advice, the perhaps over-hyped media coverage of bizarre ways kids can die — and kids are safer as a result.

I realize that the improvements in child safety didn’t happen overnight and took decades to evolve to this point. THANK YOU other parents who have made everything safer for my little ones. MOST parents find a happy medium between allowing their kids some freedom to experiment and not allowing them to get run over by a bus. Good for us, I say. And even better for our kids.

On technology

You’ve probably heard that today’s parents spend way too much time on their phones and not nearly enough with their kids. It’s evident in the mom who taps away on her smartphone while her kids play at the park, or the dad who is looking at a tablet screen instead of interacting with the toddler bouncing on the couch right next to him. We are ignoring our precious children. Technology is a distraction that must be curbed.

Here’s the thing though. I remember being sent away so my mom could watch soap operas. My friend Kristin remembers the same thing from her mom, and also from her babysitter. Did your parents used to ship you outside, alone (gasp), while they stayed inside doing… what? Who really knows? Yes. Yes, your parents did.

Smartphones and tablets are a distraction from parenting, but sometimes you need that. This is particularly true of parents who stay home all day with their kids. Sometimes the kids need to just go play without adults and not be interacting with mom and dad. That mom scrolling through her Facebook feed at the park may have spent the past few days huddled inside with sick kids, washing every piece of bedding imaginable twice, while her husband is out of town for work. She might need 20 minutes to herself. And even if nothing catastrophic has happened at home, it’s okay for her kids to play without her. And really, it’s none of anyone else’s business.

We don’t need to entertain our kids every second of every day, or even listen to them all of that time. They need some time without us. It’s good for all of us. I feel like I’m going off on a tangent here… so let’s get back on track…

Technology has actually benefited today’s parents (hear me out). Here are some helpful ways we use technology that didn’t exist when we were kiddos:

  • There are apps that help us with EVERYTHING from diapering schedules, to family organization, to meal prep, and more.
  • More parents can work from home, on more flexible schedules, better balancing their family-work responsibilities.
  • For it’s “time suck” reputation, technology actually saves us a shit ton of time. If we invest that time wisely, it goes back into our kids.

We all need time away from our screens — but our tech-reliance isn’t all bad (for us or our kids).

On Quality Time

We recognize that time spent alongside our children is not the same as time spent WITH our children. In 1965, moms spent 10.5 hours per week actively “spending time” with their children, while fathers clocked in at 2.6 hours. By 2010, that number for moms rose to 13.7 hours and for fathers it rose to 7.2 hours. We ARE spending more quality time with our kids. (Yet, we may not need to – the amount of time parents spend with their kids between the ages of 3 and 11 has next to NO relationship to how children turn out, according to a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family. So… stop feeling bad if you don’t hit these average numbers every week.)

contemporary parents

The “Bless this Mess” wall hanging may be cliche, but it represents a larger trend at prioritizing what really matters and recognizing that our kids will be bigger tomorrow than they are today (indefinitely).

On Discipline

Today’s parents customize discipline based on the personality of their kids, the severity of the crime, and the research they’ve read on what works and what doesn’t. Corporal punishment (spanking), for example, is on the decline, particularly with women, who saw a 22 percent drop from 1986 to 2014 in approval of corporal punishment.  Those numbers are down, in part, because of research that shows spanking actually leads to increased aggression and defiance.

Your older family members or strangers may not understand why you allow a tantrum to play out in the grocery store instead of immediately trying to squash it — but if you follow the Conscious Discipline or Love & Logic methods, it makes complete sense. As parents, we would rather do what makes the most sense for our kids’ long-term development than to appease other adults (with whom we have no parenting responsibility).

On Equality

The U.S. Census reports that as of July 1 2015, the number of babies of color in the country outnumbered white ones (at 50.1 percent) for the first time ever. Our first black President is wrapping up 8 years in office, and the first woman candidate for the seat had a real shot at it this past election cycle. Same-sex marriage is recognized by law throughout the country and LGBTQ+ anti-bullying policies are showing up in schools across the nation. Make no mistake — there are still racial and social divides that cause some serious, and even fatal, situations. There is still a lot of work to be done, as events in Ferguson and the Charleston shootings show. But, thanks in part to that evil internet referenced earlier, today’s parents are more aware of the problem that exist and are willing to accept that they do — and talk with our kids about being part of the solution.

On Autonomy

As parents we recognize that blanket rules about respecting and listening to all adults can do more harm than good. It’s why we teach body autonomy, and never force our kids to hug others (even family members). It’s why we encourage our kids to come to us in every situation. It’s why our generation of kids might be viewed as more disrepectful towards authority than past generations. But you know what? That’s a label most parents today are happy to embrace if it means that their kids are a little more outspoken about their own well-being and safety.

So the next time you are tempted to click a link telling you the 500 daily things parents are doing wrong, from a so-called parenting “expert,” or the next time you get the stink eye from an older person who has clearly forgotten what the sometimes nightmarish day in-day out job of child rearing is really like, just shake it off. The facts are on your side, contemporary parents. You’re doing a good job — a GREAT job — and you’re on the right side of parenting history.

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Category: Health

Tags: child rearing