Generation X: Bad Parents?

The over-scheduling, over-achieving and stressed-out parenting style that has been the hallmark of the Boomer (born 1943-1960) generation may finally be coming to a close now that Generation X (born 1961-1981) is fully taking over as parent of young children. There is a backlash developing in the form of the “Bad Parent” who isn’t willing to sacrifice everything to be the perfect Mom or Dad. And, like everything suggested by Generation X it was initially reviled but now starting to gain acceptance. This short (2.5 minute) video on CNN give a quick picture of the shift:

While they seem to understand that the parenting style so dominant when the Millennials (born 1982-200?) is coming to a close, there is little awareness of what comes next. The Boomers dove into parenting like everything else they did, with idealism and righteousness. By the time that Gen X’er started to have kids they got overwhelmed with the expectations (that were unrealistic, especially for Moms) and are finally starting to rebel.

All of this makes sense in generational terms, but the thing that is being missed is the parenting style that will dominate for the next 20 years. According to Strauss and Howe’s generational theory, the next “cohort” or generation began a few years ago, perhaps in 2003, perhaps in 2005 (that will become clearer in time). The next generation (that they have named “Homelander” for now) will be raised very differently than the previous generation (the Millennials). The Homelanders will be raised during a massive crisis, much like the Great Depression and WWII that was faced 80+ years ago. This period of crisis is known as the “Fourth Turning” (the title of one of Strauss and Howe’s best, but ┬ámost difficult, books). We are at the start of the Crisis/Fourth Turning right now (they call it the Millennial Crisis) and it will likely last until 2025.

So how will Gen X’ers (and eventually Millennials) parent during this Fourth Turning? Probably in the same way that the Lost Generation (born 1883-1900) and GI Generation (born 1901-1924) did in the 1930’s: by protecting the children from the chaos in the world. This protection will go completely overboard in the upcoming years and the kids will end up in ridiculously cloistered environments (“They stroll in sidewalk versions of sport utility vehicles, learn to swim in U.V. protective full-body suits.” from a recent NYTimes article) and will probably turn out much like their grandparents, from the Silent Generation (born 1925-1942). As usual, most institutions (schools in particular) won’t be prepared for this shift and will assume what worked for the previous batch of kids (Millennials) will work with this bunch as well. The result will be a very challenging time for schools (and eventually companies) as these stifled, conformist and compliant kids move up through the years.

Of course, as I have mentioned before, their parents (Gen X’ers) will be entirely different (and more difficult) matter…

17 thoughts on “Generation X: Bad Parents?”

  1. i think i'm in the overparenting camp myself – still.

    have you heard of lenore skenazy – free range kids. fun, but entirely serious stuff.

    what do you think of blog carnivals? i was thinking of starting one on gen x, but i'm not sure. they seem primarily reserved for – well, other types of people. hahahahaha

    1. I have heard of the free range kids stuff, but not looked into it much. Our kids go to Waldorf school (and have done so since kindergarten). We are definitely overparents as well, although we don't overschedule or stress. We just keep our kids close to home.

      What's a blog carnival?

  2. How dare you not drive your child everywhere! How dare you allow your child to play – gasp – somewhere besides in the house / out in back / on a play date! How dare you allow your kid to go to that boy scout camp where they SHOOT GUNS! How dare you fail to microchip your kid! /sarc

  3. Stop having children. The world doesn't need your spawn to add to the overpopulation of the world. No point in being environmental when you keep reproducing like rabbits.

  4. OMG! I have enough difficulty dealing with the Millenials at the drive through (luckliy not many in my workplace yet – economy); I can't bare to think of them as parents! We think they were spoiled brats… what will they spawn?

    1. @Hil*S – Millennials will spawn the next \”Prophet\” generation, which will be similar to the current Baby Boomers in character. They will rebel against the values of their Millennial parents and try to tear down the unified society they have (will) create. This should all go down around 2050 or so…

      1. Millennials will provide the hubristic G.I. like leaders who go over the top with the internet. Prophet kids will rebel against stripping off their cell phones, I-pods that Millennials embrace.

      2. " As usual, most institutions (schools in particular) won't be prepared for this shift and will assume what worked for the previous batch of kids (Millennials) will work with this bunch as well. The result will be a very challenging time for schools (and eventually companies) as these stifled, conformist and compliant kids move up through the years."

        I believe what would happen when Homelanders come is that they'll perceive themselves as in Millennials shadow and that teachers or bosses care less for them than Millennials who are so perfect.

    2. When Millennials are parents, they'll give their kids more freedom. Let kids play again. Not be in soccer so much.

  5. I talk about the prediction when Millennials are parents everytime and that their kids revolt against them to many generational experts.

  6. Pingback: The Mycenaean
  7. I was raised by Gen X parents and I found them to be extremely overprotective, never letting us be without supervision until our early to mid teens, and even then we would have to report in whenever we weren’t going to be where the expected us to be when we were supposed to be there. As a child simply being allowed to go out and explore on my own with friends was completely out of the question. Every day of summer had to be accounted for, if I wasn’t in camp I had to be with them or at a family members house and then they wonder why we have so much trouble on our own without direction.

  8. My soon to be ex-wife is a LAZY Gen-X parent to her two teenage kids. Her default mode is permissive parenting. She really does love them but rarely holds them accountable or enforces rules. Both of the kids are emotionally and socially awkward as a result.

  9. The current crisis will last until the Chinese conquer this country without a shot. They just need to wait us out – we’ll destroy ourselves. A weak, whining, selfish, indulgent country full of crybabies who collapse when confronted with challenges.

    1. I can’t say that I agree. Although the US hegemony on global trade and politics has/is ending, I don’t think it will be quick overthrow of our status as a superpower. Certainly there are some benefits of no longer being the policemen of the world. And while I agree with your statement about how we have grown soft in the several decades, there are still places where we clearly dominate. COVID-19 itself is an example. Chinas response, after the initial denials, was to lock down and they had the benefit of a populace that will comply with government orders. The US, in contrast, is full of independent-minded citizens (of all political backgrounds) who chafe at the thought of being told what to do. So although there was a surprising amount of compliance with the controls, we still did a horrible job of containing the virus.

      But contrast that with our vaccine rollout. We have put more shots in arms than the top 20 countries COMBINED! We are on track to have the entire country vaccinated this country, even with a terrifically complex rollout (two shots for a majority of the populace? That’s a logistics nightmare). The only countries ahead of us of any significant size are Britain and Israel, both which have nationalized health care and, in the case of Britain, are satisfied with just giving one dose of the Pfizer and Moderna. And when you compare us with China the difference is stark. Even though the Chinese media does everything possible to clamp down on bad news, it is clear that their vaccination efforts have been a failure. The latest news that their Sinovac inoculation is perhaps 50% effective is the latest blow to their campaign.

      So for all of their power of centralized control, they still lack the ability to respond with innovation in a crisis. This is where the US (and the rest of the West to some degree) still hold a major advantage. Capitalism, for all of it’s faults, is by far the most responsive system when there is potential economic opportunity. The fact that our economy was in a shambles pushed public AND private organizations into extreme action. So that combination of individualism and opportunism drove the development (and purchase) of multiple vaccines. The distribution has been the same story, with us being able to enlist both private and public distribution of the vaccines.

      China may certainly take center stage and enjoy a period of being the #1 Superpower for a while. But does that mean that the US will be “conquered”? Far from it, and I don’t believe that has ever been the goal of the Chinese Government.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.