Rice column: Bridging the generational gap in parenting | Features

Rice column: Bridging the generational gap in parenting | Features

One of the more frustrating aspects of being a parent is having your parents weigh in constantly on how you parent. How do I know? As a parent myself, I’ve been on the receiving end of unsolicited parenting advice many times. But as a grandparent, I’ve also been guilty of giving unsolicited parenting advice. I can honestly say we do mean well.

When we have kids, we vow to parent our children differently and not make our parents’ same choices. Yet, when grandma and grandpa come around, they tend to forget the grandkids already have a parent. Parenting styles clash, arguments ensue (unfortunately in front of the kids at times), and everyone is left frustrated, unheard and misunderstood.

Adding to the frustration is a growing problem post-COVID. Many generations of families are living together because of finances and convenience. Grandparents and sometimes great-grandparents take on watching the kids while their parents work. That doesn’t mean living together wasn’t already common before COVID. Still, the multi-generational home situation has increased due to job loss and economic instability.

Suppose we want to keep the peace when several generations live under one roof. In that case, all adults need to meet on common ground. We need to acknowledge some experiences and knowledge that each generation brings to the situation to listen and learn with open minds for all involved. Most importantly, things aren’t as simple as we once thought. We live in a different world than previous generations.

When mom and dad, grandma and grandpa can’t get along or refuse to, ultimately, it’s the children who suffer the most. They are our next generation. Suppose we want a kinder, more loving world than what we’ve created thus far. In that case, we need to humble ourselves, look at the situation objectively, and develop positive-based solutions as a family.

The thing is, no one child is the same, not even within a family. And families look entirely different today than generations ago. There is no one-size-fits-all parenting style, but more effective parenting styles such as conscious parenting serve as a foundation.

For example, while helping raise my identical twin grandsons, I learned their personalities, needs and temperaments are not identical even though their DNA is identical. Hence, discipline is different for each child. But conscious parenting is the starting point.

I’m from Generation X and grew up with traditional parenting (aka authoritarian and punitive parenting). We were told to be seen and not heard, and discipline was a spanking or other form of harsh punishment. Our parents didn’t validate our feelings. We were told to “stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about” and ruled with an iron fist, the same as many generations before us.

And that’s the grandparents and great-grandparents of today who are primary caregivers while parents work. We’re the generations who grew up in a world without much or any knowledge about special needs situations, and ADHD was labeled “a boy’s problem.” Even then, most older generation parents felt, and still feel, we’re doping up our kids with pills instead of “handling things” the old-fashioned way.

Frequently, I hear older people who say, “Seems like there’s an epidemic of autism and ADHD because everyone has something.” The truth is, there isn’t an epidemic of disorders and conditions. What we have is an epidemic of knowledge about these disorders and conditions, and that’s a huge difference. We know so much more now than ever before and find something new every day.

So how can we bridge this generational gap and get on the same page while collectively raising the next generation? Here are a few of my suggestions coming from the perspective of being a parent and a grandparent.

Grandparents and parents need to work together instead of against each other. They also need to extend grace and flexibility to each other while honoring the children’s individual mental, emotional and physical needs.

Grandparents need to remember what it was like as a parent. Parents need to remember that we grandparents have a lot of experience and knowledge to contribute.

Grandparents need to understand the world they raised their kids in no longer exists. The rise of the internet and technology has changed the landscape in numerous ways. We know more about mental health, education, nutrition, emotions and more, thanks to the internet. Parents also battle protecting their kids not just from stranger danger in the outside world, but the myriad dangers in the online world too.

Parents need to allow for some flexibility and understanding as we grandparents work through our childhood programming and traumas that we unknowingly unleashed on them that we’re trying to heal. It’s hard work! I speak from experience.

And when parents and grandparents aren’t getting along, remember who is watching and learning from you. Our kids notice more than we realize, even from infancy. They learn from us how to manage emotions, conflict, disappointments and life in general.

The truth is, if we want a better world and more peaceful homes, then we’re only going to create that by choosing differently than we have before. We should strive to arm ourselves with knowledge, work on ourselves first before criticizing others’ faults, and seek to understand each other.

The next generation depends on us to do better than we have so they can carry the torch of conscious connected parenting on to the next generation too.

— Dawn-Renée Rice is a Conscious Connection Parenting Coach, writer, speaker and columnist from the North East Texas area. She and her husband have been married for 23 years, share three children, six grandchildren and one furbaby. To follow Dawn-Renée, sign up to receive email updates or connect on social media, visit her online at linktr.ee/dawnreneerice. Adapted from its original publication on www.rihcounseling.com .