Boomers, Xers Often Differ on Parenting

Times have changed. So parents, grandparents don't always agree on raising kids.

ByABC News via logo

Nov. 4, 2007 — -- With books, Web sites and classes all touing the latest parenting techniques, generation X-ers may have a much greater volume of parenting information available to them than what baby boomers had at the same point in their lives.

"It's like parenting has become a profession, and that parents are armed with a lot of expertise and they have a lot of rules on how they want things done," said Clare McHugh, of "All You Magazine."

Now that the baby boomers are grandparents, there may be differing views on how to raise the newest generation of kids in the family.

"We didn't have a word 'parenting' when we were parents," said Karen Dem, a grandmother who plays an active role in her granddaughter's life. "We were parents and we raised our children. Today, parenting is a verb: How do you parent?"

Dem's daughter, Roanna Mostma, and her son-in-law, Marc, may not always agree with Dem on the best course of action for Brooke, 4, but things never get too heated.

Still the differences can be quite clear, like at the dinner table.

"I'll get up and make another meal for Brooke, my four-year-old, as opposed to just saying, 'Look, dinner is made. Eat it or don't eat it,'" Roanna said.

The approach is different than the one Roanna's mother used when she was growing up.

"I made dinner and that's what it was," Karen said. "If they didn't eat it, for the most part, unless it was something exotic, then they didn't eat it and waited until breakfast."

While determining whether are not to make an extra meal may be a matter of personal preference. But some things that were tolerated decades ago now are not because new safety standards have arisen.

"We didn't have the car seats like they do today -- the five-point harnesses and the stroller," Karen said. "[Now, there are] helmets for everything."

And then there's the often-controversial topic of discipline. The country's view has changed drastically, and is illustrated by Sylvia Ramsell and her daughter Cynthia Ramsell.

Cynthia is single mother in Sacramento, Calif., who is raising a two-year-old named Delany. And while Sylvia uses what she calls an old-school approach, her daughter's views are much different.

"I did spank and they listened, and they turned out okay," Sylvia said.

But Cynthia doesn't feel the same way.

"My mom and I think different in that," Cynthia said. "My mom will also spank her on the hand and say no hitting if [Delany] hits one of us. So I say, 'Mother that's kind of a mixed message. She's not going to understand not hitting if you are hitting her.'"

Sylvia now adheres to her daughter's wishes and invokes timeouts instead.

Part of the generational differences in parenting may come from how the parents view themselves.

"I think parents in the past saw themselves as authority figures: 'Do as I say. Do it because I said so,'" said Ron Sabatelli, a family studies professor at the University of Connecticut. "Parents today are more interested in having a relationship with their children."

And though some believe a grandparent's wisdom and experience can be more valuable than any book or parenting site, experts said the key to avoiding a battle simply is being open to conversation, having mutual respect and a lot of flexibility.

Experts also said parents should keep their expectations loose, and give grandparents guidelines but let them work within them. Grandparents should be supportive of the parents and not too controlling, and remember their grandchildren are not their kids.

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