Ridgefield, CT

Millennial Parenting From A Ridgefield Resident

Taylor Keating

If you Google parenting styles I’m sure that a million different options and advice columns would pop up. You’d read about helicopter parents and free range children. A horror story about spanking would traumatize you, and yet on the next page a parent who does not believe in boundaries would have an equally traumatic experience. The fact of the matter is, parents don’t fit into some perfect mold to describe what sort of parent you’re going to be and the effects that style have on the psyche of a newborn, toddler, or child.

As a 1991 baby, a millennial, but not really one at heart, I feel my style rolls more like a gen-x. I also feel like my boomer family judges me every step of the way from the fact that I let my kids test their limits or paint apron free or the fact that I don’t force them to wear a coat to the car so that they experience the natural consequence of feeling cold. Are you rolling your eyes? Hi, Mom!

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Here is the base; I like the idea of promoting independence and taking a back seat during different aspects of play. I have seen my son struggle with a problem whether it be something miniscule like his train track won’t connect or something more like he physically can’t get his shoe on. I have seen him get frustrated and mad, but then fix the problem himself. Sure, there are times that he asks for help and I would never say no to help him. Nevertheless, in these moments, he doesn’t need me to help—he can figure it out on his own. Think about how confident he must feel and proud when he can do something by himself without having to ask for help. It has to be so empowering to know you are capable. This is something I want him to always know about himself—a value he deserves to have.

My children are more likely to be naked than clothed. They are comfortable in their skin and prefer it to be honest. When it’s hot outside, I don’t make them put on shoes or clothes to go frolic in the yard. If he were to step on a rock and ask for shoes, I would run back in and grab him a pair. There are so many natural consequences in life that just happen without adults having to set a limit or boundary. Wearing clothes in public, an obvious boundary. Wearing clothes at home, an unneeded one.

Personally, I am not really a flexible thinker. I am fifteen minutes early to any sort of gathering and will waitwaitwait in the car until it’s more appropriate timing to. I plan plan plan until every aspect of every thing is in order. When I go somewhere, I like to know who is going to be there, what car we are taking, where the bathrooms are, and what we are eating.

This translates into my parenting when it comes to mealtimes and bedtimes where I’d probably fit into a more helicopter-style box. Both of my children were sleep trained around six months old and once I learned about the needed sleep in babies and toddlers and took courses on sleep, I stuck to those schedules rigidly. I like to tout that I follow an 80/20 rule when it comes to sleep, but the reality of it is that my children’s schedules aren’t ever messed with unless absolutely necessary (so it’s more like 99/1).

The same goes for food. My children eat well, eat at the same times every day, have snacks and do not graze, and will rarely stray from the norm. They always get two or three foods I know they eat and then one item to try or taste. I control what they eat and how much I serve them, and then they can chose from their plates what they actually do eat. It keeps everything more regular and standard, and I know they are healthy.

These constants in their life definitely help them mentally to plan the day. Sure, a toddler or a baby can’t tell the time. However, I do think their internal clock remembers what comes first or next. My toddler will 100% say the second that Layla wakes up from her morning nap that it’s almost lunchtime. He doesn’t read the clock that it’s 11:30 on the dot. No. He knows that the next part of our day after Layla wakes is lunch. There’s comfort in that I’m sure knowing what comes next each step of the way. No wildcards or surprises.

Millennials have this bad reputation of being entitled brats, and I can see the stereotype fulfilled in my peers. Maybe this makes me one, but I struggle with the word ‘no’ and I think that alone makes my parenting too “talky” for some older generations. When I think about a scenario in which I would tell my son ‘no’, I really can only come up with safety concerns. If he is about to touch something hot or I am worried he may get injured or is too close to the road, I would shout ‘no’. Since I seldom use the word, the idea is that it would scare him enough to stop whatever he is doing in his tracks.

This is not to say that my children don’t respect me. Here is an example: I was in my child’s classroom and he took a crayon and started to frantically scribble on the floor. Obviously, he knew that he shouldn’t do this, but for whatever reason wanted to. Instead of shouting ‘no’ and rushing over, creating a panic, I said, “Excuse me. Where should crayons be drawing?” He laughed and said, “Oops, paper!” I asked for the crayon, which he easily gave up, handed him a magic eraser, and said, “I’ll get the paper while you clean your drawing. When you’re done, we can draw together.” So simple—no negative words or scolding. From my language, he understood what the proper action should be and will hopefully do this next time.

There is no end-all-be-all way to parent. My example above probably is not even the right way to parent. I am sure that a psychologist somewhere would find fault in my phrasing or what I did to correct his behavior. It definitely works, though, and it definitely makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing by my son by not screaming ‘no’ at him all day long. He’s being taught how to act and what is acceptable through trial and error.

One thing is for sure, my child may be naked and covered in paint and have a tummy full of dirt and shoeless and bruised from a minor fall, but he certainly is happy and he certainly is confident. He knows his own limits, not by me yelling them at him, but by experiencing them for himself. Sure, he could make a mistake and do something like paint on his sister or climb onto a table and tumble, but if you really take it down to the root, is it that bad?

I mean, seriously? Let’s say that he ran outside naked and stepped on a rock. He’s hurt and crying and runs to me for comfort. I explain that if he was wearing shoes he may not have gotten hurt. He refuses shoes still. Okay…that is that. He didn’t learn his lesson, and he will probably step on something again and will get hurt. Maybe that time he will want shoes—maybe not. Why am I going to force shoes on this little toddler when he is just being expressive and testing himself? Why am I going to create an atmosphere for tantrums to erupt? I would be facilitating a power struggle instead of stepping back and letting the lesson come right to him with minimal effort.

Does avoiding the word ‘no’ and letting my son learn his boundaries on his own make me a typical millennial parent? Is a naked toddler an indicator of poor parenting or is it just an unnecessary battle? Can you really fit into a carefully labeled box when it comes to parenting or are we all just winging it day by day? What type of parent do you consider yourself to be?

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An early childhood educator at heart, now raising two toddlers with big feelings and writing about mom life through a real lens.

Ridgefield, CT
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