Every generation must grapple with new challenges of parenting, but that seems especially true of this generation. As parenting advice spreads across the web and self-help books like wildfire our generation is rife with contradictory ideas, too many articles where fact and opinion are interchangeable, and truths are accepted without condition.
It’s no secret that many parents are skeptical of the effect technology is having on their children.
Studies have shown that leaving a child in front of an iPad or television can have detrimental long-lasting effects such as delayed speech, and deferred emotional and social development. Now a new trend, borne of the minimalism movement (see the great success of the art of tidying up and a focus on experiences over things) is suggesting that children need far less than we’re giving them and that kids with fewer toys are able to explore their imagination free of distractions.
Raised Good is a compassionate blog that questions our dependence on the many things we need to raise our children. One blog post discussed a German kindergarten that removed toys from the classroom and allowed students to explore their day completely unstructured. The children began confused at their bare surroundings, but soon they played with the classroom’s chairs and blankets making little forts. Then they began engaging with each other, communicating and creating intense and imaginative worlds.
Boredom and lack of stimulation breeds creativity. Ask any artist ever.
But is stringent minimalism the best solution in a world full of things? If our children don’t use technology will they be at a disadvantage when they start school, or worse yet, spend hours consuming screens when their exposure eventually becomes unavoidable?
Fear of doing it wrong
I was recently gifted some baby hand-me-downs and found to my surprise the sheer number of things I now have just for the baby to lie down in. But what do I know about babies?
This is exactly the problem.
Perhaps our reliance on proprietary things comes from a deep insecurity about what it will be like to parent.
Our fear of doing it wrong, or not giving our child enough overwhelms our pragmatism; our gut feeling that says, “Isn’t this excessive?”
The internet says we need these various apparatus and tools while experts demand we play our baby Mozart in the womb, let our baby cry themselves to sleep, teach our infant to sign, code, or use the toilet at three months old. It doesn’t take long to find experts that tell you to do exactly the opposite.
When we are nagged by the thought that either we are doing too little, or that we are giving too much, how can we listen to our guts and raise our children in a way that feels right to us?
More than one way
As millennials begin to raise generation Alpha (born 2010-2025) we will likely see more of a push toward minimalism in child-rearing, and likely more diverse and divisive theories about parenting, and that’s okay.
Perhaps the new breadth of parenting information that this generation is blessed and cursed with will give new parents permission to follow their guts.
When my little nugget shows up in November, I plan on making parenting choices slowly. I will learn with my baby as my baby learns with me, and I will keep in mind that every parent, child, and family is different.
Maybe that will be the millennial’s mark on parenting, that our very treasured uniqueness requires a variety of parenting styles, and that we may take parenting advice with a big grain of salt.