The Saeculum Decoded
A Blog by Neil Howe
Oct 012009
 

This recent article in the New York Times by Alfie Kohn caught my eye. First let me say that I really don’t agree with this well-known progressive educator. His thesis (“unconditional parenting”) is that a parent should be equally approving of his/her child regardless of the child’s behavior. My opinion? Parents cannot act this way—unless they have a heart of stone and are utterly indifferent as to how the child grows up and who the child becomes. Most parents who *think* they raise their kids unconditionally simply try to repress their hopes and desires and hope their kids don’t notice how the parent really feels. But kids always notice.

That said, I do agree with an important observation Kohn makes early on. He says that explicitly behavioral/conditional parenting strategies are gaining in popularity. We have long made this prediction about Generation X (born 1961-1981) parenting—and have pointed out the emergence of it in other contexts. Gen-Xers care less about how perfect their kids really are on the inside (no Bill Bennett’sBook of Virtues” for them), but they care a lot more about whether their kids behave in ways and acquire habits that maximize their long-term odds of success.

The Homeland Generation is already gestating.

Note: The Homeland Generation (Born 2005-?), now entering pre-school, will include the babies born between now and the mid-2020s. Their always-on-guard nurturing style will be substantially set by Gen-x parents, legislators, and media producers, who are already gaining a reputation for extreme sheltering.

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  • XerMom

    I really felt the need to respond. I'm not quite sure how to read the assessment that GenXers are raising their children, not with focus on inner qualities, but to have "long-term odds of success." As a mother I do take a bit of offense to that. I feel that, again, my generation is being identified as having strong elements of moral bankruptcy. Of course I'm teaching my children virtues, and of course my desire to do so is strong, as is the desire of the other parents I know.

  • BoomerXer

    Wow, Mr. Kohn sounds a lot like Dr. Spock! I wonder….could Mr. Kohn – or one of his followers be the next Dr. Spock? I realize this is something Mr. Howe probably doesn't want to contemplate at this point, but the current Hero/Artist nurture paradigm is probably set to expire sometime in what? Ten, twelve – fifteen years…at the most? Of course, Dr. Spock didn't materialize out of thin air in 1946 – I'm sure he probably held similar views in 1936 or earlier. So, I'm just sayin'… 😉

    Another interesting article in the NYT I saw over the weekend is "For Some Parents, Shouting is the New Spanking."

  • BoomerXer

    @ XerMom
    I don't think Mr. Howe is accusing Xers of moral bankruptcy so much as noting a subtle shift in parenting focus from the self-conscious virtue of Boomers (which is something they try hard to project onto everyone and everything – not just their children) to the more pragmatic, but protective nuture of Xers. Of course, Xers want to instill their children with virtues, but it certainly isn't the same instillation of virtues as the "Hey-look-at-me-I'm-so-righteous-and-so-are-my-kids" kind that most Boomers used. There is a difference there.

  • BoomerXer

    @ XerMom
    I don't think Mr. Howe is accusing Xers of moral bankruptcy so much as noting a subtle shift in parenting focus from the self-conscious virtue of Boomers (which is something they try hard to project onto everyone and everything – not just their children) to the more pragmatic, but protective nuture of Xers. Of course, Xers want to instill their children with virtues, but it certainly isn't the same instillation of virtues as the "Hey-look-at-me-I'm-so-righteous-and-so-are-my-kids" kind that most Boomers used. There is a difference there.