Why giving parenting advice to your children can be so hard these days

There have been a few tense moments at our family get togethers when my mother, as caring and well intentioned as she is, decides it’s a good idea to explain to my sister-in-law that the reason for her 10-year-old daughter’s seemingly endless case of the coughs is because she goes to bed with wet hair.

Old wives tale? Anyway, that’s beside the point…

My siblings and I are often on the receiving end of conversations that begin with, “When you kids were little…” and “Your father and I…”, to which we usually just nod and smile. Usually.

At the times when I do feel like retaliating with comments such as “Things have changed!” or “Get with the times!”, I stop and think about how true this is…that times have changed, dramatically, and what a generational shock some modern day parenting norms must be for her and many other grandparents.

For instance, did you hear about the teenager in the U.S who tried sued her baby boomer parents on the grounds that they would rather “feather a retirement nest than pay their kids’ college bills”? Never mind they were trying to protect her from herself, as she was drinking heavily and cutting classes at college.

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She ended up dropping the lawsuit and moving back home, but the fact that her case was indulged in the first place is just scary. It does make you question the type of parenting she was exposed to however, and how on earth she would even conceive of such a thing…to sue her own parents.

Should the teenager’s parents be proud of her for taking initiative in life…even though they were the bearers of the brunt…or were her actions just downright self-indulgent and thoughtless?

These days, we are so saturated with media coverage of missing children, international paedophile rings with links to our own communities, and tragic crimes occurring on our doorsteps.

It’s news in the fact that it creates an awareness of such underbelly activities and highlights the horrible reality of these all-to-regular occurrences off our television screens.

The knock-on effect these stories have on those of us who are the caregivers for our younger generations, is that we tend to cling to them even tighter.

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Let’s call it the “cotton wool” syndrome: where parents and grandparents work overtime to protect their offspring from the possible dangers lurking outside.

Unlike poor Kate and Gerry McCann, parents of missing British toddler Madeleine, who had no qualms leaving their children asleep and unattended in their Portugal villa while they dined out nearby. Bad parenting? Or just a willingness to live their lives unburdened by a constant need to over-protect their children from something that might not ever happen. Unfortunately the gamble for them didn’t pay off.

Goodness knows parenting doesn’t come with a manual, but there are plenty of commentators out there who are more than willing to tell everyone what they should be doing and how they should be doing it.

We do live in the age of alternatives…self-help, natural eating, alternate medicines…and parenting is no different. I have a friend who has a “no smacking policy” for her children. I know her own parents don’t necessarily agree, but is it their place to speak up and enforce their own rules when looking after their grandchildren?

What sort of grandparent are you? Do you step back and let them do their thing? Surely parenting is an evolutionary concept as no one child is the same.

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I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue…so have your say.

Do you think the heightened media presence and reporting gives the illusion that the world is a less safe place than it was 50 years ago,  fostering overly paranoid parents? Or have the times really changed and memories of fun and carefree neighbourhood friendships have gone to protect children from the dangers of society?


Kid on bike - Starts at sixty