Parenting in the 21st Century

Parenting through the beginning of the 21st century has been interesting.

We have seen so many advances in technology and changes in culture just in the past 20 years. Our parenting techniques and way of life has inevitably been affected. Sometimes negatively and sometimes positively. However, the basic things our children need to grow and thrive has not changed. They still need food, clothing, and shelter. They still need loving homes. They still need discipline and instruction. It’s just that, as in any era, the changes in the world around us have altered somewhat what that looks like.

The following was shared to me copied and pasted in a message, so I don’t know who the original author was, so forgive me for not giving credit.

As a pediatric therapist for more than 30 years, I have come up with a list of what I believe kids need and don’t need.  I wish I could have a do-over on a few of these.
What kids don’t need:
1.  Cell phones when they’re in grade school.  Over the years, I cannot tell you one good thing that can come from this.
2.  Unlimited access to social media.  There is very little that is healthy on social media for children and it is getting worse.
3.  So many toys that they can’t even think of something to want at birthday or holiday times.  Too much of anything leaves children unable to be full.  They become like buckets with holes in them.
4.  Televisions in their rooms.  Rooms are for sleeping.  Good sleep hygiene is a dying art for too many children.
5.  To be able to control the emotional climate of the home.  Moody kids should not be allowed to hold the whole house hostage.  If a child wants to be moody, he can go to his room and be moody by himself.  Everyone else need not suffer.
6.  Too much indoor time.  Our kids have become hermits with social media and high tech games.  It is ruining their social skills.  It’s also taking a toll on their physical well-being.
7.  Too many activities outside of school.  No wonder this generation is so anxiety-ridden.  They are overloaded.  If we want to teach them to take care of themselves as they age, we must teach them to do that by our example and by limiting their extracurricular activities. Scripture even recognizes the need to rest.
8.  To be able to disrespect any authority.  Even authority that you as a parent dislike or the child dislikes should still be respected.  There will always be an authority in your child’s life even when your child is 50.  
9.  To always call the shots.  Children who get to always choose where to eat, where to play, and what the family does end up being brats.
10. Constant approval and pats on the back.  You will not always be around to do this.  Children need to learn to be proud of themselves when they do something good whether anyone tells them or not.
What children do need:
I.  Rest.  They play hard.  Their bodies need rest to grow and develop.
2. Uninterrupted family time.  The most important people to a child are those under the same roof.  Make family time purposeful and protected.
3. Outdoor play time where they can explore and create.  All kids need free time to imagine.
4. Rules and expectations.  Be clear.  Be concise.  And don’t be afraid to give them.
5. Consistent discipline.  If a rule is broken, a child needs to know what to expect.  All fear is not a bad thing.  There is a fear that can represent respect.
6. Parents who love them and love each other.  Security begins here.
7. For you as a parent to say “no” sometimes.  Your child does not need a lollipop or a new shirt every time you go to Walmart.
8. Hugs.  Physical touch affects the development of children.
9. The ability to share their feelings about anything as long as they are respectful.
10. The most precious gift that a parent can give any child is to demonstrate a personal relationship with God and consistently teach that child through your actions what having faith in God really means.  In the toughest times of their lives, they will learn in large part to rely on God by the example you display for them.


I feel like I’ve done pretty well on a lot of these, but there were definitely a few that stomped my toes pretty hard. (I’ll let you guess which ones ha!) I did want to offer my own commentary, though, what I’ve observed and learned over the past 16 years of parenting.

Let’s look at the internet and social media.

While it did exist when I was a teenager, it was in no way close to the influence it is now. We just didn’t have as much access to it period, much less the variety of options our kids have now. Why would our kids rather stay inside watching someone else play with toys or video games on YouTube instead of being creative themselves? I tried to tell myself it was okay because they are educating themselves, or they can learn some skill or tips, or see others’ ideas. But you know what? I want my kids to be their own Slim Shadys, not some other creator/influencer’s imitaties. (I know, I just dated myself.)I want them to get out and be active and creative, not just watch someone else play. (And let’s face it, a lot of these “creators/influencers” are honestly cringe to watch and listen to. Or maybe I’m just dating myself again. Just call me Grandma. 👵) Can good things from from it? Absolutely. But often I feel like the bad ends up outweighing the good, even in moderation. I want my kids to redeem their time wisely, and to be their unique selves, not knock offs of someone else.

Something else I have noticed is we set more restrictions for our kids, but also set fewer boundaries for our kids. Let me explain.

I am a free-range parent. I let my kids explore and experiment. I’ve said more than once when questioned, “If something they are doing gives my Moma heart a squeeze, but I know that it’s really okay, I just don’t watch.” (Although there’s not a lot that fazes me.) That’s to say, I let them make decisions and learn from them. You want to climb on that? Sure! You are building your muscles and your confidence. You want to use Dad’s tools? Of course! Safely and with age appropriate supervision. Soak a stick in diesel fuel and make a torch? Sounds fun! Respect the flames and the people and environment around you. You want to go hiking or ride four wheelers? Go for it! Use your good judgment and common sense. Kids are going to make stupid decisions. They are going to get hurt. It’s part of learning and growing. It’s my job to guide them through it and help them learn from it. Allow them to have fun and learn while teaching them to make smart decisions.

But on the other hand, that doesn’t mean I just let them do whatever they want to. They are children and still need boundaries and guidance. I think we have taken the phrase “I put my children first,” and turned it on its head. I love my children more than anything. They are each precious and important to me. But they are not allowed to run the house. They don’t get to tell me what to do, or dictate to me what they are and aren’t going to do. They aren’t in charge and have to learn to obey our rules. And there are consequences when they don’t. Are they always happy with me? Nope. I just tell them, “You can get happy in the same britches you got mad in,” and “The only one who can control your attitude is you.” Life throws us things we don’t like. It happens as children, it happens as adults. It’s my job to teach them how to navigate those negative feelings. Yes, you’re allowed to have them, but you’re not allowed to act in a disrespectful manner. Another phrase I have a hard time with is when someone says their small child is their best friend. I absolutely have fun with my children. We do things together, we laugh and play and act goofy. But they aren’t my best friends. God didn’t put me on earth to make them happy and be their friend. He gave them to me to teach them to be good people. Sometimes that means they aren’t happy in the moment. And that’s okay. They don’t have to be happy all the time. They aren’t going to agree with or understand all of the decisions I make. I don’t like to tell them “Because I said so” if I can explain to them why. But you know what? Sometimes the answer simply is, “Because I said so.” Those are the rules and that’s the way it is. And they know that they are allowed to argue their case – respectfully – but that doesn’t mean I will change my decision. Yes, it’s hard. I want them to like me. And sometimes they don’t. And especially when they are too small to reason with. It’s hard to be consistent and not give in. When your toddler is pitching a fit or your middle schooler slams the door and closes you out, or your teen stares at you in stony silence. It’s hard. You just have to pray and remind yourself you know what they need better than they do. (You know, it’s kind of like when I want to do something, and God says no. But I reeeeeally want to. But He still says no. Because He is wiser and is just looking out for me. Kinda like that 😉)It’s hard in the moment, but worth it in the long run.

I also feel like we have lost our sense of community. I know that sounds funny in a world where we can be friends with someone across the globe, have millions of followers on social media, and be better “connected” than ever. But I may save that post for another time. Let me just say here that in parenting, you and your kids both need positive role models, a support system, and physical interaction with others, and I feel like our current culture has been harmful to all of that, especially post-Covid. Parenting is tough. It helps to have that proverbial village to do life with.

Bottom line is, it’s not easy. You won’t always make the right decision. (And ‘fess up when you don’t. Kids are pretty understanding and forgiving!) Some days you will want to cry. Some days you will cry. Some days you want to send them back. 😂 (but only temporarily, I promise.) Some days, they are going to cry, and you will want to just hold them and shield them from the world, or give in to their demands, because you’re exhausted and it’s the easy thing to do. Wrap them in bubble wrap and give them what they think they want. But you know what they really want deep down? To know they are loved. Loved enough for you to set rules that keep them safe and mold them into good citizens of both this world and God’s kingdom. Loved enough that you encourage them to grow and stretch their minds and bodies through the creativity and fun that comes from being bored and spending time using their brains and muscles. Loved enough that you surround them with people who are good examples, who are an active part of your lives.

Parenting through the beginning of the 21st century has been interesting. It doesn’t look like my childhood, and I’m certain it doesn’t look the way it will when my children have children of their own. But somethings don’t change. That we love our children and want the best for them.

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