· Published: December 2017

With the introduction of social media to modern life, it appears everybody has an opinion, even when it comes to how we choose to raise a child. The internet can also provide vastly more resources, with an influx of things like mommy bloggers. This begs the obvious question: Have we become better parents over time? We surveyed over 1,000 Americans who certainly think so, though they didn’t exactly credit this phenomenon to the internet.

To gather information about modern parenting, especially as it related to how our parents chose to raise us, we conducted a survey asking everything from how strict both respondents and their parents were (and are) about grades, how parents talked to their kids about sex, and even if they should subtly drop some condoms into their shopping cart. Continue reading to see what we learned.

Anything Mom and Dad Can Do, I Can Do Better

For the most part, people tend to overestimate their own abilities, and parenting proves to be no exception. In fact, a Pew Research Center study revealed parents of all incomes thought they were doing a good job raising their children. For example, 46 percent of respondents earning $75,000 or more, 44 percent earning $30,000 to $74,999, and 46 percent earning less than $30,000 indicated they were doing a very good job as parents.

According to our survey respondents, Americans didn’t just feel they were doing a good job; they felt they were doing an even better job than their parents did. We asked each respondent to rate their own parenting skills on a scale from one to five (with five being excellent) and to rate their parents’ skills in the same manner. In the end, 40 percent of Americans rated themselves as better parents than their own. Moreover, the study revealed a 12 and 13 percent improvement in both parenting skills and relationships with their children, respectively.

All in the Family

So what can we gather from this data? Across all demographics, people rate their relationship with their children as better than that with their parents. Women in particular rate their relationship with their kids as higher than anyone else, averaging a 4.2 out of 5 rating (with 5 being excellent). That said, men reported their relationship with their parents a little higher – a 3.7.

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway, however, is the role that sexuality plays in one’s ability to bond with both parents and children. Straight respondents rated their relationship with their parents an average of 3.7 and their dynamic with their children considerably higher – a 4.2. The numbers dwindled even further when gay participants rated their relationship with their parents a 3.5, but had a better relationship with their kids, seemingly, at 4.0. Bisexual Americans rated their relationship with their parents a 3.3 but perceived their relationship with their kids significantly stronger – averaging a rating of 4.1.

Better How?

While respondents felt pretty even-keeled with their parents when it came to cooking, cleaning, being generous, and making money, Americans were far more likely to believe themselves better listeners than their own parents. In fact, only 26 percent of respondents felt that their parents had exceeded their own listening capabilities.

Hopefully today’s parents really are doing as good of a job at listening to their kids as they claim, for this skill plays a crucial role in a child’s wellbeing. In fact, the Center for Parenting Education states good listening skills are more important than anything else parents have in their metaphorical “tool belt” due to active listening’s role in fostering a caring relationship within the parent-child dynamic. Their advice on being a skilled listener? Practice acceptance, be objective, and allow the child to draw his or her own conclusions.

Strictly Hereditary

When it comes to grades and drinking, respondents considered themselves more strict than their parents were but less so when it came to marijuana and dating. This may be due, in part, to relatively modern parenting theories wherein being strict and saying "no," are actually deemed inefficient ways to correct a child’s behavior. For instance, Dr. Leondard Sax offers a solution to parents where they focus more on the moral obligations of teaching kids right from wrong versus being disciplinarians. Some of his tips include making mealtimes such as dinner a top priority, limiting screen use, and teaching humility.

Moreover, Aha! Parenting adds to this body of research by warning people of the adverse effects of overly strict parenting. Some of these include: depriving kids of the chance to internalize self-discipline, learning that power is always right, and fostering a sense of rebellion, which might seem a bit counterintuitive, right?

Drawing a Line

According to our study, there actually might be one great reason to be strict with your children: respondents who reported a more strict dynamic also reported a better relationship rating with their children and parents. The relationship quality tended to increase as respondents and their parents became stricter. This played out the most drastically, however, with respect to grades. Relationship ratings were at just about 2.5 when parents were lenient with their children’s schoolwork. This could easily be due to the increasingly exclusive college acceptance rates, which may encourage more stringent parenting in this regard.

That said, other areas also correlated increased strictness with an improved relationship: drinking, smoking, and even dating followed this same pattern, just not as drastically as grades.

Promises, a treatment center, emphasizes the direct role parents play when it comes to forming their children’s attitudes and tendencies toward drugs and alcohol. If parents really want to help steer their kids away from alcohol or substance misuse, they advise parents to educate themselves about the risks of substance use, setting rules against it, and watching out for signs of use. As it turns out, these forms of strictness may bring you closer to your children (and parents).

Can’t Buy Me Love

When getting your family’s grocery list together, odds are condoms are not on the list. However, our respondents revealed themselves to be nearly nine times more likely to buy condoms for their children, whereas only 4 percent responded that their own parents bought them condoms.

In a recent op-ed for ScaryMommy, a mother details her very vulnerable and unconventional decision to buy condoms for her 16-year-old son. She bravely admits she cannot deny the reality that her teenage son will eventually have sex with his girlfriend. This mother ultimately finds that the momentary discomfort of throwing condoms in her Target cart is outweighed by the catastrophic effects of her son not using protection.

The decision to purchase alcohol for your children has appeared to remain fairly steady over the years. Roughly one sixth of parents had bought or feel OK with buying alcohol for their kids. Parents have often cited various reasons for purchasing these types of beverages for their children, even pointing to alcohol as a source of bribery for good behavior. Whatever the reason(s), parents tend to be making the purchase as frequently as their parents did for them.

Conclusion

According to the opinions of our respondents, modern parents claim both superior parenting skills and relationships with their children. Perhaps they may be overestimating their own abilities, or feel it’s easier find fault with their parents. Or maybe increasing resources available today have actually made us better parents after all – but, of course, that is still up for discussion.

Nonetheless, every family is different and has particular parental nuances that aren’t always understood by the masses. Whether you choose a more strict or lenient relationship with your child or even have no problem purchasing condoms for them, the odds are you know what’s best for your family.

Methodology

We surveyed over 1,000 Americans, all of whom had children who were at least 12 years old. Parents were asked to reflect on their own childhood, how their parents raised them, and their own experiences with parenthood to determine just how parenting styles had changed from one generation to the next.

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