As millennials get older, more and more of us are becoming parents ourselves. And something I've noticed a lot when talking to friends and family members who have kids is that many of us are trying really hard to raise our kids differently from how we were brought up.
So I asked millennial parents in the BuzzFeed Community to share the things they're doing differently with their kids. Here's some of what they had to say:
1."We won’t be pushing a traditional college track for our children (currently 4 years old and 4 months old) as hard as it was pushed on us. Everyone in our social circle agrees that our generation — and particularly we elder millennials — were essentially promised a bill of goods our whole life that was never delivered on."
2."I don't spank my kid, ever. I have super-bad depression and anxiety like my mom, and it sometimes comes out as anger and impatience. I occasionally blow up on my son like my mom did to me, but unlike her, I apologize to my son and explain to him that Mommy was just having a bad-head moment and I love him."
"It kills me when I get like that, but I figured that since I can't always control it, I can at least apologize and explain to my son that it's got nothing to do with him and it's all me."
3."My parents' lives were so focused on making money and buying nice things. They were raised with the American dream in mind. I want to raise my kids to feel that nice things and lots of money don't equal a happy life. Happiness comes from experiences and how you treat people."
"The American dream should be whatever dream you want instead of working so hard to be rich that you forget what life is about, and you look back and realize how much you missed. Be present.
"The women in my family were also raised with very low self-esteem but high expectations for themselves, which was definitely passed down. I try very hard to make sure my children know how amazing and beautiful they are, however they choose to present themselves."
4."Allowing my child to explore what she does and does not like with food. If she doesn’t like something, she won’t be forced to eat it. There will always be safe food available at every mealtime, but I will not make her eat something she’s expressed a dislike for."
5."We’re having to be more internet savvy ourselves to allow our children safe access to the internet, in a way that our parents never had to be. There are so many additional potential threats now than there were then."
6."I grew up with very protective, old-school Italian parents. No sleepovers until I was 12, no sleepaway camp, and I couldn’t even ride my bike beyond the driveway. This instilled a ton of fear about the world around me, and I had to learn street smarts as an adult. My husband was raised the complete opposite."
"He was flying to Europe solo as a teen and flew as an unaccompanied minor at the age of 6. When we started dating, I was in awe of how he navigated through life. We are raising our children somewhere in the middle. We want them to be independent and not fear the world, but to be aware of their surroundings."
7."My parents tried their best to do well by us, and my childhood was mostly good. However, there are a few specific things I want to do differently. One big one is that I want to make mental wellness a priority. I was a very anxious child, but back in the '90s, when I grew up, mental illness was never discussed and was considered almost a shameful subject."
8."I don’t place so much pressure on grades. I just ask my daughter to work hard and have pride in the quality of her work, but also remember to still make time to enjoy other parts of her life."
9."We are a sex-positive household, which my family definitely wasn’t. My children have known the correct names for their body parts since they learned to talk, and no questions are off-limits."
"Communication is key. We believe that all behavior is communication, so we work to fix underlying issues rather than just focus on the behavior. This is particularly important because both of our boys are autistic, so behavior is their primary mode of communication rather than speech.
"We spend a lot of time with our kids and get involved in their interests, whereas I mainly played alone as a child in my bedroom. I love playing video games with my sons, something my parents would never even consider doing. I can see the joy this brings them, as they just love when we’re all together."
10."I prioritize my marriage. My parents never had date nights and rarely showed affection for each other. I want my kids to know that their parents are in love."
11."My parents were fairly absent and expected us to be young adults without giving us room to be kids. With my son, I have expectations based on where he is developmentally. We have also spent a lot of time modeling how to process big feelings and how to regulate his emotions in difficult situations."
"The other big difference is that we only 'correct' one issue at a time. If we’re focused on being careful with his toys and his friends while playing, I’m not going to correct his speech. Both are areas we are working on, but I don’t want him to get discouraged by constant criticism."
12."I have two boys, and I've made it my mission to let them grow up playing with toys without assigning gender to them. My oldest son asked for a Polly Pocket and a basketball hoop for Christmas. He loves playing with Barbies and Matchbox cars. I just remember, growing up, how taboo it was for boys to play with 'girls' toys' and vice versa."
13."Apologizing when I mess up. To this day, it is impossible for my mom to apologize to any of her kids because as the 'parent,' she feels she can never be wrong. I mess up every day when it comes to parenting, and every time I apologize."
14."My parents raised us in a scary Southern Baptist church that scarred me for life. We were there three times every single week, and if there was anything special going on, best believe we were front and center. We were taught that everything was a sin and would send you straight to hell."
"You got caught cheating on a test, hell. You had a beer at a party, hell. You were a member of or just an ally to the LGBTQ community, hell.
"It made us all scared to be our true selves. My siblings do not have kids yet, but I do, and I have the most open policy I can with them. If they want to go to church or learn about religion, we will absolutely do that. You wanna burn the black flame candle and practice witchcraft, for sure. You identify as 'they/them,' got it.
"The only goal I have for my kids is for them to be decent people, without the threat of burning in hell for eternity. Anyone will be good if they are scared of the consequence of their mistakes, but being good just for the sake of being good — that shit hits differently."
—Victoria, South Carolina
15."Gentle parenting. Why would I spank my toddler when they hit me? That teaches them that hitting is okay and a solution. They’re so young (3 years old) and learning to navigate big feelings, and watching how we navigate ours. We sit and talk about what made them feel the need to hit and what we can do instead the next time we feel that big feeling."
"It’s really tough not to act on impulse in the moment, and I do slip up. When that happens, I apologize to them and say that mommies make mistakes sometimes too, and explain why it was wrong of me to act that way. I’m trying to heal generational trauma and be the parent the younger me needed."
16."I try to encourage my child to try different things and to believe they can do well at anything they are willing to put their energy into. My parents believed in being brutally honest if they thought I wasn't good at something, and tended to push me toward either things they believed I was naturally good at or things they themselves enjoyed."
17."The thing that stands out the most is, I’m raising my kid to have a different relationship to food than I did. My mom used junk food as a reward, an emotional crutch, whatever. And then she got on my case about my weight and put me on a diet starting at age 8. My kid won’t go through that — we work on intuitive eating and not restricting."
18."When my kids tell me why they’re upset or scared, I let them finish explaining without diminishing their feelings or telling them they’re wrong or 'overreacting.' Just because they’re small doesn’t mean their emotions aren’t valid."
"As a grown woman, I get scared sometimes too. If someone was always saying 'That’s silly' or 'Calm down' when I was upset, it would make me feel pretty small."
19."Not comparing him with other kids. My parents compared us with others all the time, thinking that would 'inspire us.' No, it just created self-esteem issues. I felt that I was never enough."
20."I'm only having one child. My parents did not have the time, energy, or money to have four kids. I personally think I only have it in me to be a good parent to one child. I'm not having more kids for the sake of having more."
21."I let my son do things that he could potentially fail at or hurt himself while doing (getting minor injuries like a scrape or bump). Rather than keep him in a bubble all the time, we're letting him learn consequences and problem-solving. For example, jumping from a high ledge and scraping his knees or elbows, or attempting something he won’t be automatically successful with. Instead of instantly being able to do something, he learns to find his own way to succeed."
22."Talking openly about money. Growing up, we never spoke about our family’s financial situation. I remember asking my dad once about his salary, and he reprimanded me that I was being impolite. While we were solidly middle class and comfortable, big expenses like car repairs definitely sent shock waves of anxiety that I could feel, even if it was never spoken out loud."
23."We’re allowing our son to be emotional. He’s only 2, but he’s very sensitive, and instead of telling him, 'You don’t need to cry' or 'Be a big boy,' we want him to know that being upset or hurt and showing your emotions isn’t a bad thing. He calms down much faster when we talk to him lovingly in those moments versus getting upset."
24."Not forcing them to hug or be affectionate with family members. When I was a child, it was always 'Go hug so-and-so goodbye.' Just because they are family doesn’t mean your child should have to do something they aren’t comfortable with."
25."I answer all their questions. And if I don't know the answer, we do some research. I'm teaching my child that it's okay not to know everything, but also, we can always try to find an answer using the endless resources we have."
26."My kids and I talk — a lot. I feel that in my own childhood, there was still a bit of the 'seen but not heard' mindset. My parents were not super receptive to what I would say."
"With our kids, I try to find out their current interests, have them talk about their journeys in life; basically listen, offer advice, hear them. I have learned SO MUCH that way, which improves our trust levels and shows them they do indeed have their own voices."
27."I'm trying my best not to tell my kids, 'Because I said so,' and give them an actual answer instead. When I was a kid, I hated that answer. I always said, 'Give me a real reason.'"
28."We don’t do Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. We still give the kids gifts, but they know they are from us. My love language is gift giving, so I still love the excitement of the kids receiving their gifts, but they know who they are actually from."
29."I give my child options and chances to do something without being told, and it always baffles my parents. They never did that for me; it was always, 'Just do this because I said so.' For example, when it’s time to leave the pool, I ask my son if he’s ready to go and get lunch."
"He responds yes and gets out willingly, helps clean, and doesn’t fight. I was willing to give him five more minutes if he said no, but didn’t need to.
"The first time my dad saw this, he asked why I didn’t just tell him to get out, and I explained that I didn’t need to if he was willing to come on his own. He couldn’t understand but was so impressed by my son's attitude. All because I give my son choices and chances rather than demanding behavior."
30.And finally, "Taking care of myself as a mom. I make sure to get time away from my 1-year-old for my mental health. My mom told me she was glad I do, because if she had, it might have caused fewer problems in her marriage early on."
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.