4 Ways Millennial Parents are Raising a Generation of Great Leaders

by Angela Pruess May 19, 2016

I don’t think I was the only one in my mom's group bracing myself for what was to come when an educator began her talk regarding the effects of millennial parenting.

After all, the term "millennial" is more often than not used in a less-than-positive light. I was certain we would hear about the shocking amount of entitlement, helplessness, and electronic addiction we were inadvertently plaguing our children with, due to our own unsorted neuroses. While entitlement and technology were addressed, I was relieved to hear that there are several things millennial parents are getting right. It turns out, many of the qualities millennial parents are imparting to their kids are contributing to the creation of a generation of great leaders.

1 | Parents are now placing value in the thoughts and opinions of their children.

With the idea that "children should be seen and not heard" far from their radar, millennial parents are flipping the script on respecting little humans. Millennial parents exude the quiet confidence that enables them to listen and validate their child when they have something to add to the conversation, including viewpoints that differ from their own. In doing so, their children are gaining the confidence it takes to think independently and be comfortable voicing their personal ideas with others.

My mind immediately flashed back to calling our kids inside for bed the prior evening, and the familiar shrieks of “not yeeeet!” that ensued. A few minutes of empathizing and hearing them out were enough to promote their cooperation.

When kids are heard and validated, they internalize a strong sense of self-worth as human beings and can then boldly and successfully move forward in leading and inspiring others.

2 | Parents are emphasizing effort above achievement.

Despite being the most educated generation in history, millennials know there is more to life than book smarts. Whereas parenting of the past overemphasized external achievements – such as good grades, musical aptitude or excelling at sports – parents are now tuning into and giving credence to process, more than results. This has made children less focused on perfectionism and more apt to focus on hard work and perseverance through roadblocks.

At the beginning of her first year of kindergarten it was clear our daughter’s perfectionistic nature was interfering with learning to read. As we progressively learned to encourage and praise "stretching it out" (apparently the new term for "sound it out") as opposed to figuring it out, we started to see drastic improvements in her confidence and skills.

Achievements don’t mean much if you don’t have strong character to back them up. Most leaders I’ve seen have had grit and guts in spades, allowing them to go forward and make some type of movement in their world.

3 | Parents are allowing their kids to work through struggle and setbacks.

As we hear more stories about college freshmen attempting to essentially pack their parents in their suitcases, it has become clear there needs to be more value placed on giving our kids space to work through struggles on their own.

While it's certainly not easy to stand back and witness your child encounter pain and failure, millennial parents acknowledge that they can’t protect their children forever, and that taking the opposite stance will in fact cripple their child down the road.

Millennial parents appreciate the value of allowing their kids to get through sticky situations on their own, and are thus creating keen problem solvers. It certainly takes restraint to not jump in and referee every squabble between my kids, but it is amazing how often they end up working it out on their own if I can let them.

The speaker that night noted that although kids seemingly have more stressors than ever, many children she encounters have unique and effective ways of coping with these inevitable setbacks, which she often is inspired by herself.

4 | Parents are actively assisting their child in discovering their personal strengths.

Many parents are realizing that personalizing the world to their child will create a false self-esteem. As a result, they're starting to find the middle ground between breeding entitlement and causing low self-esteem.

Many millennial parents understand that they themselves are not fully aware of their own gifts and talents, and that realization has impacted how they guide their children. They know that teaching their child to nurture and appreciate their innate gifts and talents is a far cry from showing them that the world revolves around them. No matter how much I want to see my four- year-old daughter in a ballet tutu, I know there is value in allowing her to have a say in what activities and hobbies she pursues.

Moral of the story: Millennial parents, you can take a deep breath. Take that internet trash talk with a grain of salt and know that there are many things you are doing pretty darn well, including creating some awesome future leaders (*high fives*). These leaders will change the world through their own inner confidence, strength, and character, and not just by threatening those very qualities in others.

When you kiss your child goodnight, know that you could be putting to bed the next student council president or future CEO of their own company, and who cares if they do it with an electronic device in hand and full expectation of a medal ceremony, they’ll still be changing the world.

Angela Pruess runs parentswithconfidence.com.

Angela Pruess


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