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In the 1950s, freedom gave way to control. In the 1960s, strict gave way to permissive. In the 1970s, improvisation gave way to limits. In the 1980s, engineering gave way to shepherding. In the 1990s, protection gave way to exposure. In the 2000s, choices gave way to options. In the 2010s, decisiveness gave way to negotiation. What will the 2020s bring?

The pendulum never stops swinging. Today’s parents are influenced by the decisions that shaped their own child-rearing. If your background over-emphasized responsibility, you’ll probably seek freedom. Likewise, those gifted with unlimited freedom eventually have to figure out how to be more responsible.

Today’s parents inherit the complexity of a society divided and unprecedented global dangers. Every generation has wondered about the wisdom of bringing a child into a world turned upside down. Famine, world wars, revolutions, economic depressions, and pandemics all provide evidence of catastrophe. Today’s polar ice melt and wildfire blend should be enough to frighten anyone away from conceiving a child. Yet, the world keeps turning and conception is undeterred.

Today’s kids are a reflection of this trajectory. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so we focus on the moment. Take care of the things that are within your control – shelter, nutrition, sleep, socialization, and unconditional love. Pack in as many enhancements as common sense allows: sports, music, languages, travel, and family experiences. Every day matters, so waste no opportunities.

Parenting will always have universal basics: build trust, set limits, and track developmental thresholds. But today’s circumstances demand a different level of skills. The stakes are as high as they’ve ever been.

If you are a parent of a child, pre-teen, adolescent, or young adult, consider these five tips:

  • Always prioritize unconditional love.
  • Pay attention to the subtle timing of development.
  • Don’t be afraid to set clear limits.
  • Address violations to respect, trust, health, and safety proactively.
  • Step back and widen the lens – there is always a larger context.

Parenting styles are evolving, but some things never change. Letting your kid ‘cry it out’ became ‘sleep training.’ In 2022, the key is the blend. Take advantage of the advancement of the science of parenting while leveraging the wisdom of your predecessors.

This is the ‘Epigenetic Principle.’ Every stage contains both the strengths and weaknesses of the previous stage. Both successes and failures inform the future. Today’s parents, like their own parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, are combining the tried-and-true with new learning to provide their kids with the best chance of making the same choices with their own kids someday.

About the Author

Steve Ritter, LCSW is the Founder and Executive Director of Elmhurst Counseling. He has served as a teacher, author, consultant, human resources director, health care administrator, and licensed clinical social worker since 1977. A fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Steve has provided coaching, therapy and team development services to thriving schools, businesses and organizations.