Whether it’s is no phones at the dinner table or no television after sunset, every family has a different set of rules. But family values also differ by generation—the climate your parents were raised in affects how you were brought up and therefore the person you become.
Do you remember 9/11? For many, the answer to this question clearly defines whether someone is a millennial or Gen Z. But it’s not always that simple. On social media there has been a recent outcry by an entire sub-category of people who say they don’t feel connected to their assigned generation. This group of people grew up with Blockbuster visits and manual pencil sharpeners in the back of the classroom, but were also among the first to experience modern technology like iPod touches and apps like Facebook and Twitter during their childhoods.
Not only did these children grow up in a transitional period, but so did their parents. The parents of today’s college students are typically Baby Boomers or in Generation X. Both of which have different values as a result of the life events they experienced. These generational differences affect parenting styles and, according to Very Well Family, have a huge impact on child development.
The Baby Boomer generation includes those born from 1946 to 1964 and, according to West Midland Family Center, they hold the core values of working for what you want, anti-war sentiment and personal growth. They grew up with the “American Dream” mentality that anything was possible through hard work. Emma Chozick, a senior at University of Miami, was raised by two Baby Boomers. For Chozick, these values were highlighted in how she her parents raised her. She and her sister were mostly brought up by their mother, while her father was a busy business owner—a typical structure of Boomer-led families. Chozick said her mother was particular about how she dressed growing up, which has influenced how Chozick presents herself today. “I think if you’re confident in what you’re wearing it translates to how you carry yourself,” she said, “You will rarely see me in sweatpants to this day.”
Among their many lessons, Chozick said her parents taught her “that you could be both kind and strong, it’s not one or the other,” she said. “I only recently realized how much value this had over me. Being kind doesn’t automatically mean you’re ‘weak’—that seems to be a big misconception. On the contrary, being strong doesn’t make you ‘mean.’ You can be both, and it’s really important that you are.”
Many other students have had similar experiences in their upbringing. UM junior Elizabeth Cronin and Robert “Rob” Walek both have fathers in the Baby Boomer generation. However, their mothers were both born between 1965 and 1980, making them part of Generation X. Members of Generation X are characterized by valuing self-reliance, diversity and balance.
Cronin said she experienced this balance of having parents from two different generations first hand when they would limit her screen time. “Both of my parents viewed television as a privilege and it was something that I would really only watch when the sun was out,” Cronin said. “I would never dare take my phone out at the dinner table, my dad would be enraged.” According to Cronin, this also carried over into her academic performance. Cronin said she would only go out if she got her schoolwork done first, a lesson which has carried through to today. “College can be so overwhelming between schoolwork and social life, but prioritizing school and then rewarding myself has been instilled in me from a young age,” Cronin said, “I like to believe I have a work hard, play hard mentality.”
Walek said his parents also stressed the importance of balance and getting work done well and on time. “My parents were lowkey strict until I was like eight, and then they were pretty chill,” Walek said, “They just said ‘don’t fuck up, don’t procrastinate and don’t be an asshole.’ I think I’m doing a pretty good job.”
Justin Ritzinger, an assistant professor of religious studies at UM, was born towards the end of Generation X and has two children ages four and 12. He shared that his parenting style is most influenced by his own parents. “I think most people don’t realize, but they slowly become their parents,” he said. While his mother turned to humor, his father imparted the importance of a strong work ethic and responsibility. “I tell them ‘do a little better than you think you should,’ whether it’s regarding work or how they treat others,” Ritzinger said.
Although he is most strict with his daughters about making sure they get their work done, he also tries to monitor the type of media the girls consume. “I steer them away from Disney princesses because I find the lesson of waiting for a man to solve your problems appalling,” said Ritzinger. Instead, he introduced them to cartoon superhero movies at a young age and strives to teach his children how to be strong and independent. “While I don’t condone violence, I think it’s better for them to think it’s okay to punch someone then get a guy to do it for them,” said Ritzinger.
With the rise of the internet, we are introduced to new information and ideas every second. According to a 2018 study from Pew Research Center, 29% of men ages 18 to 24 and 23% of women in the same age bracket say their political or social views changed in the past year due to social media. While parental values and beliefs are impressed on children from birth and attempted to be passed down, as we age, our own life experiences also shape the way we view the world and have an impact on our views as adults.
words_gabrielle lord. photo_maggie coughlin. design_giovanni aprigliano.
This article was published in Distraction’s winter 2020 print issue.