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The experts who brand us as parenting failures

There’s an old saying about babies not coming with a manual. If only that were true. It seems every time I look at social media, I read another article about how I should parent my child. I’m damaging them by shouting at them, harming them by not providing enough discipline, making them needy by picking them up every time they cry. And so it goes on.

The failed generation

Yesterday, I read yet another article that made me cross. It was entitled, “Millennials are struggling at work because their parents gave them medals for coming last.” Now firstly to avoid any confusion – millennials are generally accepted to be people born between 1982 and 2000. Although that timeframe may differ depending on what you’re reading.

The article – and accompanying video – talks of parents of millennials telling their children they could have anything they want in life. Status was everything and children were taught to put themselves first. Children were told how special they were and quite literally given medals for taking part – even when they came last. And the ‘expert’ in this article points out that this is the reason why millennials are struggling in work. He labels them as self-entitled, greedy and narcissistic.

And why has this person written off an entire generation? Because of the way their parents treated them when they were children. So clearly, parents are to blame for this epic failure. Well, I’d beg to differ.

A parent who does their best for their child is not a failure

Firstly, I don’t care how many ‘experts’ tell me that millennials are failing. They are wrong. A whole generation cannot be failing. In fact, people born in this era are succeeding in every conceivable walk of life. They are pioneers, leaders, scientists and olympians. They are parents, protesters, politicians and business people. Where there were no jobs available, they made their own as entrepreneurs.

Secondly, I am wholeheartedly against the idea that we should reward our children for turning up. I never felt comfortable with the removal of competitive races from sports days. It is important for children to learn that they won’t always be the best at things. Dealing with disappointment is an important lesson that should be learnt as a child, not as a teenager or an adult who is suddenly faced with failure for the first time.

Every day I read another post about the way I should be bringing up my children. And now I hear that those who listened to the experts many years ago are being accused of breeding a generation of failures.

And yet, I can’t criticise those parents who counselled their children in self-importance and glossed over failure. They didn’t wake up one morning and decide that this was the way they would parent. They followed guidance on the favoured parenting method of the time. Guidance that was provided by experts in the same field as those who are now telling them that they’ve created a monster.

So who should parents listen to?

Parents today are under more pressure than ever to do get it right. The ‘experts’ are still out in force, telling us how to look after our children. But now, they are everywhere. In an era of social media and internet access at our fingertips, parenting guilt is our worst enemy. It is impossible to get it right because whatever method we employ someone is always waiting to tell us that we’re wrong.

And what of the times we harp back to so fondly? The days of muddy fingernails and grazed knees where prices were cheap and children were wild and free. How did parents back then get it so right? Well I get the impression that in those days, babies didn’t come with a manual. Or an ‘expert’ force feeding you a side order of guilt with every meal.

Every day I read another post about the way I should be bringing up my children. And now I hear that those who listened to the experts many years ago are being accused of breeding a generation of failures.

It seems that back in the day, people parented by instinct. By spending every waking hour with their children when they were young, they became experts in their own right. They knew what was good for their own offspring, what made them happy and what method of discipline they responded to. When parents needed some help or advice, they asked for it from friends, family or professionals. Unwanted advice wasn’t forced upon them every time they opened a newspaper.

And surely, that is the right way to be. Allowing yourself to be happy and confident in the way you’re bringing up your children. Satisfied that your best is enough.

So the next time you find me agonising over the damage I’m doing to my children by not following the latest fad, you have permission to slap me. None of us are perfect, but we do our best for the children we know and love. And that’s enough.



  1. April 3, 2017 / 10:25 am

    I’ve just found out I’m a millennial (just) wholeheartedly agree with you, I hate sweeping judgements about generations. Though I do think participation rewards are a good thing, I think you should be rewarded for trying your hardest. However I also think they should be used in conjunction with competition, everyone gets a sticker for taking part but the winner gets a medal kind of thing.

    • April 7, 2017 / 7:14 pm

      Yes, it definitely makes sense to have a participation reward as well without detracting from the winners’ medals.

  2. April 3, 2017 / 12:58 pm

    A great post. It wasn’t parents who took out competitive races and medals for all. The FA have been advised for years that competitive matches for young children is why the national team performs so badly.
    They should be taught skill. Like they do in Spain.

    I know many from my generation who are work shy and lazy. Like there are from all generations.

    As you say it was the parenting experts who said that all this competitiveness was bad.

    • April 7, 2017 / 7:12 pm

      That’s true Alan, I think the lack of competitive sport is really problematic when it comes to our national teams.

  3. April 3, 2017 / 2:59 pm

    I’m always feeling guilty about something then I remember that I turned out alright and when I was little there was no google to look stuff up or ridiculous articles to read about how to parent. They just got on with it. Just need to remind ourselves every now and then x

    • April 7, 2017 / 7:09 pm

      Yes you’re so right, our parents did ok without looking everything up on Facebook didn’t they??

  4. April 3, 2017 / 10:58 pm

    I suspect blaming millennials for ‘failing’ is to cover the fact of the matter that we have ended up with successive governments who have created a situation where on average people are financially worse off in their 30s than their parent’s generation were, largely due to rises in accommodation costs such as rent and house prices. My parent’s first house in the 1970s cost something like £4K, which for a similar property now would be closer to £200K – wages have gone up since then, but not by that much! Is it a lack of competition at school in the 80s, or a massively widening gap between the ultra rich and the increasingly poor? But you know what, it is the millennials that are driving interest in environmental protection, social support ventures, ethical shopping, and other things I would see as being the mark of highly successful individuals, for which they are mocked in the media for being beardy weirdy hipsters.

    • April 7, 2017 / 7:08 pm

      Yes I am sure that from a political point of view there are many ways we can point the finger. I am heartened by the fact that the younger generation are taking more interest in the environment and it is very sad that they are being mocked for it.

  5. April 4, 2017 / 12:09 pm

    Amen to that! We all do what’s right for our own kids and ourselves and 99% of the time it works just fine. The way I parent my kids might not work on your kids or the kids next door, but that doesn’t matter! We are all experts on parenting our own kids.

    • April 7, 2017 / 7:04 pm

      Thank you Sarah, you’re so right they all need a different approach.

  6. April 4, 2017 / 1:36 pm

    Love this post. The parenting “experts” have a lot to answer for sometimes. Everyone is different, every child is different, every family is different. What works for one family may not work for another. Therefore there is no “right” way to parent. I have always parented by instinct and my girls are happy, looked after and loved. In their eyes I am the “best mummy in the world” and that is the only judgement on my parenting that is worth listening to! 🙂

    • April 7, 2017 / 6:58 pm

      Yep, they really are totally different aren’t they? It’s great to hear that you work by instinct too because I am always inspired to see how happy your girls are and how much fun they have.

  7. April 6, 2017 / 7:06 am

    It’s tough this parent job!!! You’ve got experts telling you what to do, other parents telling you what to do, and then you have your own instincts on how to parent. We really don’t make life easy for parents. I try and listen to advice and then follow my instincts on whether I agree with it or it suits my girls x

    • April 7, 2017 / 6:31 pm

      Yes you’re absolutely right, it is certainly worth listening to the advice and deciding which is a good fit for your children. It sounds like you have the perfect approach.

  8. April 7, 2017 / 8:12 pm

    LOVE this! I completely agree, being a millenial myself I am definitely in the camp where I was encouraged to do whatever I wanted, but there were no prizes. Most of what I tried I did well and I have carried that throughout my life knowing that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. However, when you fail you get comfort, not a medal. A cuddle and say that maybe a bit more work next time and you’ll win. I hate all the information we’re given now about what to do with the kids, lets just listen to our instinct, it works waaay better.
    P.s. that photo of Libby in the tree is gorgeous. 🙂

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