Does modern parenting ruin kids?

Because of how their parents are raising them, kids will grow up to be more entitled, less disciplined, and less self-sufficient than their elders, an overwhelming majority of Australian grandparents believes.

Most grandparents also think children are going to end up less capable and less resilient than their forerunners were, according to an online survey conducted in September by the Australian Seniors Insurance Agency and Core Data, a research and marketing company.

“The child is in charge,” says a 57-year-old grandfather from New South Wales. 

The survey was administered to 1,000 Australians ages 50 and older with at least one grandchild under age 13.

Nearly all grandparents (89 percent) say parenting styles have changed considerably since they were young parents. The vast majority (80 percent) say that parents nowadays tend to spoil kids “much more” than parents did a generation ago, and nearly as many (75 percent) say that parents are both “much less strict” and “much more overprotective” now.

“The child is in charge,” says a 57-year-old grandfather from New South Wales. “It can take hours for my daughter to go home from our house, for example, because she has to wait for my grandchild to be ready to go. He is not made to do anything he doesn’t want to do, and I feel my daughter and son-in-law have already lost the authority they should have being the parents.”

A 60-year-old grandmother in South Australia says that her grandkids receive new toys from their parents weekly, “so birthdays and Christmas are not special anymore and all the kids care about is the next parcel to open and don’t really care about what’s in the parcels.”

Indulging kids carries serious long-term consequences for them, grandparents fear.

Seventy-seven percent of grandparents think modern parenting is dooming kids to end up with a much greater “sense of entitlement” than their elders, and about the same proportion think kids will end up “much less disciplined.”

Almost as many grandparents (64 percent) say kids will be “much less self-sufficient” and “much less resilient” than their elders. Just over half of grandparents (54 percent) think kids will end up “much less capable.”

The survey also suggests that grandparents are playing a more important role than they used to in Australian families.

About 58 percent of grandparents say they play a bigger role in caring for their grandchildren than their own parents did in caring for theirs, and an even higher proportion—68 percent—say they play a bigger role in caring for their grandkids than their own grandparents did in caring for them.

When asked to name a reason why the role of grandparents has changed in their family, 31 percent of grandparents cite “work demands on parents these days”; 21 percent say “there’s a stronger intergenerational bond now”; 13 percent say grandparents are “living longer/healthier now”; and 11 percent say childrearing is “financially more difficult these days.”