Boomer or Zoomer :: 8 Mistakes Gen Z’s Parents Often Make

It was a good morning. My teenager woke up on time (shocker!), got ready on time (another shocker!), and was out the door to get to school on time (biggest shocker of all!). In a good mood, she cued up her “car ride to school” playlist. After a few songs, she asked me what I thought of the music and I replied with some super-hip-and-cool mom praise of her good taste, which elicited a joyful:

“Wow, mom, you’re such a Zoomer!”

I smiled and laughed along like I knew what she was talking about, and then when I got back home, I immediately Googled: What’s a Zoomer? Whew! It’s a good thing.

I don’t know about you mamas, but sometimes I have no idea what my kids are talking about. It’s a far cry from the totally tubular, gnarly, way-easier-to-understand language of my teenage years (NOT!). But just because I don’t understand them doesn’t mean I don’t engage. Yes, sometimes they roll their eyes and jokingly call me a Karen, and even worse, I’ll get the dreaded, “Ok, Boomer!” But every once in awhile I get called a Zoomer and that’s a win.

As parents of the first totally-tech generation, we’re the pioneers of parenting in a pandemic-digital-virtual-world-gone-crazy. We’re going where no mama has gone before. All too often, engaging in a conversation with our kiddos can feel impossible.

While there’s no rule book for the “right” way to parent, here are 8 mistakes parents of Gen Z kids often make.

What NOT To Do When Parenting Gen Z

1) Saying, “When I was your age…”

Stop it. Stop it right now, mamas. Not only does this not help your cause, it actually completely discredits you. Rather than trying to get them to see the world from your point of view, try meeting them where THEY are. I totally recommend The Culture Translator website and podcast. Their slogan is, “Teen culture demystified,” and we can use all the help we can get with that!

2) Trying to be Their BFF (or BAE)

Let’s face it: you’re not. And if you are, maybe think about if that’s really healthy for you or your teen. Parents who believe the only way to connect with their teens is by being their best friend are selling themselves short, undermining their role as parent, and robbing their teen of valuable mentoring they NEED before heading off into the “real world.”

3)  Commanding vs. Collaborating

I know it sounds crazy, but let teens make some of their own decisions about their lives. It’s not that we give up parenting, or stop enforcing family expectations, it’s that we involve them in creating those expectations. As parents, we are most influential when we work with our kids. After all, if the goal is to successfully launch them before they turn 30, they need to learn how to make wise decisions. It may mean big flops and failures, but at least it’s happening on our watch when we can be there to coach them to make better choices the next time.

4)  Failing to Communicate

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.” The Cool Hand Luke quote was right: “Some men you just can’t reach.” But that’s not true of our kids. I get it, teens can be intimidating. Failure to communicate can lead to a massive negative impact on our relationships with our kiddos. And trust me, you DO NOT want them Googling information they NEED to hear from YOU. Keep connecting. It may not seem like it, but our teens do care what we think and value our input.

5)  Assuming the Worst

Confession: This is my biggest struggle as a mom. When engaging your kids in conversation, even if all the “mom vibes” are alerting us that something’s wrong or off, we must stay cool, calm, and collected. I’ve had some success with taking my kiddos out to eat and letting the conversation flow naturally, rather than conducting living room or car ride interrogations. I’m also working hard on asking more questions than making assumptive statements. Progression, not perfection, is the goal.

6) Sticking Your Head in the Sand

I hate to break it to you, but your kids are not perfect. The saying, “No news is good news” does NOT apply to this generation. We can’t pretend that just because we don’t know about it, things aren’t going on with our kids. Engage, mamas! You have to know them and their world, or you risk becoming irrelevant.

7)  Isolating

You’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again: You. are. not. alone. Whatever you’re going through, there are other parents going through it, too. When you bravely reach out for support, or share your story, not only are you helping yourself, but you’re giving permission for others to do the same. Set a weekly walking date with friends whose kids are the same age as yours. You’d be surprised at how many of the world’s problems get solved on the walking trails. Another option is to join a support group for parents facing similar struggles. There are many options available both in person and online, from church groups to community and counseling groups, as well as online groups.

8) Forgetting to Have Fun

The other day on the way to school, my daughter was telling the absolute worst jokes. I mean seriously, the worst. All I could do was give her these puzzled looks to clearly let her know that in the first place, I had no idea what she was talking about, and in the second place, I had no idea why she thought it was funny. But she persisted. And persisted. After a while, I burst into laughter at the silliness of the whole situation. And then she did, too. When we arrived at school, as she was getting out of the car she paused for a moment and said, “That was fun, mom.”

Zoomer win!

I hope these tips encourage you as you dive into uncharted waters with your Gen Z kids. They may be creatures from another planet, but they’re OUR creatures and it’s OUR job to stop being Gen X Karens and start being present to our teens and tweens who, whether they act like it or not, still need us.

Alisa’s 15 minutes of fame was as a news reporter just after college. These days, she embraces multiple roles – a mom of three (two teenagers and one who is #adulting), a graduate student at UT Dallas Jindal School of Management, and a freelance writer, editor, and tutor. When she’s not hiding out in the library, you can find her next to a chiminea fire on her back patio. She loves indie movies, eclectic music, random road trips, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, her kids, and her cat Jack Jack (although not necessarily in that order). She grew up as a military brat, residing in four countries and eleven states before settling in the Dallas area. After 20 years here, and with the help of her Aggie daughter, she can seamlessly use “y’all” and “howdy” in a sentence like a true native Texan.

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