Gen Y and Z Forum A Hit with Parents

13 March 2012

Facilitator Charis Patrick (second from left) with panellists (from left) Elaine Yong, Jamilah Samian and Ahmad Fakhri Hamzah.


Everyone knows that parenting comes with its share of frustrations and problems. The good news is that many parents have come to realise that the best way to tackle a challenging situation is to seek advice from parenting experts.

The Parenting Gen Y & Z Forum organised on Saturday by ParenThots, The Star‘s parenting portal, was an ideal platform for parents to voice out their problems and get a better understanding of generations Y and Z.

For those unfamiliar with the term, generation Y and Z includes those born in the digital age and have been familiar with using smartphones, the Internet and digital gadgets from a young age. There are varying opinions on the exact years. Some say those born in the 1980s onwards, others say the 1990s and some even the 2000s.

Among the topics covered at the forum included discipline, the iPod generation, instant versus delayed gratification, sense of entitlement, and respect.

Facilitator Charis Patrick, who is a trainer, family life educator and The Starcolumnist, said she was glad to see a room full of parents on a Saturday morning.

The panellists were developmental psychologist Elaine Yong, as well as trainers / authors Jamilah Samian and her bubbly husband Ahmad Fakhri Hamzah.

Jamilah has written many books including Cool Mum Super DadCool Boys Super Sons and, together with Ahmad Fakhri, The Groovy Guide to Parenting Gen Y and Z. The couple has five boys and a girl and shared a lot of personal experiences during the forum.

Yong is a developmental psychologist and lecturer. She has been offering consultation to parents who face challenges with preschoolers.

Different generations

Generation Y and Z are children of the Internet age and cannot imagine how people would exist without it. Jamilah said there has been research to show that people from different generations also have contrasting behaviours.

“For instance, I used to keep a diary with all my precious secrets when I was growing up. Every day, I used to pen a few words and keep it under my bed. Today, however, children use Facebook to reveal their thoughts and frustrations. Nothing is secret to them. Generation Y and Z want to be heard and anything that upsets them goes straight into Facebook. It’s become a global diary!” she said.

People born during this time also have many more choices – from choosing TV channels to various eateries and fast food – compared to those born in generation X (people born from the 1960s to about 1980) and the Baby Boomers (born in the 1940s to 1960s).

“Thus, we cannot use the same parenting style used by our own parents a decade ago because there has been a huge transformation since then,” said Jamilah.

Instant vs delayed gratification

Jamilah pointed out that parents should try to address the issue of “instant gratification” and try to teach children to wait patiently for things that they want.

She explained, “Gen Y and Z are known for wanting everything immediately and research shows that children, who are not able to wait, become less successful in life.

“Parents need to teach their children about delayed gratification – when you wait for something and work hard to get it, the reward is more worthwhile.”

In fact, over-indulging a child is a big no-no. According to Jamilah, psychologists experimented on a group of preschoolers to show why “delayed gratification” is important.

In the study, a group of preschools were tempted with marshmallows. The children were told that they could choose to either eat one marshmallow immediately, or if they were able to wait 15 minutes, they would be rewarded with two marshmallows.

Some of them went ahead and ate the one marshmallow, while others managed to wait and were eventually rewarded with two marshmallows after 15 minutes.

“The participants who took part in the experiment in the late 1960s were again evaluated during the end of their high-school years. The psychologists found that the preschoolers who were able to wait for 15 minutes and had two marshmallows grew to be more successful and secure people compared to their counterparts who ate the single marshmallows.

Jamilah also pointed out that delayed gratification is important because it helps children not only to think more clearly, but it also reinforces self-control.

Focus on their strengths

Ahmad Fakhri added: “Gen Y and Z know that there are many options available to them when it comes to work as well. They know that they have choices.

“This generation of young people don’t wait for retirement to see their money or what they have achieved. They want to be millionaires when they are young. In fact, they are changing the working environment now because many switch jobs often to find better opportunities.”

However, parents have the power to influence their children and make them the person they want them to be. Spending time with them is an essential ingredient for this positive growth.

“How many of us are really there when we are home? We may be there physically, but do we spend quality time with our kids when we get home from work?” he asked.

What’s more, some parents tend to focus on their children’s shortcomings rather than their strengths.

“For instance, when our children obtain seven A’s or one B in their exams, we will focus on that one B. We would ask them disappointedly why they could not score all A’s in their subjects. Why can’t we see that scoring seven A’s is already an achievement?” he questioned.

A dedicated, and hands-on father, Ahmad Fakhri believes in devoting “alone time” with each of his children.

“If you know your child is having a problem, take them to a place you know he or she will feel excited about. I can assure you, they will open up,” he advised.

Use technology

Patience is also a virtue when raising children as parents must often change their perspective as the kids grow up.

“We must also familiarise ourselves with Facebook, Twitter, Skype and all the other Internet amenities to stay in touch with our children,” he said.

Ahmad Fakhri sharing some amusing personal stories with the forum participants.

Ahmad Fakhri also left the audience in stitches when he related a story where a mother had to use Skype in order to get the attention of her daughter and ask her to come down to dinner.

“All other possible ways to reach out to her daughter actually failed,” he said, laughing. He added that communicating through the computer was also a powerful tool to reach out to children nowadays. Ahmad Fakhri encouraged parents to connect with their kids on Facebook and other social networks.

He also explained that in his house, the family practises a few hours of disconnect (from their computers, phones and gadgets) to connect (as a family face-to-face).

In addition, the family also practises Edward de Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” technique to find solutions to problems and challenges affecting any member of the family. This way, they learn to think logically and creatively and as a family to resolve issues.

Different parenting styles

Yong was the final speaker and she focused more on the different parenting styles for younger children. According to her, psychologists say there are a few parenting styles that are effective and are more likely to lead to positive outcomes for children.

Authoritarian parents always try to be in control of their children. There are strict rules to follow and not a lot of warmth and affection.

Authoritarian parents don’t explain but instead tell their children to follow orders “because I said so.”

The danger with this kind of parenting is that children do not learn to think for themselves and have low self-esteem.

Then there is permissive parenting, where parents allow their children to do pretty much anything they want. The children usually grow up to become spoilt brats. Parents have only a few expectations and rules for their children to follow and most often they are not consistently followed.

Parents who are authoritative help children learn to be responsible individuals because they are taught to think about the consequences of their behaviour.

“Parents do this by providing expectations for their children and explanations for why they expect their children to behave in a particular manner.

“They monitor their children’s behaviour to make sure that they follow through on rules and expectations. They often praise good behaviour,” said Yong.

Questions answered

The Q & A session with the panellists turned out to be a lively affair with parents taking the opportunity to raise questions and get solutions.

“How do I deal with my 14-year-old son’s temper?” asked one single father.

Jamilah answered by saying that during this time there is a lot of rewiring taking place in the brain.

“The young man can become emotional and this is the time to have a heart-to-heart talk with him,” she said.

One single mother was concerned that her twin daughters were in the habit of sulking.

“Try to ignore it and speak to them later when things have calmed down. Children sometimes learn bad behaviour by accident,” said Jamilah.

Teenagers should be encouraged to express their emotional feelings because it can have an impact on their lives later. Parents must address this important issue when it manifests itself.

The forum not only opened new doors for many parents who were in the dark about raising children born in Generation Y and Z. They also walked away with a wealth of knowledge and more confidence.

The forum, held at Menara Star, Petaling Jaya, was attended by more than 120 participants. It was sponsored by Baby Jumper Gym, Eskulin and Ricola.

About Jamilah Samian

Jamilah has written 540 articles.

Jamilah Samian is an author and speaker.

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