Are digital natives doomed to a life in the shadow of their parents?

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Photo: JefferyTurner(Flickr) 

This week I came across a very provocative article in Forbes about the apparent co-dependency between baby boomer parents and their adult children referred to as “entitled Millennials”.  The article pointed out how parents are inextricably linked to children in ways that could be considered micro-managing or “helicopter parenting.”  The author, Maureen Henderson, cited a case where a University of Cincinnati student secured a restraining order against her parents who monitored all her communications and decisions with tracking software.

I asked my friend and colleague, Peggy Harper Lee, to comment. She is a financial planner who became an expert on the entitlement culture as many of her clients’ money issues were parenting issues.

Peggy Harper Lee, author of, Spoiled: Fresh Ideas for Parenting Entitled Children at Any Age (2012)

You can see her response to this article here in my Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column and her blog post here.



And so now here are my two cents:

I am a mom of two grown sons (22 and 28) and my journalism is focused on what it means to grow up in a cyber powered world and the new demands on parenting.

Through all the personal experience, research, writing, conversations and presentations, my mission is to encourage parents to help children be self governing at early ages, because their personal security and capacity to lead an abundant life is a matter of thinking for themselves and making good decisions about on-line connections and off-line relationships, and most importantly, what to believe are the possibilities for their future.

And let me be clear that when I refer to encouraging kids to be self governing at early ages, I don’t mean blindly following rules about what to do and not to do.

I came across a December blog post from a parent who was disappointed in the media usage trends reported by the federal government that indicated kids who had technology rules were less likely to explore on-line. He expressed concern to strike a balance that enabled children to use the technology responsibly and take initiative.

This parent makes a good point.

There is a danger that a hyper focus on rules and micro-management can clip children’s wings to think for themselves and explore.

With respect to the problem of adult parent-child relationships presented by Henderson, we are responding to the challenges of our time in ways that make us feel like we have more control over circumstances and outcomes.  For the Millennials, it is especially challenging because they are in some ways facing a blank sheet of paper (as the old economy transforms into a new economy), which can give a person writer’s block – especially if you have been conditioned to think college leads to one career and then you are set for life. Not so. These times of change are ripe for entrepreneurial thinking that does not necessarily involve a corporate ladder. So much possibility is uncharted territory. It can be daunting to face depending upon your perspective and expectations.

(Note: For more about entrepreneurial thinking, see Marie Hall’s blog: Contemplate to Educate.     Founder of BeMoneySmartUSA,Marie is a financial literacy expert who trains teens about earning, budgeting and creating wealth. She also launched farmers markets in the Sacramento Region which is run by teens hired from her training workshops).

Marie Hall, Executive Director BeMoneySmartUSA


The danger as I see it is not that we are sharing homes, or helping out one another financially. The real danger is in where we believe the power lies to make our future. If we allow our children to believe that it is someone else’s job to create or find them a job; that there is some provision that someone is withholding, then this “entitlement mentality” will indeed  be crippling for us all.

Lee asks a good question in her blog post: Are we straying outside the “parenting lane” of our life into the life path of our children? When we provide for everything, as if they are the customer, how is this really benefiting the child? I agree with Lee that we can decide to make mindful changes. And not out of fear or shame. Rather we can make mindful changes as an expression of confidence in the individual to lead their own life. God has given us intelligent life with individual will so we can each one of us have a life. Our job as parents is to train them to learn to exercise that free will responsibly and learn from experience.

Sometimes parents need a wake up call.

Joanna Jullien
Photo: Christi Benz

Paradigms of “old good” (politics, jobs and careers) and “new good” (the creative product of the next generation) are a dynamic blur. Certainly the family dynamic in this social and social and economic transition also known as “The Great Recession” is different from the previous 40 years. As Henderson describes, the adult parent-child lives are more intertwined than that of previous generations – partly to weather the tough times.  And we are also seeing an interesting dynamic of adult child-parent cohabitation and collaboration as we respond to the needs of a large, aging baby boom generation.

But still the co-dependent thing is not productive in the long run – so I do appreciate why the University of Cincinnati student felt compelled to get a court order in order to get her parents to back off.

I for one am looking forward to what this Millennial generation will create.  I pray they will look up to God and be inspired by new possibilities, rather than clinging to what was possible on their parent’s dime.

Joanna Jullien is an author and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM, Tuesdays.

For more about relating inherent authority to your children, go to The Authority In Me now available on Kindle.


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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.