Boomer parents have taken flack for giving our kids too many trophies and too much praise. But the drive to instill self-esteem may have paid off when it comes to millennial moms and the grades they give themselves as parents.
Almost 60 percent of millennial moms think they are doing a "very good job" raising our grandchildren, according to the Pew Research Center survey "Parenting in America," released last week.
These moms rank themselves higher than both Generation X, with 48 percent patting themselves on the back, and boomer moms, with only 41 percent saying "well done."
No matter the generation, dads overall were a lot less confident about their parenting skills, with all three generations hovering around 40 percent for a "very good job."
The Pew survey noted that the "landscape of the American family has changed dramatically in recent decades," with "stark parenting divides" based on economics and family structures, and affected by divorce, remarriage and single parenthood. The massive report sliced and diced parenting in America, surveying a national sample of about 1,800 moms and dads.
Some key findings:
Two-parent households. A historic low of 62 percent of children live with two married parents. When it comes to living with parents in their first marriage, the number goes down to less than 50 percent of children. Single-parent households increased threefold since 1960, to 26 percent.
Economics. Marriage makes a big difference in living conditions. In 2014, 31 percent of children in single-parent households were living below the poverty line as compared to 10 percent of children living with two married parents.
Parental worries. Bullying and mental health top the list, with 60 percent of parents concerned that their children might be bullied at some point. More than half also worry that their children might struggle with anxiety or depression or that their child could be kidnapped. Black parents worry about their children being shot.
Parenting skills. Most moms and dads want their spouse's or partner's approval when it comes to their performance as a parent. What grandparents think matters, too, with 72 percent wanting the approval of their own parents.
Apparently, that need for approval has been passed down from generation to generation. About 40 percent of millennial moms say they praise their own children too much.
Many of the generational differences in the survey can be attributed to the age of children. But even adjusting for age, there are areas where millennials stand out, said Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Pew's associate director of research.
Two somewhat related areas are ambition and education. More than any other generation, millennial moms and dads believe that it's "extremely important" for kids to grow up ambitious. Millennial moms, in particular, also believe there's no such thing as too much involvement in children's education, from supervising homework to engagement with the schools.
Another area where millennials ranked higher than other generations: rating parenting as "enjoyable all the time." However, one aspect of parenthood remains unchanged over the decades: Overwhelming majorities say being a parent is tiring or stressful — at least some of the time.
Mary W. Quigley, a journalist and author, has written two books about motherhood and work. An NYU journalism professor, she is the mother of three adult children and blogs at Mothering21.