Gen Zers seem to think they have it all figured out.
From red-flagging fashion faux pas like rocking a pair of skinny jeans to deeming driver’s licenses “unnecessary,” guys and gals in their late teens and early twenties widely feel they’ve got their fingers on the pulse of this thing called life.
But sometimes a little advice from — dare we say it — mom and dad can be helpful to the know-it-alls as they navigate the dog-eat-dog world, as a bold new study has found.
A December 2023 study on cracking the code to parenting found that getting teens and twenty-somethings to appreciate unsolicited advice from at-home authorities is possible — but only if it’s a two-way street.
Whitney Waugh, child and adolescent psychologist with Hassenfled Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, told The Post that this technique does work, but offspring need to be heard, too.
“Mothers and fathers who’d like to effectively support their child as they transition into young adulthood can do so by first validating the kid’s position on a specific matter,” she said. “Young people will likely be more receptive to their parents’ advice if they feel seen and heard rather than controlled.”
“Parenting is a lifelong adventure that doesn’t just end once the kid turns 18 and goes off to college,” she added.
Researchers from the University of California-Riverside determined that Gen Zs often welcome unasked-for guidance from mom and dad when they’re confident that their sovereignty is still being respected.
“When supporting autonomy, parents are expressing that they accept and support their children for who they are and what they are experiencing,” wrote the authors. “[But] when autonomy is thwarted or undermined, individuals feel conflicted and often pressured to behave in inauthentic ways.“
The findings — for which the research team surveyed 194 racially diverse emerging adults aged 18 to 25 — determined that youngsters of autonomy-supporting parents perceive advice, both solicited and unsolicited, as helpful.
However, aging kids who feel stripped of their self-governance often interpret mom and dad’s uninvited two cents as insincere and ineffective.
Waugh says thoughtfully listening to an adult child’s issues, rather than overwhelming them with opinions on what they “should” do, can aid moms and dads in sidestepping some of the pitfalls of helicopter parenting.
“Being a parent is hard because you feel every negative emotion your kid is feeling and your knee-jerk reaction is to jump in with advice,” she said. “But over-supporting children in areas that they’ve already mastered can result in a prickly response to the unsolicited advice.”
“It sends the message that they’re not as capable as they need to be at this stage,” noted the doctor. “It makes them feel that they must always be perfect and live up to [mommy and daddy’s] standards.”
And emerging adults with hovering parents aren’t necessarily poised for real-world success.
In fact, a recent poll of 800 employers revealed that most managers tend to avoid hiring Gen Z jobseekers — some of whom have asked mommy or daddy to tag along with them during professional interviews. A majority of the executives reported that the overly dependent candidates were severely “unprepared” for life outside of the nest.
And some well-meaning, albeit smothering parents have even resorted to arranging adult “play dates” for their kids in college, hampering the scholar’s ability to develop their own friendships.
“If kids are constantly being managed by their parents, they’ll struggle to reach their full potential as independent beings,” said Waugh.
Shira Kafker, a certified parent-child interaction therapist in Yonkers, concurs.
“The more parents and caregivers encourage growth and independent thinking while providing scaffolding and emotional support,” she tells The Post, “the more their teens and young adults will be able to tolerate and accept unsolicited advice.”
And even if the Gen Z doesn’t agree with mom and dad’s wisdom, Kafker says cultivating a family dynamic that respects a maturing child’s free will sets a foundation for healthy communication as they age.
“If children feel heard and understood, they are not only more open to sharing feelings and questions with their parents,” said Kafker, “but also to internalizing the answers and applying the advice to their lives.”