Risky Business

The evolution of parenting

“I want to protect them, but I want them to learn to be able to protect themselves too”
(Gen X dad, Focus Group, March 2012)


  • Parents’ response to their own, perhaps less-indulgent, childhoods (latch-key, divorce, etc.)
  • Focus was on happiness, self-esteem; “everyone’s a winner”


  • Parents’ response to enhanced awareness of threats – real or perceived
  • Focus was on safety, security, eliminating harm


  • Parents’ response to uncertainty and risk (economic, globalization, etc.)
  • Focus is on ensuring their kids acquire the many skills necessary to be successful in the future

A recent New York Times story featured a toddler in what appeared to be a pint-sized Hazmat suit with the headline, “Is it safe to play yet?” and went on to describe the extreme lengths some parents are going to in an attempt to detoxify their homes.

In our SCAN findings we’ve noticed a further evolution of protecting children – to a stronger focus on preparing them. The Great Recession accelerated the impact of the intersection of two major and growing trends:

  1. Child-centeredness: 80% of Americans agree that “once you have a child, your own needs come second.”
  2. Risk-averseness: 67% of all adults agree that “I’m looking for ways to reduce risk – to make everything a bit safer for me and my loved ones.”

Now risk-aversion, child-centeredness and protection have combined and evolved to include preparing children to be able to navigate the unpredictable, competitive life ahead.

Or, as the dad in our focus group session said: prepare them to protect themselves. And when it comes to play these days, parents are likely to be wondering, “Is this toy, game, or activity preparing my child?”

Business Implications: The evolution of the parent-consumer raises the bar on brand and product expectations. Fun still matters but it’s the price of admission. Now parents are looking for fun+. Are you helping parents in their quest to prepare their child – mentally, physically, socially?

Comments, questions, or just want to discuss this topic? Call or e-mail us anytime.



Comments are closed.