Therapist's Accidental 'Social Experiment' Reveals The Difference Between Millennial & Boomer Parents

She posted a simple video about parental accountability. The difference in response between Millennials and Boomers couldn't be more stark.

Therapist discussing the difference between millennial and boomer parents @stephanne221 / TikTok

Everywhere you look, parenting is undergoing something of a generational shift, with many millennials' difficult childhood experiences giving way to vastly different approaches to child-rearing than their Boomer parents took with them. 

With it has also come skyrocketing rates of parental estrangement, and a therapist's recent experience online gives a glimpse into why.

A therapist's recent 'experiment' inadvertently revealed a stark difference between millennial and boomer parents.

TikToker @stephanne221, known as Steph the Attachment Therapist, recently posted a pointed video detailing "the most important thing I've learned from boomer parents as a family therapist." The lesson, she said, is simple: "the price of not taking accountability is isolation."




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That will certainly resonate with many children of boomer parents — getting belligerent pushback, denial and sometimes outright estrangement in return for asking your parent to hear you out about the ways your childhood may have been difficult is practically a rite of passage for millennials nowadays, and it's fueling an unprecedented wave of family's severing ties.


It's understandable why boomer parents would have adverse reactions to their children's confrontations. No one wants to be told they've done a less than stellar job at anything they've put heart and soul into, let alone raising a child.

Still, we are all human and we all make mistakes, and shutting down when asked to work through yours — to take accountability, as Steph said, no matter how painful it may be — gives a relationship nowhere to go. And while it saves a parent the agony of having to face their mistakes, Steph explained, "it's a relationship-destroying behavior."

Lest you think Steph only takes boomer parents to tasks, days before she had posted a terse callout of millennial parents as well, specifically about how their addiction to and reliance on their phones is likely impacting their parenting and causing problems for their children.




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The starkly different responses to the videos turned into an 'accidental social experiement' about the difference between millennial and boomer parents.

"I didn't intend to do this," Steph said in her follow-up video. "I accidentally conducted a social experiment in my comments sections, and the results are hilarious and also tragic."



"Look how [millennials] responded to this feedback," she said, holding up a series of screenshotted comments from her video taking millennial parents to task for their phone usage.


Each comment was thoughtful, with many thanking Steph for calling out the mistakes their making, and making them feel empowered to change. Even one person who didn't like Steph's video was respectful and offered a suggestion on how to make it more helpful.

"And now for the boomer parents," Steph said, making a disappointed face. Sure enough, the difference couldn't be more drastic — the Boomers were angry, defensive, accusatory, in some case all three. "So, yeah, lots of defensiveness, some attacking, some name calling, some changing the topic," Steph reported. 

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"Here's the sad part, though. The way that these boomer parents responded to me and other adult children in the comment section is a window into how they responded to their own adult children when their children came to them with feedback and pain. Did you also use the strategy of dismissing them, name-calling them, making these passive aggressive threats, and changing the topic with your own child?"


I have personal experience with this with my own boomer parents. With no desire to denigrate them, it was at times breath-taking to see the obliviousness with which they handled the situation.

In one conversation, my mother poured her heart out about how dismissive and invalidating her own mother was, and in the next breath dismissed and invalidated every issue I brought up to her. It was disorienting and left us nowhere to go, and the more I tried, the more she began to insist on estrangement. 

In time she reached out to say that she now understood how poorly she handled things, but our relationship has never recovered, because I sense her guilt and angst over the matter has made distance easier for her to bear.


In the end, my mom is a self-imposed victim of precisely the situation Steph described in her video. "To take accountability as a parent means facing the question, am I a bad parent?" she said. "And that is a horrifying question to have to face."

My mom, like so many boomer parents, simply chose not to face it at all.

Steph went on to give some advice to boomer parents who may be struggling with these situations and emotions. "If you're a boomer and you're watching this saying like... can I do this? The answer is if you want to, then yes. If you do the work of going through the scary process of navigating your feelings so that you can show up emotionally for your child—I'm not saying it's a guarantee. This is not of promise. [But] it's the only option you have."

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.