parenting

Percentage of parents aggravated by kids nearly doubles over decade

April 9, 2014 at 10:11 AM ET

Image: A father and daughter
Sean Gallup / Getty Images
Pictured: Cute daddy-daughter pair holding hands. Not pictured: The 47 times she changed her outfit and the temper tantrum over getting her shoes on before leaving the house.

That sound of teeth gnashing might be coming from a mom or dad near you as modern parenting takes its toll.

The proportion of parents reporting aggravation has “substantially” increased since the late 1990s, according to a new report from Child Trends, a nonprofit that researches the well-being of kids.

Just 20 percent of parents said they felt aggravated in 1997, compared to 35 percent of parents in 2007. That number has plateaued in the years since, the report found. The findings are based on data collected from the National Survey of America's Families and the National Survey of Children’s Health.

There’s no single, simple explanation as to why parents are feeling more tense, but stresses related to busy schedules, work and modern technology are likely factors, said David Murphey, a senior research scientist at Child Trends and one of the authors of the report.

“The American family has changed in some significant ways in recent years… we have more single parents, we have more dual-income families,” Murphey told TODAY Moms.

“Parents feel distracted from the job of parenting by the need to constantly be checking on their email, or other electronic devices, as well as monitor their kids’ use of these devices.”

Shell Roush, a mom of three boys who lives in Jacksonville, N.C., thinks parents are doing more and are in a bigger rush now than ever before. She finds herself bombarded by social media posts about all the activities other people’s kids participate in and their accomplishments.

“There's much more noise out there telling parents what all we should be doing,” Roush said.

“Pinterest and blogs show you millions of different projects you could be doing with your kids or fancy meals you could be making… If you let the pressure of trying to keep up with other families get to you, aggravation is a normal reaction since none of us can actually do it all.”

Fifteen years ago, the only way to know what other families were up to was to actually talk to them at school, the playground or on the phone, Roush pointed out. But now, you just see everyone's highlights on Facebook.

Amy McCready, who has been coaching parents for a decade, said the report’s findings reflect what she sees in her practice: Families are more frustrated with the job of parenting than in the past.

“Parents are feeling less in control — I think that’s a big piece of it,” said McCready, a TODAY Moms contributor and author of “If I Have to Tell You One More Time...”

She believes parents are more aggravated because they’re stretched too thin, the pace of family life is faster than ever, social media is taking the concept of “keeping up with the Joneses” to a whole new level, and kids are part of “an on-demand generation.”

Video: Psychiatrist Ish Major and writer Alli Worthington discuss a new study that found more parents are aggravated by their kids’ busy schedules, modern technology and different values than when they grew up.

“They have technology at their fingertips and just like they watch their favorite shows on demand — that carries over to their everyday life. So when kids want something, they want it now and they expect to get it. That’s aggravating for parents,” McCready said.

One of the best ways parents can improve their kids’ behavior is to spend 10 to 15 minutes with them one-on-one every day, giving them undivided attention and disconnecting from technology for that time, she added.

Meanwhile, parents who experience aggravation can be more harsh with their children, which could lead to child mistreatment in some cases, Murphey noted. So he believes one of the lessons of the report is that parents need to find ways to reduce stress and ask for help when they need it.

“Parents sometimes forget that they not only need to take good care of their children, but in order to be the best parents they can be, they need to take care of themselves,” Murphey said.

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