There is very little new under the sun, but in the midst of some work a couple of weeks ago on a new business presentation I may have actually coined a new term for a huge consumer trend. As of now, “peerenting” doesn’t garner any hits on Google.

So what’s it about? Well, it’s one of those trends that is really hard for me to wrap my head around, though rationally I can see it clearly. Basically, more and more parents have stopped being uncool: as 40 has become the new 30, parents have become the new hipsters–or as Adam Sternbergher of New York Magazine calls them in his insightful look at the new mode of adulthood, grups. And as many have observed for a while now, Gen Y just doesn’t seem to require the period of teen rebellion that has been the mainstay of youth culture since at least the 1940s. They actually like their parents, and don’t see them as uncool.
The result? A thorough re-ordering of how we need to think about parent-kid interaction–especially in terms of marketing. The old wisdom was that kids would hate whatever parents like, but we see evidence all over the place that this isn’t true anymore. Parents are turning kids on to their favorite music, be it Johnny Cash or Death Cab for Cutie. And in return, kids are sharing fashion tips and Xbox 360 cheats with parents in a way that a Gex Xer would have cringed at. It’s not always pretty–I recall running into a lithe late-30s mom at Bellevue Square last year with her two tween kids, all of them sporting Von Dutch caps in different pastel colors–but it is significant.

This also has huge impact on family dynamics, obviously, and I’m not sure all of it is good. I was close with my parents, to be sure, but if only I had a dollar for every time Big L said “I’m not here to be your friend, I’m here to be the parent.” Kids still need parents to set boundaries and say no. Certainly some kids are happy to be “friends” with parents who give them anything they want. But I’ll happily take any evidence that our psycho-babble culture has actually broken some of the destructive cycles that fracture families and cause kids to put up walls from their parents. Parents and kids who enjoy spending time together and share common interests are bound to have an easier time talking frankly about sex and drugs–as well as rock and roll. (There is at least some evidence, though, that kids with perpertually young parents may have a hard time keeping up.)
At any rate, this is a trend I’ll be keeping my eye on. We’re always on the lookout for circles of influence we can tap into, and conversations that unlock new insights.
If anyone out there has any comments or examples, I’d love to hear them. Oh, and I hope nobody minds, but I’m going to start blogging on these topics a bit more. Let me know if you hate it–I might just need to spin off my marketing musings onto a new blog.

One thought on ““Peerenting””

  1. The Colbert Report turned me onto “Rejuvenile” the other night. Christopher Noxon wrote a book about Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up that is sorta at the core of the pattern you are spelunking into.
    I think there is a lot to discover about why parents are rebelling against the traditional parental roles that’ve been in place for the past century and why their children are ok with it.
    When you figure out why kids are letting their parents get on MySpace, let me know cause I’m curious at the outcome as well.

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