iPhones, Forks, and Conversations

At one table a young mothered typed furiously on her iPhone using only her left thumb. Her right arm cantilevered out over the table toward her diaper-wearing daughter. In her right hand she brandished a plastic fork on which she had skewered a piece of egg. Without looking up she urged her daughter to eat. In a brilliant demonstration of reciprocity, the daughter ignored her mother and the forkful of egg, and instead danced happily on the bench. And so it went until the mother collected the breakfast carnage so the little girl could “finish it in the car.”

At another table, an older father was sitting with his late teen daughter. He spoke fondly to her, almost doting her. At one point he asked, “Can you carry the bagel and drink, or do you need help?” They looked at each other as the ate and talked about what her plans for the day. No smartphone or other electronic device intervened between them. He held the door for her as they left.

How do we understand these different parenting styles? Different generations? Different relationships—mother-daughter vs. father-daughter? Different expectations? Different habits? And what effects will these different parenting styles have on the parent-daughter relationships?