Why Generation Alpha kids are being compared to the honey badger: 'A level of confidence that could be considered delusional'

 What parents and researchers say about Generation Alpha honey badger kids

What are parents and researchers saying about Generation Alpha? (Getty Images)

Holly Bennett's 5-year-old, MB, isn't scared of zombies, towering playground structures or giant animals. She also can't watch the movie Benji without crying out of love for the titular dog, and once attempted to resuscitate a dead mouse the cat killed. Described by Bennett as fiery and radiating "main character energy with a level of confidence that could be considered delusional," MB is what her mom and other parents recognize as a Generation Alpha "honey badger."

Renowned for its tenacity, the actual honey badger is an animal with a reputation for confronting almost any other species when there's no chance of escape, regardless of the adversary's size or strength. On TikTok, parents are sharing viral stories and videos of their Gen Alpha kids — those born in 2010 or later — channeling the honey badger as they stand up to injustices and take a no-holds-barred approach to disrespect.

Laura Loray, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner credited with popularizing the term “honey badger” on TikTok, says she began noticing behavioral patterns online and in her everyday work. “There was something that was so different about them I just couldn't ignore," she tells Yahoo Life.

Loray says she lifted the moniker from the viral “Honey Badger Don’t Care” meme, which gained fame through the 2011 YouTube video "The Crazy Nastya** Honey Badger." The video blended National Geographic footage with irreverent narration recounting the animal’s carefree adventures, including invading beehives and fighting jackals. “That always replayed in my mind because this generation, they will tell you exactly what's on their mind," Loray says.

Raising honey badger kids presents challenges given their tendency to question authority and exhibit strong-willed behavior. However, researchers say these children are also highly empathetic, with a deep sense of justice. The quintessential honey badger behavior transcends typical issues like back-talk or sibling squabbles; these kids have been observed intervening in harassment, fearlessly standing up to strangers and responding assertively to parental disrespect (like cracking an egg on their head for an online trend). Here's what else you need to know.

Who is Gen Alpha?

Generation Alpha describes those born between 2010 and 2024. As digital natives, Alphas stand out for having grown up in a world where technology is omnipresent. Their exposure to a dynamic digital landscape has “shaped them into independent learners and thinkers who seamlessly navigate a world defined by technological advancements,” says Jenn Breisacher, founder and CEO of Student-Centered World.

As leading authorities on Gen Alpha, Mark McCrindle (who coined the term) and co-researcher Ashley Fell say the ubiquity of devices, an entrepreneurial mindset and their collective sense of empowerment are universal considerations for many members of Gen Alpha.

What the research says

Researchers note that Alpha kids actively prioritize and advocate for mutual respect. Their parents, mostly Millennials, have played a significant role in these developing attributes by reevaluating disciplinary concepts that promote parental dominance, guided by their commitment to healing from trauma.

Gen Alpha's upbringing has shaped their views on authority, fostering a strong sense of justice and ethics. According to Fell and McCrindle, they do not hold traditional hierarchies and power structures in the same high regard as previous generations.

Findings from research conducted by insights consultancy Beano Brain also reveal Generation Alpha is perceived as a cohort of activists and entrepreneurs who challenge stereotypes. And according to Breisacher, these kids “aren't ones to just blindly follow, and truly need all the information at hand before making a decision. They are truly critical thinkers who are making decisions based on what they think is the best outcome.”

In a recent report, customer research firm GWI highlighted Generation Alpha's strong emphasis on inclusivity and representation, often dubbed "upagers" for their remarkable social awareness from a young age. Key findings indicate that helping others is a top priority for 12- to 15-year-olds in the U.S., with over 60% committed to combating bullying and promoting equal treatment. Additionally, 3 in 10 stress the significance of diverse portrayals in TV shows and movies.

Research shows how modern parents, influenced by changing gender roles and evolving expectations, have moved away from a uniform parenting style. Millennials tend to approach parenting by seeking advice online and expanding their understanding of child development. This has equipped them to raise well-rounded, empathetic children with a global and diverse perspective. These parents view their children as “little people to be understood and guided rather than ‘blank slates’ to be prescribed and directed.”

What parents need to know about honey badger kids

Clinical psychologist and author Lisa Strohman says that when people refer to a child as a "honey badger," they often highlight traits like independence, resilience, fearlessness and a strong-willed nature.

“They're willing to stand up to adults,” adds Loray. And similar to the most fearless animal in the world, Alpha kids will “throw hands with anybody.” She emphasizes the importance of shaping the “radical empathy” that characterizes Generation Alpha's untamable capacity to perceive and react to others' emotions.

Researchers agree with the significance of empathy in the overall picture. “If we keep modeling [empathy] in combination with letting them have a voice,” says Loray, “I think there will be a huge pivotal point where we're going to start to see things progress in a more positive way.” Modeling empathy and actively fostering its development in children will help channel their spirited nature down desirable paths. “They're going to be much better off if their ‘spiciness’ isn’t left unchecked," Loray notes.

That "spiciness" is occasionally misconstrued as defiance, and according to Breisacher, it's crucial to differentiate between the two. “They are growing up with a world of information at their fingertips," she tells Yahoo Life. "It makes complete sense that this is how they would both react and behave.” Empowering Generation Alpha involves letting them express their thoughts, encouraging curiosity and fostering a growth mindset. “Giving our Generation Alpha children space to think out loud and learn right from wrong in those choices is absolutely necessary in supporting these traits,” she says.

Engaging in demonstrations and rallies at a young age, these children exemplify a transformative shift in cultural and political awareness. Recognizing this change in generational dynamics, there's an opportunity to influence their development, protect and empower them to shape policies and laws in the future.

To channel these traits in a positive direction, Strohman emphasizes the necessity of setting age-appropriate boundaries. “This helps them develop a sense of autonomy and confidence,” she says. Strohman notes that "honey badger types often excel when confronted with obstacles that empower them to utilize their problem-solving skills."

Of course, there's always a challenge. As she recently recounted on TikTok, Bennett learned that teaching her daughter MB about the concepts of consent and "body boundaries" led to the "honey badger" refusing to hold her mom's hand to safely cross a Target parking lot. “At times they have a level of emotional intelligence that a lot of adults don’t have," Bennett says. "But you have to watch them, because they’re slick.”

Bennett often experiences a mix of pride and fear during these interactions with her child. “They’ve learned how to take the knowledge and empathy as parents that we’ve bestowed upon them and weaponize it when it suits them," she says. "It is a hilarious and humbling spectacle to witness."

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