What To Do When Your Kids Say, "OK, Boomer!"

Learn the roots of the phrase and why kids say it

Adult kid speaking with parent

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Has your teen, grown-up kid, or work colleague tossed the words “OK, Boomer!” in your direction? It may have happened post-argument, mid-conversation, or seemingly out of blue. If these words have been directed at you, you are not alone.

“OK, Boomer!” they snap. And, just like that, you have been shut down. As you search for a response or a comeback, you find yourself speechless. What does the phrase “OK, Boomer” even mean?  And, how should you respond when those words are said to you? 

Get prepared by gaining a better understanding of why Gen Z (Zoomers) and millennials often use this phrase. So, the next time someone tries this line on you, you’ll be "in the know" and therefore, in control.  

Where Did “OK, Boomer” Come From? 

Like so many trends these days, the popularity of “Ok, Boomer” seems to have its roots in a TikTok video. In November of 2019, a  split-screen clip was uploaded to the popular site, featuring a grey-haired man on the right, an assumed member of the Baby Boomer generation (meaning he was born 1946 to 1964), and a Gen Z teenage girl on the left. (Gen Z are born between 1995 to 2015). 

The guy says, “Millennials and Generation Z have the Peter Pan syndrome,” adding, “they don’t ever want to grow up.” He then continues to offer his opinions about the younger generations while the Gen Z girl makes a subtle, yet impactful, move. She silently holds up a note that says, simply: “OK Boomer.” And just like that, a trend was born.

How Did “OK, Boomer” Became So Popular?

In the days and weeks following the “OK, Boomer” TikTok, multiple iterations of the clip were shared, while creative memes featuring, “OK, Boomer!” made the rounds across social media platforms.

Not only was “OK, Boomer” a new buzz phrase online, but it also started popping up on merchandise. From hoodies to t-shirts, stickers to water bottles, millennial and Gen Z entrepreneurs were cashing in on the “OK, Boomer” trend.

Inevitably, the phrase arrived in the homes and workplaces of unsuspecting Boomers—or anyone toward whom the phrase is targeted, regardless of their official generation.

For instance, many members of Gen X (those born between 1965 and 1980) find themselves getting grouped in with their parents' generation on this one.

Why Do Kids Say “OK, Boomer”? 

No matter when or how this phrase gets used, it’s bound to spark some kind of reaction. Stirring up your emotions is likely part of the plan of the people who use the phrase. Zoomers and millennials may use the phrase to shock you or completely silence you, shutting down what you're saying. 

But the phrase isn't always used for the same reasons. Some have much deeper-rooted reasonings than others. If you want to know why it is being said to you, you might first consider the possible intentions behind the words.

Three Types of “OK, Boomer” Users

In order to determine the best way to handle a colleague's or kid's use of "OK, Boomer," it's important to understand the reasons they are choosing to use the phrase. There are three categories that "OK, Boomer" users might fall into. Have a look and see if you can identify which one might apply to your situation.

Type 1: The Change-Maker

These individuals hold the Baby Boomer generation accountable for climate change, the US economy, and the issues of present-day cultural dynamics. They are often disgruntled, maybe even resentful, but their goal is to fight for change and to make the world a better place. 

They aren’t interested in your tips and suggestions because they feel like you or your generation talks down to them. They also feel unheard, maybe even judged; like their words and views don't matter to you.

Unless you too want to create change or at least support their efforts, your opinion may very well be dismissed with an “OK, Boomer.” 

Type 2: The Silencer

These individuals are a lot like the change-makers in how they feel; unheard and talked-at. They too are resistant to your ideas and suggestions because they feel like you are not open to seeing them and understanding them.

Yet, these individuals do not have the same change-making goals in their sights (not yet, anyway).  They are just annoyed and they just want you to leave them alone, save the lectures, and give them space to figure out who they are and what they want.

When they say, “OK, Boomer,” it's likely coming from a place of frustration; with you and maybe even with themselves. 

Type 3: The Jokester

These individuals aren’t looking to cause a fight. They heard the phrase “OK, Boomer” and they just want to try it out. They may be instigating or seeking a reaction. They may not even know what the words mean; their intentions aren’t deep-rooted or even dismissive.

They might know what a Baby Boomer is, or simply that a boomer is an “older” person, so if your kids say this to you, they may just be poking fun at your age. Try to keep the interaction light-hearted; Laugh it off if you can. After all, the more attention you give to the comment, the more likely it is to pop up again.

What to Do If “OK, Boomer” Becomes an Issue

If your child or colleague’s use of “OK, Boomer” has gone past the point of a light-hearted joke and you find yourself regularly feeling annoyed, frustrated, or dismissed, it might be time to address the problem directly. You might try to:

  • Ask them directly why they say it.
  • Be prepared to listen; what is their reason for wanting to dismiss/silence you?
  • Explain how the phrase makes you feel.
  • Request that they stop saying the phrase to you.

If talking openly with them and/or a request to stop doesn't do the trick, you may need to take action. If your child continues to use the phrase, as a way to be disrespectful, seek out suitable consequences to help you get a handle on the situation. If your colleague is the one using it, seek advice from HR.

If "OK, Boomer" is making a repeat appearance in your dynamic with someone, there are reasons for it. If you can figure out the roots of the cause and find a solution, you can get handle on the situation. Who knows, maybe “OK, Boomer” can be the phrase that starts a great conversation.

By Shannon Day
Shannon Day is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, lifestyle, and women's humor. She has been published in several online parenting and lifestyle sites as well as in print. Shannon is also the co-author of Martinis & Motherhood: Tales of Wonder, Woe & WTF?!