The Collapse of Parenting

If you start to think your own kids are terribly bratty and poorly behaved (which all kids are at times) and that you’re doing a terrible job as a parent (which all good parents sometimes think), just look at examples of how much of society at large is doing things and you’ll feel much better (unless, of course, this IS how you’re parenting and then, well, you’re in trouble).

An example from an interview with Dr. Leonard Sax :

The Associated Press: What exactly do you mean by a collapse of parenting?

Sax: I wrote about an office visit with a 10-year-old boy who is sitting and playing a game on his mobile phone, ignoring me and his mom as I’m talking with his mom about his stomachache. And his mom is describing his stomachache and the boy says, ‘Shut up, mom, you don’t know what you’re talking about.’ And he laughs.

That would have been very unusual in 1990 or 2000. It is now common: children, girls and boys, being disrespectful to parents, being disrespectful to one another, being disrespectful to themselves, verbally and otherwise. The mother did nothing, just looked a little embarrassed. The culture has changed in a profound way in a short period of time in ways that have really harmed kids.

It’s much worse today of course, but I’d say that this sort of thing was getting under way even in the 90s.  I certainly saw examples of this kind of disrespect even back then.

Dr. Sax isn’t the first to conclude that today’s parenting styles/techniques are really harming kids and not helping them grow up to be happy or successful (by any measure). Here’s some of what he thinks parent’s should be doing instead:

AP: What types of things can parents do to help a child or teen become a fulfilled adult?

Sax: The first thing is to teach humility, which is now the most un-American of virtues. When I meet with kids I ask them what they think it is and they literally have no idea. I’ve done that from third grade through 12th grade. The high school kids are more clueless than the third-graders.

They have been indoctrinated in their own awesomeness with no understanding of how this culture of bloated self-esteem leads to resentment. I see it. I see the girl who was told how amazing she was who is now resentful at age 25 because she’s working in a cubicle for a low wage and she’s written two novels and she can’t get an agent.

The second thing is to enjoy the time with your child. Don’t multitask. Get outdoors with your child.

The last thing: Teach the meaning of life. It cannot be just about getting a good job. It’s not just about achievement. It’s about who you are as a human being. You must have an answer.

That first line about humility is spot on.  And it really could be said to be true of virtue in general.  No one cares to teach virtues.  It’s all about me, me, me instead.  It’s not new knowledge that leading a fully self-centered life isn’t going to lead to true or lasting happiness or fulfillment.  How sad that everyone seems to have forgotten that.

Dr. Sax’s recent book looks interesting:

This book cover image released by Basic Books shows, "The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups," by Leonard Sax. Sax, a family physician and psychologist, argues that American families are facing a crisis of authority, where the kids are in charge, out of shape emotionally and physically and suffering because of it. He calls for a reordering of family life in response.

 

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