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The collapse of parenting: Why it’s time for parents to grow up

If anyone can be called the boss in modern, anti-hierarchical parenthood, it’s the children


 
Young girl shouting to camera. (Stuart McClymont/Getty Images)

Young girl shouting to camera. (Stuart McClymont/Getty Images)

For modern families, the adage “food is love” might well be more true put another way: food is power. Not long ago, Dr. Leonard Sax was at a restaurant and overheard a father say to his daughter, “Honey, could you please do me a favour? Could you please just try one bite of your green peas?” To many people, this would have sounded like decent or maybe even sophisticated parenting—gentle coaxing formed as a question to get the child to co-operate without threatening her autonomy or creating a scene.

To Sax, a Pennsylvania family physician and psychologist famous for writing about children’s development, the situation epitomized something much worse: the recent collapse of parenting, which he says is at least partly to blame for kids becoming overweight, overmedicated, anxious and disrespectful of themselves and those around them.

FOR THE RECORD: Dr. Leonard Sax on the collapse of parenting.

You put your questions to the expert.The restaurant scene is a prime example of how all too often adults defer to kids because they have relinquished parental authority and lost confidence in themselves. They’re motivated by a desire to raise their children thoughtfully and respectfully. In theory, their intentions are good and their efforts impressive—moms and dads today are trying to build up their kids by giving them influence; they also want to please them and avoid conflict. In reality, parents are at risk of losing primacy over their children.

The dinner table is ground zero. “When parents begin to cede control to their kids, food choices are often the first thing to slide,” Sax writes in his new book, The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups. A rule such as “No dessert until you eat your broccoli” has recently morphed into “How about three bites of broccoli, and then you can have dessert?” The command has become a question capped with a bribe, as Sax puts it. Dinner at home requires polling kids on what they’re willing to eat; the options might include roast chicken and potatoes or chicken fingers and fries. You can bet which they choose. So parents renegotiate: How about sweet potato fries?

Cathy Gulli gives voice to critics of a story gone viral:

Parents in North America have become prone to asking their children rather than telling them. “It’s natural,” says Gordon Neufeld, a prominent Vancouver psychologist cited in Sax’s book. “Intuitively, we know that if we’re coercive, we’re going to get resistance.” For trivial choices such as which colour of pants to wear, this approach is fine, he says. But “when we consult our children about issues that symbolize nurturance like food, we put them in the lead.” That triggers an innate psychological response, and their survival instincts activate: “They don’t feel taken care of and they start taking the alpha role.”

So if the girl served green peas does eat one bite as her dad asked, Sax says, “she is likely to believe that she has done her father a favour and that now he owes her a favour in return.” Food may be the first manifestation of the collapse of parenting, but many of the problems within families are a result of this type of role confusion. In this way, what happens over a meal is a metaphor for how uncomfortable parents have become in their position as the “alpha” or “pack leader” or “decider” of the family—the boss, the person in charge. The grown-up.

That discomfort comes from a loving place, of course. Many parents strive to raise their kids differently from how they grew up. They say, “I can’t do the stuff I was raised with, it doesn’t feel right. I don’t want to yell, I don’t want to spank,” says Andrea Nair, a psychotherapist and parenting educator in London, Ont. “There’s a massive parenting shift between our generation and the one before. We’ve come a long way from when you called your dad ‘sir’ and when he walked in the house you would jump out of ‘his’ chair.”

The evolution hasn’t been easy, though. “We’re trying to pull off the emotion coaching but we haven’t received the training,” says Nair. “It’s like teaching your kids to speak French while you’re learning it in the textbook.” Parents have made it a top priority that their kids feel heard and respected from a young age. They want to be emotionally available to them, and for their children to be able to express their own emotions. “Kids have permission to have tantrums now because [they’re] learning how to manage feelings,” says Nair. “Someone said to me, ‘Are we seeing more tantrums now than we used to?’ And I wonder.”


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Parents also want a democratic household where each family member has a say about what happens—Should we go outside now? Are we ready to have a bath? Would you like to have the party here?—and they cultivate independence and freedom of thought in their children. Strict obedience used to be praised; now it is seen as outdated and potentially dangerous. Compliance might mean your kid is a pushover, which no parent wants, especially as bullying has spread from the schoolyard to cyberspace.

There are broader influences shifting the parent-child dynamic as well. Over the past half-century or more, the public has come to scorn power imbalances based on gender, race, religion and sexual orientation, and historic gains have been achieved in the pursuit of equality. Even corporations are now replacing pyramidal management with “flat organization.” In Western society, where equality for everyone has become a cultural objective and a constitutional right, children are treated like they are one more minority group to honour and empower. “Empower has come to seem virtuous,” Sax says. “Empower everyone, why not?”

But many kids are actually overpowering their parents. That’s the problem, say those working in child development. A functional family unit hinges on the one social construct that contemporary society has been working hard to dismantle: hierarchy. “You need a strong alpha presentation to inspire a child to trust you and depend upon you,” says Neufeld of parents. “If we don’t have enough natural power then we’re hard-pressed to [make] the demand or [set] the limit” for children. “The parent always has to be honoured as the ultimate person,” he continues. “We need to put parents back in the driver’s seat.”

Related: There’s no such thing as a naturally picky eater 

If not, the consequences can be far-reaching, starting with children’s eating habits, which might contribute to them becoming overweight and obese. Like the father in the restaurant, many parents can’t convince their kids to eat well. It doesn’t help that junk food is sometimes a reward for acing a test or scoring a goal. The message: healthy food is for losers. On-demand snacking—in the car, at the mall, while out for a walk—appears to disrupt metabolism and circadian rhythms, as well as hormonal balance. That many parents carry with them a canteen of water and a stash of goodies wherever their kids go is further proof of how much they want to satisfy their children, literally and figuratively. “I don’t want them to get hypoglycemic,” one mom told Sax while lugging a cooler of snacks to her car for a 30-minute drive.

Contributing to the extraordinary weight gain among North American children in recent years is a dramatic decline in fitness. There is even a medical term for it, “deconditioning,” which is described in the Collapse of Parenting as a euphemism for “out of shape.” It has landed kids as young as 11 and 12 in the cardiologist’s office complaining of heart-disease symptoms including chest tightness and shortness of breath. In fact, some hospitals in the U.S. have even opened pediatric preventive cardiology clinics.

While children are less active than ever, they do not, ironically, get enough rest. A common question Sax asks students is, “What’s your favourite thing to do in your spare time, when you are by yourself with no one watching?” The most common answer in recent years: sleep. That’s because children are too busy with school assignments and extracurricular activities to go to bed at a good hour, or because when they get to bed, they are on their cellphone or computer, or playing video games.

Related: Are we the worst generation of parents? 

This chronic fatigue may be associated with the rise of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and prescription drug use among children. “Sleep deprivation mimics ADHD almost perfectly,” writes Sax. In his experience as a doctor, insufficient sleep is one reason why kids are more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder. In general, “It is now easier to administer a pill prescribed by a board-certified physician, than to firmly instruct a child and impose consequences for bad behaviour.” Stephen Camarata, a professor of hearing and speech sciences and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University in Nashville echoes that point: “Parents say, ‘My child can’t do this particular exercise, they’re not paying attention,’ therefore I have to identify them as having a clinical condition.” A medical diagnosis might negate parental shortcomings or a child’s misbehaviour. “It displaces that failure,” he says.

Camarata worries that parents are asking too much of kids too soon, as he outlines in his latest book, The Intuitive Parent: Why the Best Thing For Your Child Is You. He points to the surge of books, toys and software marketed to parents of young children promising to accelerate learning. The ubiquitous metaphor that kids are information sponges has parents saturating them with educational exercises. “We’re treating them like little hard drives,” says Camarata, but “this idea of pushing children to the absolute max of their developmental norm doesn’t give them time to reason and problem-solve. It actually undermines both self-confidence and fluid reasoning, or the ability to think.”

Schools, too, have been focusing more on academic achievement than socialization. Sax documents how, 30 years ago, American students in kindergarten and Grade 1 learned “Fulghum’s rules,” which include tenets such as “Don’t take things that aren’t yours” and “Clean up your own mess” as well as “Share everything” and “Don’t hit people.” But since the 1980s, as other nations pulled ahead of the U.S. in scholastic performance, the primary objective of educators has become literacy and numeracy. In Canada too, says Neufeld, “we have lost our culture. Our society is far more concerned that you perform. Schools will always drift to outcome-based things.”

Related reading: Inside your teenager’s scary brain

That’s partly why a “culture of disrespect” has sprouted in North America. As kids have become less attached to and influenced by the adults in their lives, same-age peers have come to matter more to them. It’s a theme in Neufeld’s book, Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, co-authored by Dr. Gabor Maté. Young children “are not rational beings,” says Neufeld. Part of growing up is testing boundaries; little ones, by their very nature, can’t be relied on to hold each other accountable—nor should they.

“Kids are not born knowing right from wrong,” says Sax, pointing to longitudinal studies showing that children who are left to discover right from wrong on their own are more likely to have negative outcomes in the future: “That child in their late 20s is much more likely to be anxious, depressed, less likely to be gainfully employed, less likely to be healthy, more likely to be addicted to drugs or alcohol. We now know this,” he says. “Parents who are authoritative have better outcomes, and it’s a larger effect than the effect of race, ethnicity, household income or IQ.”

Mothers in a park. (Tyler Olson/Shutterstock)

Mothers in a park. (Tyler Olson/Shutterstock)

With stakes so high, authoritative parenting would seem imperative. But there is a psychological hurdle that people will have to overcome first, says Nair: “How to respect their child but also be the decider” of the family. Part of the challenge lies in the fact that parents don’t want to fail—at nurturing and governing simultaneously—and they certainly don’t want their children to fail in their personal development, in school and at social networking. These worries feed off each other in the minds of parents; that’s why parents second-guess the way they speak to their kids, what they feed them, how they discipline them and what activities they permit.

This is all the more true for the growing number of parents who delayed having children until they were “ready” with a secure job, a good home and a dependable partner. “People purposely wait so they can nail it,” says Bria Shantz, a 35-year-old mother of two in Vancouver. “That creates even more pressure. They want to get this perfect.” Shantz is, in fact, the daughter of Neufeld, and she has called upon him for advice or reassurance. That Shantz, who has a leading child psychologist in her family, one who helped raise her, can still occasionally succumb to parental insecurity, says everything about its potency: “There’s this slight panic. You want to do everything right,” she says. “Nothing prepares you for how much you want it to go well.”

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So as soon as parents conceive, they begin amassing a library of books on how to deal with the fantastic chaos about to enter their lives in the form of a baby; the collection grows with each developmental stage. They subscribe to online newsletters and smartphone apps that alert them on milestones their children should reach by a certain age. From the outset, parents are tracking how quickly their child is growing, how much they are achieving. For every expert a parent consults by phone or in person, they’re also checking in with the virtual wise man, Google. That almost never helps.

There is no parental concern too obscure not to have an online group devoted to it. Shantz is part of one focused on “baby-wearing” because she’s trying to decide whether a “wrap” or a “ring sling” would be better for her nine-month-old. “It’s the weirdest site to be on. You see posts and you feel guilty because [parents] are carrying their babies everywhere, doing all these things, having this connection.” And yet Shantz hasn’t been able to delete herself from the group, even though she keeps meaning to; nor has she been able to pick between a wrap or sling.

That pull and push moms and dads feel­—between caring about how other parents are raising their kids while rejecting the constant comparisons—defines this generation of parents for better and worse. Katie Hurley, a psychotherapist in Los Angeles and author of The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World, says, “We’ve been conditioned to question ourselves—to constantly look for information to make sure we’re doing it right. Because of that, parents are in a state of learned helplessness.” [tweet this]

So what are people supposed to do? The answer is so basic that at first it might seem unsatisfying: For starters, says Hurley, realize that “nobody knows what they’re doing when they leave the hospital with an infant. Every parent learns by trial and error”—every year of their child’s life, and with every child they raise. That’s as true today as it ever was, and parents who recognize this will shed some guilt and anxiety. Building on this idea, Nair says that parents must “have a higher tolerance for things not going well.” How they recover from their own occasional mistake, outburst, loss of patience or bad call may say more to a child than how they are in happy times. “We’re missing that opportunity, which is how learning works,” she says. “That’s how we become more confident.”

Related reading: How much risk should we expose kids to? 

A significant portion of Sax’s book is devoted to the importance of parents modelling traits they want to encourage in their children. Chief among them, he says, should be humility and conscientiousness—which run counter to inflating a child’s self-esteem and sense of entitlement. To that end, he encourages parents to fortify their adult relationships so they are not overly concerned with pleasing their kids as a way of satisfying their own need for affection. Neufeld also urges parents, including his own adult children, to establish a network of surrogate caregivers—relatives, neighbours, daycare workers—who will not undermine their authority but back them up when they need help.

And invariably, they will. “Parenting is awfully frustrating and often a lonely place,” says Neufeld, especially when a child misbehaves. In those moments, he recommends parents reassure kids that their relationship isn’t broken. “When parents realize that they are their children’s best bet, it challenges them to their own maturity.” It gives them the confidence that they know what’s good for their kids, and that they should stand up to them—this is, in fact, an act of love required of parents. They become, in effect, the grown-ups their children need.


 

The collapse of parenting: Why it’s time for parents to grow up

  1. This article is just stupid. Seriously, all the discipline books tell us we’re supposed to give our children options and choices, and we’re supposed to allow them to talk things out. And then according to Maclean’s, sort of, we’re not supposed to do that? But we’re also not supposed to spank, etc.? Okay, so, um, what are we supposed to do? Also, the more on-the-ball parents come up against those books you cite and realize they’re all stupid. You have to go with your kid. And if your kid wants to eat broccoli, but not too much, what are you supposed to do? Too much broccoli and apparently you’ve made the kid obese. As much broccoli as the kid wants to eat (3-5 bites), according to Maclean’s, and the kid is doomed to eating french fries and exerting and dominance over its parents for the rest of its life. Umm…seriously?

    • So the article is stupid, you disagree with it, or are confused by the article?

      • @LAF- your tone sounds a lot like those entitled kids Sax is trying to prevent.

        • @JENNIFEROZGUR the author sounds a lot like those entitled kids SAX is trying to prevent.
          I disagree with the premise itself: kids these days aren’t any worse than kids of previous generations. The author is just viewing the past with rose tinted glasses. This kind of juvenoia happens every generation, yet every generation seems to turn out fine.

          In my opinion, the author is just scared of change.

          • @I_says I’ve been teaching for 16 years and I must say, there has been a downward trend when it comes to respect for authority. It’s good to challenge it, yes… but there’s a right and wrong way to do it… respectfully.

          • I agree. I think teachers especially are feeling this “new trend” of questioning and arguing about almost everything. There’s a place and time for that but children have to be guided rather than given a free hand.

          • LOL, nicely put I_SAYS

          • If you think kids today aren’t any worse than previous generations – you clearly haven’t been inside a school in the last two decades. Ask any teacher who’s taught for 20-30 years if kids today are any better/worse than previous generations.

    • kids don’t need choices, they need structure and to learn to respect their elders

      trust me they ain’t going to starve if they miss a meal or two, they’ll eat whatever is on their plate eventually

      • “Giving respect to somebody merely on the basis of their age is rather arbitrary and, well, idiotic. Remember, even fools grow old. Age means quite little to me when it comes to judging the respectability of individuals (look at Congress, which consists of all adults). Think about this: Where do kids learn most of their bad habits? Their elders. Who exposes kids to violence the most? Their elders. Who decides to place an unsurmountable debt on the youth in America? Their elders. I could go on forever, but the point should be clear: Many — if not most — adults are not exactly the best role models and therefore young people should be skeptical about immediately granting them authority and/or respect.” Benjamin Levine

        Elders need to learn to respect and emulate the rational youth, like Benjamin here.

        http://www.yaliberty.org/posts/the-respect-your-elders-fallacy

        • Your point is well received Jared; however, one critical difference that I’ve noticed is that young people are being taught that respect for others, be they young or old or elders, has to be earned. In the past, I think the message was that respect was something that has to be lost, and of course the fool will eventually be unmasked and fall out of favor. These days though, kids seem to think that others need to earn their respect, as though the baseline is zero rather than one hundred. I’ve taught in classrooms and posed this question to students, and unsurprisingly nearly all agree with the former than the latter sadly. This to me is the issue with today’s youth.

    • LAF……perhaps you should read something you can actually understand, or re-read this article, meditate for a few minutes on what you’ve read and surely you will conclude “stupid” applies to your comment and not this article. I mean that respectfully and do not wish to insult whatever level of intelligence it takes to apply the word “stupid” as you have. Deeper into your comments are revealed the very resistance a child often takes when confronted with what is simply a lesson of future benefit associated with wisdom and common sense of a loving parent….

      • No reason to re-read, nor is there reason to waste time breaking down this article to explain why its off base when a simple statement such as “this article is stupid” will suffice.

    • Oh please. Read the Myth of the Spoiled Child by Alfie Kohn. There is no data to actually support all of this. On one hand parents are letting their kids amock, but parents are too involved and they should get a life. There are millions of parents and millions of kids. All types of styles. And guess what, the older generation has been complaining about the next for a LONG time.

      • Thank you! I thought exactly the same thing. It should be standard reading for all parents and teachers about to be subjected to a relentless barrage of everything they’re doing wrong.

  2. In one paragraph, the writer mocks parents for stocking up on help books and making efforts to educate and arm themselves with successful child-raising strategies.

    And yet throughout the article, the writer quotes a bunch of writers of help books: Dr. Leonard Sax, Gordon Neufeld, Stephen Camarata.

    Which is it, Ms. Brulli? Are these guys just your favourites?

  3. This is a great article. It is empowering parents to take over the family and stop expecting a child who is developmentally and emotionally ill equipped to run the family. For goodness sakes if children sprung out of the womb ready to run the world, they wouldn’t require parenting for the first 18 years of their life. They would move out immediately and get a job. There is a French book, “Bringing up Bebe” that teaches parents to raise children that aren’t a$$holes. It isn’t about spanking but it is about discipline and teaching parents that children who are spoiled treat everyone poorly including their peers and their teachers. It is a parent’s job to raise a decent human being. If a parent is not up to the hard work it takes, don’t take the job on.

    • I loved that book, but it was by an American living in Paris who couldn’t understand why French kids weren’t throwing wobblies all the time.

  4. This article is dead on. Parents are so overly consumed with being perfect parents who raise perfectly content geniuses they’re forgetting fundamentals and consequently failing at both. Sure, children need to be given choices, and you’re not going to get them to eat every piece of broccoli every time. But, we can’t forget that the parents need to be in charge, and you don’t need make everything a negotiation to make children happy. Children do better when they’re parents are confident and they’re happier when they learn to deal with not being satisfied with everything.

    • I agree. Children should be given choices and should have some level of control of their own lives: ‘do you want to wear the red or the blue shirt today’ ‘broccoli or green beans’ ‘park or museum’ etc…

      It should not be ‘ok here are all of your clothes, pick something to wear and I will be happy to stand here for the next five hours while you pick and choose and try on every single thing…oh you want me to cook a special meal sans vegetables just for you…well Pookie we can go to the park, or a museum, or a library, or the beach, or a movie, or, or, or…and I will wait patiently while you figure it out..oh you want the beach AND the museum today…both at the same time even though I am not able to make us be in two places at one time because…physics and stuff…sure no problem.

      I am the adult and I am in charge. If they are so capable of running the show then they need to move out and do so. Only two years old and can’t possibly do that? Yeah, that’s kind of the point..they are two and way too young to be in charge of almost anything and they are not the boss of Mommy and Daddy and do not set family priorities. At least that’s how it should be IMO.

      “Children do better when they’re parents are confident and they’re happier when they learn to deal with not being satisfied with everything.”

      Yes! If they are not prepared for disappointment and occasional failure, regrouping, problem solving, critical thinking, and so on one day they will venture out into the big bad world without Mom or Dad there to soften the blow and the world won’t give one little shi† how many participation trophies they got in the third grade. We are raising them to be adults not perpetual children…we should really do a better job of preparing them to take on the role of ‘adult’ when it’s time for them to do so.

  5. I think this Dr. is bang on. Parents are so hard on themselves today. I keep telling my daughter and others there really is no such thing as a perfect parent, never was, never will be and never should be. We are human. If a parent doesn’t put a strong leadership front up, children become insecure unsure and afraid. Two years old children should not be leading a family.

      • But, they think they are a doctor. All journalists have forgotten there oath once becoming a journalist. Really sad. This would never have happened twenty years ago.

  6. Having been through the whole rigamarole of 21st century child raising, I wonder if this problem, this decline in deference, isn’t some societal failure of parental will but just a demographically induced shift. The average number of children per family decreased from 2.7 in 1961 to 1.9 in 2011 – Stats Can figure. Basically, in a two parent home that’s a shift for parents from zone defence to man-on-man. With smaller families children don’t need to compete with a passel of siblings for parental attention, love and resources. And so our only children or cherished only daughters or sons have become like an entire generation of Last Emperors. If you’ll pardon the metaphor. Puyi had ten siblings.

  7. Parenting is not as difficult as our pop culture makes it. Kids need food, clothing, shelter, structure and nurturing. I spanked 3 kids several times each, “punished” them with no privileges or lunch for bad behavior, and also loved them. Sick of the excuses and current kids/parents scare me, as there are NO boundaries. I have raised 2 adults and 1 – 14 year old. Teens now have no social skills, no empathy and are completely self absorbed= scary adults later. My kids teachers and the janitor regularly praise me for having the best kid in their school – “how do you do it?” my reply – “I parent her.” I am also sick of excuses, I was raised by 2 addicts who made alot of mistakes, I saw the mistakes and worked hard to not repeat them. My generation are the worst parents – too self absorbed in an iphone to just spend time with their kids and not be a friend to them. Grow up people and raise some decent people with life skills.

    • You stated what you believe are the basic needs of children, and food was among those basic needs, yet you withold food from them as punishment? If I were you, I would not be posting that on the Internet and bragging about your parenting style.. that is very often considered abusive behavior and not an acceptable form of ‘discipline.’

      • If the kid wants junk food instead of the healthy lunch, they get no lunch – till they eat the healthy one!!

  8. Phenomenal piece that is reflective of what I have seen as a parent and teacher. Toddler to teenager, being the one “in charge” is terrifying and leads to pushing limits in the vain hope a parent will stop you. Very sad.

    • Having raised five children, all of whom are civilized, live on their own and get invited back to the homes of others, I feel pretty well qualified to remind people that the child needs a leader in whom he can be confident, and whose behavior he can emulate. I gave my children many choices–of my choosing. Thus, the child could choose to go to bed with the teddy or without the teddy, or eat the food served (in child-friendly sizes and types) or wait until the next meal while sitting at the table watching everyone else eat. Just as a good school environment should be protective and nuturing, so should the home–this comes as big surprise to many people. We put limits on running in the house, and covered sharp corners, but also taught the children that toys went back into the basket, where they could be found again. Oddly, those toys that never seemed to get back into the basket disappeared for a few days.

      Giving children strong parenting gives them a sense of their own value, and can act as a protective device when they are tempted to misbehave. My 16 year old daughter got a phone call to go to a party, and asked loudly if I would let her go, such that the caller could be heard. She also mouthed a big “NO way” to me, so that I could loudly refuse her permission to do so. “You heard my mom. She means it.” She explained she needed to appear to want to go, but knew it was a bad idea. Protective, nurturing, leading to independence.

      • Very early on I told my son to feel free to use me as an excuse: “No way my mom would kill me…she is such a bi†ch…”

        I completely agree about the choices based on the choosing of the adults. That is how I raised my son as well and he turned out to be a pretty decent human being. One time when he was 17 he was at the dentist getting his teeth cleaned while I waited in the car for him to get done (I figured he didn’t need me holding his hand by then lol).

        The hygienist walked out over to my car and I went into panic mode because why would she be doing that unless something bad had happened?

        She said (paraphrasing…it was a LONG time ago) “I just had to come out to tell you that your son is just the most wonderful young man. So many teenagers and young adults who come in here are rude and just generally miserable to work on because of their attitudes. Your son is so polite and well mannered and this is such a change from what I see normally that I needed to make a point of telling you how pleased we all are.”

        Naturally my proud mommy feels went into overdrive, but in my head I was thinking ‘of course he is, I would expect nothing less than for him to be polite and respectful…’ and then I thought that she ‘normally’ sees rude smart a$$ kids…scary. He was that way because we taught him to be and expected it and would not accept anything less from him under normal circumstances.

        Parents being parents…go figure.

  9. how does the live chat work? I would like to attend!

  10. I find this article completely intriguing. I have no children of my own. I have seen so many parents not parenting. Simply ignoring the fact that their child is disruptive and brash. I have felt like taking charge and correcting the child. I know that isn’t my place. I have a nephew and his kids do not act like these little hellions. I fear for the future with these children expecting that they don’t have consequences to any action. I was taught to be respectful to others. I have been a surrogate for many of my friend’s children. I think these parents weren’t taught manners or consequences. It does show results in the culture of the current time. I hope that these parents will grasp the situation correctly and learn how to dole out the discipline. The children will appreciate them much more.

    • American individualistic values are disruptive and brash, but I guess children haven’t earn the rights of Americans. What are children’s requirements for admittance into the adults’ society? And why must they be subservient to you, who are neither a parent nor person of importance? Adult prima donnas!

  11. As a parent of two elementary school children, I can relate practically everything in this article and honestly I agree with most of what the author says. But, I also think some of the issues stem from parents wanting to be their children’s friends and not their parents. Face it, sometimes being a parent makes you out to be the bad guy, the one in charge, but still a bit of the bad guy because they are too young to understand the reasoning behind your actions and rules. That extra piece or two of broccoli is important in that specific situation, but repeatedly negotiating food at the dinner table sets a precedence that’s very hard to undo. It’s a daily battle, but I’ll be damned if I’m making 3 different meals every morning, day and night! Pick your battles, sure, but you have to stand up to ridiculous behaviour and let them know it’s not alright, sadly you have to do this a lot to make it stick.

  12. Nonsense. Hand wringing to sell fear and books. I’m an orthodontist who sees lots of kids and parents at those difficult years of pre-teens through to late adolescence.

    I have two grown children of my own. I honestly tell people that I think I learned as much from them, than they from me. And overall, I complicated their lives more than they did for me. I’m also a former kid – the oldest of five.

    Being a kid and being a parent have never been easy. But in my practice I see more healthy relationships between parents and kids than in the past. I see more respectful behavior. I see kids and parents navigating the challenges of living in a world more complex than the one I grew up in. I see lots of love, respect and genuine caring. I see things getting better and not worse.

    By all means, read the books – even the ones preaching doom and gloom, and fear. But take them with a grain of salt. Love, respect and peace go a very long way – they always have – and they always will.

    • Agreed John. I find it difficult to read many of these comments that are bashing “kids today” as well as parents. As a teacher and parent, I see examples everyday of wonderful, caring, respectful students. And they are the norm!

      • Teachers create an environment that essentially mirrors this article, that’s why it works so well. There are rules, very strict norms of respect (rules like no hats in the classroom are a perfect example, using Mrs, Mr, Mz instead of first names, crowd management techniques, etc). Odd are you’ve created that environment which is awesome!

    • Odds are you see wealthy families with good jobs that have good health benefits and coverage. Not saying you don’t have a point on the sensationalism piece, just that your sample is likely privileged. I talk to teachers about these things, the article hits on a lot of points they see too.

    • I agree, parenting isn’t meant to be easy only rewarding.

  13. It is as if the dog whisperer wrote this…. I thought I was reading The Onion.

  14. What a piss poor article. Are you serious???

    This article does the very thing it claims parents do : tip toe around the real issue and try
    too hard to be nice & walk on eggshells while putting no real effort in recognising the real
    problem.

    2nd wave Feminism killed the family. It threw the father out of the North American family
    and until feminism recognizes it’s wrongdoing, parents (particularly single mothers and
    pussified feminine male fathers) will continue to spin their wheels and go nowhere as kids
    take control of the family & have no respect when there isn’t a stern father figure in the center.

    I’m sort of glad that kids boss these poor excuses for parents around because that wake
    up call has been a long time coming.

    There. I said the TRUTH. You can delete my comment now and go back to making your same
    mistakes over and over. IDGAF either way.

    • Is this sacrasm? Why do you assume only the man can be authoritarian? My husband and I are both authorities, and both nurturing. We both work, and both participate in household duties and childcare. So, what in the world are you rambling about? The fact that I work and my husband cooks dinner once or twice a week, isn’t the downfall of society.

      • Both parents, or the single parent, need to be both firm and nurturing. I knew there would be rude comments to this article… Kind of proves the self-righteous, entitled point, doesn’t it?

    • Hmmmm. I grew up in a family that was very “traditional” with my dad working and my mom staying at home. I have to say, my mother was the stern one in our family. My dad almost never raised his voice but my mother did a lot.

    • Honestly? You read that article and then came up with the brilliance that it’s us single mothers who are letting the kids rule the house? We single parents have to be both parents, maybe by choice or by circumstance, but I can tell you there’s likely more control because we know what would happen if we relinquished it (and we know that we are being judged by neanderthals like you).

      I don’t agree with much of this article. I’m able to maintain my kids respect and remain the ‘alpha’ in the house but still allow him to be a contributor to the household and decisions. What I don’t agree with at all is your commentary on it.

  15. This needs to be said and said and said again. And yes, a lot of people will find it threatening. My advice is to look at your kids. The proof is in the pudding. Are your kids peaceful, kind and industrious? Because they could be. Mine are. And I tell them to eat their broccoli.

    • I’ve never told my 3yo son to eat his broccoli, I’ve never had to because he likes it. Guess that makes me the best parent ever! He likes all kinds of vegetables green beans, corn, broccoli, carrots and so on. There’s also a mountain of stuff he doesn’t like to eat and all I ask is he try stuff. I don’t get off by forcing him to eat food he doesn’t like. Children’s tastes and preference change rapidly something they hate one year they may love the next. I can work with my kid to provide him healthy balanced meals that he will enjoy eating instead of wasting time and energy trying to prove some authoritarian point he won’t understand.

      • I never thought food was a hill to die on. I required him to taste new foods, but with painful memories of sneaking lima beans into my pockets so that they could be deposited in the toilet at the first opportunity, vomiting canned peas, disgusting yams, and a few others ever fresh in my psyche I was all too aware of the fact that different people like/dislike different foods. Liking ketchup as a child and despising it as an adult also gave me the insight to know that tastes change over time. So he wants to eat mac and cheese every single meal for a week? So what…?

  16. Wow, this article just kicks the crap out of that strawman it sets up. Parenting crisis, give me a break. Same whining from every generation about how much better the previous generation was. Next you’ll be telling us that you walked to school through snowstorms.

    • I’ve been in the childcare field for 18 years now and yes, there is a parenting crisis. Increasingly more often, children are in charge of their parents. Every year I see more and more aggressive behavior by children towards their parents. Parents need to understand that sometimes the right choice may not be the favorite choice, but that’s ok.

    • Exactly, people are all about talking shit about millennials and the way they do things and this and that and everything, but I’m old enough to remember the same things being said about GenXers

  17. There may indeed be many households where the kids are in charge, but this article got off to a terrible start by focusing on forcing kids to eat their peas. There’s a wealth of information out there on kids and eating and forcing them to choke down food they don’t like went out decades ago. In 1992 I saw Ellyn Satter speak and she forever changed how I look at kids and food. My lads are now 19 and 26 and have very healthy relationships with food…and I never forced them to eat anything. When my younger son was 5 he hated cheese. I never made him eat it. He eventually started to eat pizza with cheese on it…and mozzarella became ok. Gradually over the years he tried other cheeses and now likes MANY different ones…but still balks at cream cheese which is fine. If I had tried to force him to eat cheese I can guarantee you he would hate it.

    • Who said anything about forcing kids to eat peas? Saying you only get dessert if you eat your vegetables means just that. Don’t want the peas? Fantastic, don’t eat them. Clear your plate and go play. There just won’t be dessert. There’s nothing forceful about it. In fact you can be totally calm and even cheerful while still holding the line. Nobody forces me to go to work, but if I don’t go I won’t see a pay cheque.

      The author chose an example of an adult being in charge, it wasn’t meant to say that all children have to eat broccoli, just that if there’s a consequence it should be followed through on.

  18. Care. That’s all you need. When you care for something, you protect it, you cherish it, you nurture it, you love it, you CARE for it. It’s rather simple. Of course, sometimes you can make mistakes, but owning to your mistakes, and learning for them, will make you smarter and better. Caring = Parenting. Caring, that is all you need to do. You need to care, as in take care, and also, as in “be interested”, “give a shit”. If you think your child doesn’t think lesser of you when you don’t care for him/her, think again. Kids are smart, and they observe and feel their environment very well. If your kid is acting up and needs more “authority”, I suggest you put more time in trying to understand what kind of relationship you have with your children.

  19. Quoting Leonard Sax is dangerous. His views, especially around how homosexuals can be cured or how parents can prevent their children from turning gay, getting asthma or eczema by pushing their boy children into more “masculine” activities instead of “activities more associated with females” (Book: Why Gender Matters) speak to his ability to speak on any topic. He attempts to hide behind the term “science” without attempting to explain the evidence of this “science”. This article is complete garbage.

  20. Apparently, Dr. Neufeld hasn’t done a very good job at raising his own daughter. A 35-y-o who can’t even decide what piece of cloth to buy for carrying her baby? Pfff! Just take a look at how women in Africa do it, for crying out loud!

    As for children’s being picky eaters, this is a tiresome conversation. Children eat what you give them and what you have at home. People think it’s so cute when a 10-month-old begins to eat junk food and drink soda. I know a couple with a 2-y-o child who has never eaten candy, cake, or drank sugary beverages. The child’s doctor advised to start with sour fruits and their juices because children are more likely to like the sweet ones. And so it has been. They have a large extended family who loves to party, and every weekend there’s a get together in someone’s house. That child has been to all kinds celebrations without ever ingesting the junk food that the adults stuff themselves with. At least they are sparing the kid! The parents sometimes feel bad, but they know that at some point they won’t be able to choose anymore, and they are taking advantage of their position now.

    I find it amusing when people say “my child does not like broccoli or the texture of strawberries or what have you.” Just put it in a blender and don’t tell them what it is. Also, stop telling in front of them how much you hate such and such food. They’re listening very closely. Want to know what children eat? Just look at their parents’ plates. And the same applies to their behavior.

  21. I totally agree with this article. I am probably old school parenting my kids by today’s standard, but I look around at other children and can not believe how disrespectful and disobedient they are now. It scares me that they will be the work force in 20 years with no respect for authority, thinking the world owes them something. I think one of the biggest lies of our society is the ‘Whatever makes you happy’ theory. Most things in life are not going to make you happy. In fact the most satisfying things in life are things you do to make others happy, or you work towards for a long time to achieve goals. Happiness is found inside yourself despite external circumstances, but that is not being taught with all the ‘self’ teaching now. Some of the things that are being lost are ‘self respect’, ‘self discipline’, ‘self control’. Yikes.

    • “It scares me that they will be the work force in 20 years with no respect for authority, thinking the world owes them something.” LOL. The average Baby Boomer will collect $200,000 more in Social Security than they paid in, which will be funded by that work force with “no respect for authority,” but please tell me more about how they think the world owes THEM something. Comments like the ones above are my favorite form of irony.

      On a more serious note, you’re actually wrong. Studies show that children today are more likely to be educated, are far less likely to commit violent crimes, and are more tolerant, empathetic, and compassionate than previous generations.

      • Studies show children today are more likely to be educated and less likely to commit violent crimes….

        If they are still children, how could any researcher show what they will do in the future? This is BS. We have no idea how today’s children are likely to turn out. They will have to grow up before we know that. This statement is actually funny.

  22. There are some gems of wisdom in this piece, like this one: “Nobody knows what they’re doing when they leave the hospital with an infant. Every parent learns by trial and error” that run completely contradictory to everything else Ms. Gulli is saying.

    We do have an obesity epidemic in this country, but the research is not showing a link to peaceful parenting. Dr. Sax is merely suggesting anecdotes no better than the author of this article, the book is not supported by peer reviewed research supporting the claims. Ms. Gulli seems to confuse peaceful parenting with permissive parenting. Allowing your child to eat chicken nuggets and fries every night is bad for your child. Allowing your child to choose between broccoli and green beans to go with their grilled chicken is a great way to avoid conflict and get your child to eat a healthy dinner. Do you see the difference?

    I cringe at the suggestion that the poor father begging his daughter to eat peas is the reason for the collapse of parenting today. Give the man a break. If this took place in North America, he was probably just trying to avoid the type of meltdown that elicits finger-wagging and judgment from people like you who think children should be seen and not heard and perfect little robots 100% of the time and any shortfall of your expectation is a reflection of poor parenting rather than age-appropriate behavior that can be corrected over time. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t, am I right, parents?

    Why does every parenting think-piece take everything to the extreme? Yes, there are people who take parenting to the extreme, but they are certainly in the minority. Most of us are doing exactly what you said–learning by trial and error. Personally, giving my child choices, when reasonable, has a higher success rate than demanding she eat food she doesn’t like (that I probably don’t like either), so that’s what I do. I don’t do it because I’m a slave to some book or parenting philosophy or trend. And I would say the same holds true for most of us, we’re just trying to do the best we can. Maybe instead of damning peaceful parenting as the reason for the “collapse of parenting,” we can show parents the difference between peaceful parenting and permissive parenting and why one works and the other doesn’t.

  23. So, anyone who knows me knows that when presented with a provocative article I will read, contemplate, read again, contemplate again with a response. Although I do agree that it is essential for parents to be parents who make decisions to better the health of their child/ren. This article grossly simplifies the healthy choice problem.

    First off, the author is obviously speaking from the point of view of someone who is living in a position in society that allows her advantages that others do not have access too. If you look at stats on the availability of healthy foods in low income families in Canada you will see that it takes more than accessing healthy food choices.

    “A number of studies have shown that low income households do not have enough income to pay for the basic costs of living, including the cost of a nutritious food basket.5, 6 Studies of low income households have shown that incomes often fall hundreds of dollars short of household expenses.7, 8 Since many monthly costs are fixed (e.g. housing, transportation) food purchases are often the budget items where families look to reduce expenses.9
    In Canada, “food insecurity” is measured by the number of people who are uncertain of having, or being unable to acquire enough food to meet needs because of insufficient financial resources.10 A recent analysis of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) data found that 12.2% of Canadian households experienced food insecurity in 2011.11 This is higher than a previous estimate of 11.3%, calculated in 2007-08.12”

    http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.4956487/k.ACE2/Position_Statements__Access_to_Affordable_Healthy_and_Nutritious_Foods.htm

    Also, we haven’t touched upon other reasons why children don’t have access to social, emotional and physical health. All of which can not be simplified by one observation of watching a parent asking their child to eat their peas.

    Yes, we do need to make essential decisions for kids, but are parents the only ones responsible? What we should be focusing on is what we can do to support each other as they do in countries around the world where they live as “communities”. Instead of making parents feel more isolated by telling them they are doing everything wrong, how about build communities where they can go to others in the community to ask for support. Also, we need to be communities that work together to be aware of those who may not have the means to healthy choices and be there to help them through these hurdles. Instead we isolate them and hope that they receive support from some essential service. We all need to take responsibility for our children and their healthy living, not just the children we give birth too.

    So, although there are many great points in this article about the social, emotional and physical health of our kids in Canada today. Points we CANNOT ignore as they will determine the life span and health of our kids in the future. The responsibility to get them healthy or keep them healthy is on all of us. Let’s not over simplify the role we all play in the health of our communities. Let’s get back to living as communities of support and away from judgments of why people are doing everything wrong.

    Community gardens anyone? Outdoor free play anyone? Social and emotional support communities anyone?

    • Excellent points. Finally someone who has some suggestions rather than finger-wagging at parents just trying to do the best they can.

  24. This article is bang on the target. As a teacher faced with students who inform me I cannot criticise them, or tell them they have the wrong answer,and that what i am telling them is “just my opinion” we have to get over this kids are equal to adults trope.
    I always gave my own kids choices when appropriate, encouraged them to question issues in life, taught them how to construct a logical argument, gave them lots of experiences both at home and travelling abroad, but only five TV channels and no shiny distraction devices. But as my son once said, “you can’t have self esteem until you have achieved something. They filled out their own university applications and prepared their own first tax returns. I never demanded obedience, but I had very high expectations of behaviour. Let’s face it, the disappointed parent is harder to deal with than the angry parent. And hitting a child is never an answer. there is a middle ground.

  25. This article barely touches on the act of discipline; which is arguably one of the biggest problems these days. Thanks to political correctness and the powers that be, the act of disciplining your child has become an act of abuse.
    (Now Johnny, you really shouldn’t be climbing on the roof of the garage. Next day Johnny falls of the roof and becomes a paraplegic) (Sally; running out into the road without looking is very dangerous. Two days later Sally is struck by a car and killed) As a parent you cannot reason with a young child. They need to learn that for every action there will be a reaction. The fastest and safest way to do this is through the “act of discipline”. It’s not because you are angry with them. It’s because you love them and want them to be safe and learn.

    • Your response is an example of a problem that this article also seems to dance around but not really answer–can people really not tell the difference between discipline and abuse? You can discipline a child without hitting them. Unfortunately, since most of us were brought up with the lazy parenting method of spanking, we don’t know what our other options are, and this article certainly didn’t suggest any. So then if people are going to the other extreme, is it any wonder why? But there are other ways to discipline a child. It should start with proactive parenting rather than reactive parenting to reduce the need for discipline to begin with. Then, consequences, when needed, should be immediate and relevant. Child hits sibling with truck, child is told no and truck is taken away. Finally, your example of children falling off garages and getting hit by cars makes me hope you don’t reproduce. It has nothing to do with discipline. Your children shouldn’t be crossing the street unsupervised until developmentally able to understand the risk and necessary precautions.

  26. The Princes(es)-like growing method feels to me the reason of modern over stress/depression – according statistics. Because just question: Is it modern life less secure than it was for any casual man during the Eras of Prehistory, Ancestry, Rome, Medieval, Conquests, WW, when millions souls born & died for nothing ? 90% no. I feel its just after being raised for 18 years like Princes(es) while people were only workers (modern Nomads – worst than Farmers). When eachone realises that reality against the “fake secure world” he was raised, its impossible to really accept it. Its like kicking a 3 years house-cat on the forest. Feels that simple.

  27. First my vote: this article is stupid. But, it seems to ape a modern form of commentary which is to tell other people what to do.
    A moderately wise minister of my acquaintance who was embarking on the joys of parenting teenagers arrived at the following conclusion: whatever happens, your children are most likely to turn out more like you than can be imagined … that’s good news and bad news all in one. Practically, children do not experience life in lock-step with their parents and vice-versa. Needless to say independence, self-discipline, enterprise, good judgement and leadership, to name a few qualities, can only be practiced and developed independently. The best parents can do is lead a good life and present opportunities to their children.
    The only link between childhood obesity and parenting is lifestyle – the odds of skinny parents having obese children is much lower than that of obese parents raising obese children. We might allow that developing reasonable food choices is a skill that we all need to develop; however, making food choice into a dictatorial battle ground seems counterproductive (it doesn’t even work for mature adults).
    Sax is one of those people who start with their own conception of the ideal and then demand that everyone else conform to his vision; this is the sort of researcher that relies on anecdote filtered through confirmation bias rather than rigorous study. ‘Don’t raise your sons up to be cowboys’ and certainly not rainbow cowboys.

  28. I think Neufeld gets to the heart of the matter when he “encourages parents to fortify their adult relationships so they are not overly concerned with pleasing their kids as a way of satisfying their own need for affection.” I have often wondered if these parents are looking for their kids’ approval as a way of fortifying their own self-respect. This reminds me of the advice I got when at teachers college preparing for teaching high school almost fifty years ago: “Remember, you’re not trying to be their best friend; you’re aiming to be their best teacher.” Parents need to feel better about themselves instead of relying on their children’s approval to do that for them.

  29. Wow is all I can say!! Finally someone is not afraid of stating the obvious fact that our children are growing up without the basic knowledge of how to deal with disappointment. How to make good and healthy decisions. They are growing up to become dependant individuals. Why?? Its our fault! We are loving out of guilt. Parenting in a way that compensates for the lack of material we can provide for our child. Guilty because we can’t or won’t afford the time. Schools are responsible for teaching our children . They are not responsible to raise our children. Lets go back to the days when we weren’t scared of saying NO, or placing boundaries. These children will grow up with the responsibility to teach and raise the next generation. Let’s give them the necessary tools to achieve this long lasting goal.

  30. Children telling parents what to do and ignorant immigrants telling governments what to do. I think it’s time for the world to grow up.

  31. Amen, Its about time someone says it out loud. Somebody has to be the boss and it shouldn’t be a three year old. We wonder why our children are out of control when they reach their teens well leave it to the parents who give them control and let them establish it at a very early age be the adult not the enabler. Thank you for a the best article I have read on parenting for a long time.

  32. What a load of garbage! This entire article is based around anecdotal stories and provides no evidence to show that parents are doing the terrible job this article claims they are.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Gulli doesn’t have any kids, because it’s usually those that don’t have kids that are the all time experts on parenting, and think that if they just discipline their kids they’ll fall in line.

    They don’t. They rebel when you push too hard. That’s part of what being a kid is.

    Childhood obesity is going down. The medical community is well aware of the problems of over-medicating children. Having kids that are anxious and disrespectful is what every old generation accuses the new generation of kids of being, while they completely forget about the shenanigans that they committed at that same age. It’s part of the process of growing up and it’s NOT unique to this generation.

    This entire article is built around a strawman argument; an all-too-easy to create strawman argument, as it was given when I was a kid in the 90s as well. It’s easy to make clickbait about “those darn kids today” just as it was easy to sell paper magazine articles when I was a kid, too.

  33. Must be something in the water. : )

    Dr Sax and I are in the same town, and are on the same page.

    People are well-intentioned, but misguided when it comes to parenting sometimes. I’ve started 153Promise.com to address the topic. Many issues I speak about are very much in line with Dr. Sax’s mentality.

    Bravo!

  34. Although I agree with and respect many of the wonderful parenting experts quoted in this article, I found Ms. Gulli’s approach towards parents to be condescending and negative.

    Ms. Gulli’s article has been written to stimulate fear and trigger parental guilt in permissive parents, or parents attempting to treat their children respectfully. The title alone was written to shame parents.

    As a writer of a blog that focuses on sharing positive parenting strategies that are authoritative, but respectful, I regularly speak with other parents who want to raise their children to be kind, caring, empathetic, and respectful adults.

    And from what I see of school-age children and early teens, they are mostly highly respectful and caring kids, who respond best to adults when they are treated with respect. The ones who struggle with these things, are usually the kids who have come from homes where they have been ignored, or over-controlled.

    In my opinion, it’s less of a problem that some parents are attempting to treat their children respectfully, and perhaps going a little too far at times, than the fact that many parents are still using over-controlling and authoritarian methods such as the regular use of punishments like time-outs and reward systems to bribe good behaviour.

    • Asking children to make all the decisions of how the house should be run and how their lives should proceed (what is served for dinner, what bedtime is appropriate, where the guests should sit, etc.) is not showing children “respect”. It is asking them to rise up and take over the role that adults are groomed over a number of years to accept and flourish at. Toddlers are not developmentally or emotionally equipped to make those decisions. They have a low tolerance level for frustration and they tend to be impulsive. It is unfair to ask them to take on a role they cannot do and then expect them to discuss their short comings in a mature manner. They are not miniature adults no matter how much we wish to treat them as such. Setting boundaries on bad behavior is showing love just as giving hugs is. Sending to bed when they are tired and getting grumping is showing love. Children like boundaries. The world is full of boundaries for all of us. If someone asked one of us to take on a task that we were not prepared for , we too would find it overwhelming. A child is no different. I have often watched Jo, the supernanny and I have never seen her treat a child disrespectfully although she often uses the time out chair. In many ways, it is an opportunity to reduce stimulation which is required when a child becomes overwhelmed and completely frustrated.

  35. Through a series of silly strategies parents have completely lost control of their children. Recently in a restaurant I saw parents completely disregard their four kids in their early teens with food flying everywhere, horrible manners, food falling out of the kids mouths as they shrieked. In France parents firmly discipline their kids and the result is miraculous, polite respectful kids everywhere. North American parents need to just give their heads a shake and stop reading so many useless help books.

  36. Maybe time for parents to be their child’s parents rather than trying to be their child’s friend.

  37. I have concerns, Dr has his opition, where is the research on any of this. I tried to find out via the computer if the dr has children, I was unsucessful. I bet he couldn’t stand listening to the father & child at the restaurant. Is it true that as an infant the taste buds and texture of foods are what makes them appealing? additionally he was talking about child obesity, how about the correlation with not enough exercise. please note we have many kids doing their own raising because both parents are working and no one is home enough to nuture, besides, eat your pea’ s. yes I have seen parenting that I don’t agree with, unless they are causing harm to the child, there’s nothing that an outsider can say. It is disgusting to me to watch a parent use there “control”, I brought you into this world your going to do as I say, over a child, causing insult, fear, authority. I wise parent will teach a child, and listen, and yes find the answer

  38. The reason why many kids don’t respect their parents is because they have no fear. If you want your kids to respect you, you got to make them afraid of you. If a kid misbehaves, parents should have the right to slap their kids in the faces as hard as they could. But nope, that’s illegal. My parents used to slap me on the wrist, the face, and they even threaten to beat the shit out of. That’s what you call discipline.

    • What? There are many options besides physical or verbal abuse. It’s called discipline – which actually means education, not abuse. Fear and respect are two different concepts. And yes, the doctor is a parent with a lot of experience working with damaged children.

  39. “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” – Socrates

  40. There isn’t a crisis in parenting, Rather there are CRISES, in the plural.

    The first crisis is that we have a generation of parents in their mid 30s to 40s who cannot see past their own insecurities and will steadfastly refuse that there is even a crisis to begin with. The rampant insecurities manifest themselves through specific expressions that have been inculcated in them by feel-good sources (‘hateful language; negative and condescending; bullying language, etc). The greater the hyperbole, the greater the defensive mechanism they feel inside that is ostensibly triggered by this particular generation. These parents do not lead by example or treat their child in an authoritative way. When a child acts out, the “Stop it” we used to hear as kids has now been replaced by a request for a child to think about something more carefully or to ponder why they did it. The end result is that we are raising children constantly reflecting on things (anxiety much?) instead of simply not doing something because “it’s not acceptable”. There now has to always be a follow-up conversation, a conversational piece to justify the rationale behind a parent’s actions. It makes for an anxious and overburdened child who still does not understand that in life, there are things you just simply DO NOT DO. Instead of having these EXPECTATIONS, it is now an ostensibly democratic institution where everything has to be explained.

    The second crisis is found in the means by which they relate to their child. They longer raise or parent; instead they cohabitate with a smaller person upon whom they confer far too many choices and far too much freedom, all in the name of wanting to raise a more socially-conscious child. It is well-intentioned, as Sax mentions I think in the article, but it ends up being a largely colossal failure given that the child is too young to self-regulate themselves. Consequently children largely grow to have egos twice the size of the previous’ generations, and the parents themselves, for fear of traumatizing them, do not impose boundaries that would otherwise curb behaviour that was once not permitted. Parents do not seem to grasp the concept that too much choice is a negative. Too much choice does not allow a child to develop self-regulation given the myriad options in front of them. It also arguably paves the way for greater egotism, depreciation of humility, etc given that children will interpret this as more freedom. While parents confer these myriad options upon their children out of some well-intentioned source, the message is lost when you are dealing with a child who is 3, 4 or 5, even 6. They get used to having choices and as they get older, learning routines in school and following through with someone else’s expectations that involve little or no choice result in a lot of frigging hardship.

    I also find the majority of parents well-intentioned but bankrupt in persona, authority and substance. Most parents appear to be riddled with diametrically opposite belief systems. On the one hand, they want to raise perfect children who appreciate the myriad ways of the world, are well-balanced and worldly. However the political angle they ram down their kids’ throats is overwhelming. Everything is scripted, from the food (is it organic? Eat more kale. It’s GMO-free, it has too much sugar, it’s not healthy, it has too many calories, etc) to their kids’ relationships (she/he has a playdate after school, don’t put them in this class with this child) to their learning needs (they’re not tuning out, they’re just “different learners”; they’re not “engaged enough with the teacher; they find the lesson boring, _insert excuse here).

    The single, greatest thing sensed with kids in this generation is the complete lack of resilience they demonstrate when confronted by any type of difficulty. Crying is encouraged along with tantrums, weak, ineffective punishments are given (timeouts? Please), and anything slightly harsher has been categorized as “abusive” whereas the abuse being handed out is arguably the parents in raising a child whose ego is so overdeveloped yet weak constitutionally.

    It is important kids FAIL for you to understand as a parent what they are capable of and what they aren’t capable of.
    It is important parents restrict options because when kids grow up, they will require CREATING their own options instead of expecting them, something parents fail to understand as they provide everything for their kids.
    It is important parents take greater responsibility for their children. When the school calls to say they push someone down, see past your own ego and hold your child accountable. When you see a C, D or even F, ask yourself “what are we not doing enough as parents” instead of assuming it’s the school’s fault or the teacher’s.

    If anything, parents need to grow a pair and be FIRM with their own kids. I have seen 6 year olds leave school to meet their parents in the playground, only to hand everything to the parent and run off and play. The parent is left on the spot as a coat hanger while the kid runs around. Is this you as a parent? If so, can you do any better? Because I’m tired of picking up after your kid, and then having to explain to you while I gave them “Satisfactory” on their responsibility learning skill on the report card.

  41. I am now a grandmother, who has raised boys during the era when spanking became bad. That was over 40 years ago. I also weathered a teaching career when the strap was no longer available. Come on folks, it’s not really all that hard to figure out what is good, nurturing parenting that includes setting healthy boundaries and encouraging kids to take responsibility for their actions. Give gradually increasing responsibility, with adequate coaching. Allow exploration, with you on hand to protect if necessary. Allow free play, with imagination. Stop trying to impress your peers with expensive stuff that you’ve bought for your child.

  42. “The parent always has to be honoured as the ultimate person,” he continues.

    What hooey. My father was someone who thought he should be honoured just because.

    He was an uneducated, stubborn, incapable man who made his family’s life difficult with his behaviour.

    Guess what Mr Neufeld. He acted like he was the “ultimate person”. He sure didn’t get my respect.

  43. ” An act of love required of parents “……….that is the single most important group of words in summing the gist and depth of this article. The question that looms may very well be ” Where can a parent learn about true love as it applies to their own children” ? For most that is a confusing prospect requiring just too much work and precious time, just like good home cooking.

  44. What a crap article. Sweeping generalizations and jumping to conclusions all over the place.

  45. So, an entire article based on “Facts not in evidence” – from obesity to test scores to lack of respect, Sax and others in the article have completely failed to show one single shred of empirical evidence that any of these theories hold water – besides the one example of a dad in a restaurant taking an approach that, for all we know, works perfectly for his child. And everyone will present an example like that, without knowing why, without knowing the people involved, and without knowing the outcome. In other words, this is nothing but another example of a couple of phenomenons as old as the hills: cross-generational ignorance and unsupportable judgment.

  46. Congratulations Macleans for publishing one of the worst articles I’ve had the opportunity to read from this magazine. Which was disappointing, because when I read the title, I was very excited to read the authors point of view. I happen to agree with the title and worry myself about the lack of parenting skills in today’s society. The author tried to tackle too much and used totally inane examples.

    You cannot characterize one parents entire parenting style, and draw conclusions from it by watching one interaction at a restaurant. Any doctor who draws sweeping conclusions from a single interaction would be totally suspect in my opinion. And criticising parents for bringing food with them on outings with children? Has the author raised children herself? If she had, she would know that parents bring food on outings to help manage their children’s hunger in their quickly growing bodies and prevent public meltdowns from children who cannot (like adults) manage hunger in a logical way. Not to mention the scrutiny and judgement (as this article so clearly demonstrates) that parents are subjected to if their child does happen to have a public meltdown.

    Parenting is a complex interaction between a parent and each child, and often changes from child to child based on their individual temperament, needs, age, and body chemistry. It’s not a one-shoe-fits-all skill. Parenting does not work that way.

    Please give parents, and the task of parenting more respect. See how I did that? Asking respectfully instead of being bossy and directive? There is a place for respect, and asking nicely, in the parent/child relationship.

    • Have you read the comments of teachers and child care givers. Children are not nice and their parents are not correcting their behavior so they are treating other children, their teachers, their care givers and their families poorly. It isn’t imagined. What about the pressure put on children who are asked to make all of the decisions in the household? Children weren’t meant to run the house. It is a relief for them when they don’t have to make decisions that they are ill equipped to make.

      • There is nothing with what you say that I disagree with. I’m saying that the article written did an exceptionally poor job of making that point.

      • Oh please, this has been going on forever. Some kids are disrespecting and some kids aren’t was the same as before. But you know what. Now we can question the adults. I had a horrible, horrible math teacher. He used to belittle and make fun of students. Slept with a high school student. All kids of shit. Guess what, he did not deserve the “respect” he was supposedly automatically given. Nope. A few anecdotal quotes does not make it so.

        • My daughter had a horrendous teacher. We took out of the school and home schooled her. We reported her behaviors. I would never suggest anyone respect a teacher that is making fun of students or sleeping with students but ultimately parents should know because they should be talking to their kids. Somehow, this conversation has made it seem that those parents who parent, don’t have good relationships with their kids. That is not necessarily true. Many parents who parent have very open relationships and are fiercely protective of their children. They also should be protective of other people’s children. In Alberta it is against the law not to report child abuse. What you are describing is child abuse.

  47. Good article. Lots to think about!

    • I have forwarded this article to all my teachers and our student’s parents, to all my friends whom are Grandmothers too, and to their daughters and sons, and mine… who now hold the future in their hands! I have been a teacher for many years and an early childhood consultant and a parent advisor for as many of those years! THIS article is the EXACT, intentionally “hit you in the face” or “up the side your head” wake up call, that many parents NEED! I’ve worked in private schools, I’ve worked in public schools and I see happening exactly what the author is talking about. IF you take this article and what it says defensively, then you can just about be assured that YOU are whom it was written for!!! The rest of us really do care, but it’s YOUR life, their YOUR kids, and you get to choose. I CAN tell you, out here in the community you live in, in the church you attend, in the grocery store you pass through, in the schools your children are attending, in the parks that you play in, on the buses you ride, in the groups that you share time in; you’re creating havoc! Children who’s parents are not the alpha, the stable, the strong, who can’t make a plan and stick to it, who can’t even say no, and mean it, who can’t follow through with a plan are THE VERY children who, are unable to be independently strong and lead! Go talk to some teachers, ask them what they see in this day and age! Ask them what’s frustrating to them in their classes now, and ask them what they think of this article! IF you WANT a child who is needy and dependent, can’t/won’t make decisions, are unsure if themselves in all that they do…then you just ignore this article, chock it up to “crazy” and keep right on going!

  48. How can you manage to publish a lengthy article about parenting styles in the year 2016 and not mention divorce once? Or even parenting styles that differ between two parents are still together? The dynamics of parenting are so much more complex than this article depicts. It’s common for one parent to be the hardass and the other the soft touch, or for divorced parents to compete with each other and spoil the children. It’s just bizarre to me that an entire article just assumes that we all have happy little nuclear families.

    • Never mind you add on the absentee parents. So many complex things going on. It is like put millions of parents in one box and “poof” you get an article.

  49. There is no such thing as a bad child. There are only bad parents. It is not possible for there to be a “bad” child or a child who just happened to “turn out bad” for some “unknown” reason. We are all products of genetics, a conception, a gestation, a birth, and an upbringing. If you have a problem with the product, you have to check with the factory for the cause of the problem. All of our problems are due to what our parents did to us or for us, that they should not have done to us or for us, and what our parents did not do to us or for us, that they should of done to us or for us. We are all only as good as we have been bred and bought up. Garbage in garbage out. All of our problems are due to unGodly sexual practices, unGodly breeding practices (meaning perverted sexual or and breeding practices), unGodly lifestyle (meaning humanistic/hedonistic lifestyle) practices. Sex is a spiritual function. It is a form of quantum physics.

    A child will never do something bad, or rebel or throw a temper tantrum, if the parent did not do something wrong to the child first. The problem probably began with unGodly breeding and gestating practices. But it could be anywhere along the time line. A parent who “disciplines” their child is a criminal. In worst case scenarios the parent is creating the criminal (or some sort of screw up) of the future. If this was done to an adult, it would be called “assault” which is a criminal offense. Adults don’t realize that children are little people.

    (Important note: I need to define and explain the word “discipline”. I use the word discipline in it’s conventional meaning, which pretty well everyone usually means; to punish a child in some way shape or form. Even if it is some form of “control”. Which really means some form of punishment. There is bad control and good control. So the word “control” actually means a form of control which is actually inherently bad or wrong, something which will cause damage to the child at some level. The test for determining whether it was bad control or not, is if the child gets mad, rebels, misbehaves, or throws a fit, or something of that order. There is another definition of discipline (which I am not using here); which means teaching. And again there is a right way to teach and a wrong way to teach, as there is a right way and wrong way to to do pretty much everything.)

    One of the worst things anyone can do is to listen to any modern mainstream or pop psychologist. It is usually 99.9% garbage. They are the cause of most of the world’s problems. When a child turns out bad, and becomes delinquent, or a lunatic, or has some sort of psychological disorders, or a criminal of sorts or in worst case scenarios, a mad man (or mad woman) a mass murderer, the individual should not be punished, because it is not his or her fault. It is the parents and the psychologists who need to be punished. It is they who need to take the rap. I should add to that the media, too. The media are full of perverts, swine and prostitutes. They are merchants of chaos, perversion, insanity, humanism and every form of evil imaginable. In addition to all this, or one of the factors at the root of all this is the liberated woman and the feminist. Motherhood is a full time job. So is grandmothering. Motherhood is not something you do on the side. It is the woman’s job to look after the home and family. The home and family are the building blocks of society. This is called the home front. The war front is caused by failure on the home front. Women’s liberation and feminism is not a sustainable practice. The liberated woman and the feminist is really the only thing that will cause the destruction of civilization. If you really do some honest thinking, you will realize that the liberated woman and the feminists are the worst type of criminals. When women begin to compete with men in business and politics, media and war on an equal basis with men, it is only a matter of time before, society and civilization collapse. Only women’s liberation and feminism can cause armageddon or the apocalypse. Civilization is only as civil and sane and strong as the home. Intelligent life on this planet is a very scarce commodity. In vain we build a world, if at first we don’t build the individual, with a noble Godly character. Everything in this world is controlled by natural or universal law. Failure is feedback from the universe that you are in breach of some universal law. There is no exception. Universal law is called the truth. Seek the truth in all things and the truth will solve all of your problems. The truth is not determined by authority, opinions, beliefs, political correctness or by who wins an argument. The truth is the truth. The universe does not care if you do not believe in the law of gravity or not or any other universal law or law of physics. Neither does it care about you believing in being modern. Being modern (or modern thinking) is too high of a price to pay for the destruction of civilization.

  50. I want Maclean’s to do a search through their archives to see how many other generations of parents have been failing, how many other generations of children have been spoiled. I’m willing to bet that they would find many. It’s comforting to know that the last generation of spoiled brats still managed to develop the maturity required to criticize the parenting of those who came after them, and I am certain that this generation of spoiled brats will manage to do the same.

  51. I agree that some parenting ideas today leave room for problems. If a child doesn’t want to accept the parental authority, then asking them questions if they would like to do something – eat their dinner, get ready to go out with the family, etc. lead to a new set of problems. How to make a defiant child do what they are told by conversation. This rarely works with trouble children. Children need to understand the authority figure – and realize that they must do what they are told until they reach a point that they can make correct decisions for themselves, and if the parent has done a good job, the child should want to be like the parent.

    I see too many parents offering children everything from food to toys just to get them to do what the parent wants them to do. Children would be also better off, if the parent stopped taking the child(ren) out in the evening to do shopping etc. when you can see that they should be at home sleeping. Most children today lack enough sleep to allow them to function properly and that leads to pleading and compromising by the parent.

    Parents need to take back the role of authority and teach their children to respect and follow the adult authority people in their lives.

  52. As been said before children don’t come with a manual.Excellent article. Thanks.

    On a side note: I am in favor of eliminating anonymous posts on all comments boards, even twitter. In my experience the majority of anonymous comments are filled with hatred especially CBC.ca!!! Check out Ricks Rant from the Rick Mercer Report on January 19, 2016.

  53. Great article. Loved it. Accurate observations, reasonable explanations and useful insight. I dropped MacLeans years ago because of Rogers. With more writing like this, I may be enticed to subscribe.

  54. Well, I’m confused. My seven-year-old boy is a wonderful little human being, despite the fact that his parents happen to believe very strongly in giving him choices, talking through disagreements, and even letting him have his own way sometimes. While I can see that Dr. Sax’s huffing and puffing is getting all kinds of huzzahs from the “today’s kids are no good” crowd, I don’t buy it. And I hope we never, ever go back to the days when parenting was all about “authority.” Good god.

    • Correct me if I am wrong but your comment seems to indicate that you have one child. My mother and father had nine children. As you can imagine, it was much more complicated to give nine children each their choice on every matter or talk through the many complicated disagreements or let us all have our own way because ultimately if one of us got our way, eight others did not. Someone had to be an authority figure because we all wanted “my way.” It is the exact same thing in a class room. The teacher has 25 students whose parents all believe strongly that their children should be given a choice, talk through disagreements and get their own way. Which child should the teacher let have their own way and which child gets to make the choices? If a teacher facilitates talking through a disagreement between two students, what will the other 23 be doing? It is certainly your business how you raise your child but no one is saying today’s kids are no good only that their parents are not really preparing them for the real world where one has to cope with answering to an authority figure because that is reality in the school environment and eventually in the work place.

  55. This article says, “A functional family unit hinges on the one social construct that contemporary society has been working hard to dismantle: hierarchy.” It would behoove the author to expound. A society is largely a scale-up of multiple families, and so a functional society hinges on the very same construct.

    The mistake that people are making in their response to hierarchies that they are confusing hierarchy with oppression. This tends to happen when people sloppily perceive only the most superficial aspects of each. Hierarchies place individuals in positions of relative power based on honest merit. Oppression occurs when individuals exploit power based on some element of subterfuge. When we dismantle oppression, the result tends to be increasing prosperity across the board, as it triggers a merit-based social reorganization. But when we dismantle hierarchy, the only possible outcome is that the inmates will start running the asylum – young children will literally behave like wild hyenas with no sense of human personhood, college students will suck their thumbs and claim full-blown PTSD when confronted with the simplest forms of free speech, special interest groups will wildly distort social issues for their own individualized gain – because oppression thrives in the absence of hierarchy.

    It is profoundly irresponsible for individuals with merited positions within any given hierarchy to bow to popular insanity and relinquish those positions for exactly that reason – because to do so will only open the door to oppression by less meritorious individuals and groups. Someone explicitly suggested that I do just that in a private social media forum within the past year. Said I was hopelessly “privileged” and that the only way for me to gain existential validity in any social debate would be for me to renounce my “position”. I responded that I was not willing to do that for one very simple and incredibly logical reason: I earned my hierarchical socioeconomic position fair and square. Someone else can take it from me when they either outperform me and gain it by virtue of their own superior merit, or when they pry it from my cold, dead hands, whichever comes first.

    Incidentally, now is not the first time that a backlash has initiated against would-be dismantlers of hierarchy. Asimov is well-known for having blown the whistle on it 36 years ago in a Newsweek interview. He couched his fierce opposition in the terms that were best known to him, but he was really talking about the very same phenomenon:

    “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

  56. The parents who are against this article do not know first hand how their kids lack manners and are disrespectful. I see if first hand because I am a middle school teacher. The amount of attitude, rolling of eyes and talking back is what I endure everyday. But as soon as I talk to parents about them some are very supportive and their child is good but others “talk” to their kids and no change. Why? Well because they are soft with their kids or some have said to me that they have given up and do not know what to do. Now with those kids I dont know how to deal with them. If their parents cant control or respect them then why would they respect me? Its not my job to teach them manners or how to be respectful but the reality is that I do have to teach these kids how to do both. Kill them kindness if my motto. And it that doesnt work then its a lost case. When I come to this point I tell my student that “their actions will take them very far in life.” When I say that, they stop and think about what I say. Theres so much I can do, as their teacher.

    • Respect is earned and manners are subjective. The College of Education has chosen to emphasize teaching self appointed values more than critical thinking. As stupid as adults think kids are these “kids” see right through the rhetoric. You may be the exception that really cares about them but you are only one teacher/administrator they interact with on a daily basis. The lessons forced upon them contradict their rationality and desires for liberty.
      Lesson 1 – Confusion
      Lesson 2 – Class Position
      Lesson 3 – Indifference
      Lesson 4 – Emotional Dependency
      Lesson 5 – Intellectual Dependency
      Lesson 6 – Provisional Self-Esteem
      Lesson 7 – You Can’t Hide! – John Taylor Gatto

      I’m sorry your middle school job is difficult, but I’ll let you in on a little secret. When these people become 18 and get a job, go to college, or join the military they will continue to roll their eyes and talk back. It’s our charge as custodians of these early learners to send them off better than we received them, not change them into what we want them to be.

      • Yes, respect is earned and it is the job of parents to teach their children how to earn the respect of their peers, their teachers and their subordinates as they journey through life. Parenting is a rather daunting job. A parent is a child’s first teacher and it is the parent’s job to show them through love which includes discipline how to assert themselves without diminishing anyone else. It is not the job of teachers to spend their time discipling our individual children at the expense of other well behaved children who cause no behavior issues at school and are eager to learn. Parents who don’t agree that their children should behave should consider home schooling.

  57. Cathy, I value your insights on the today’s trends in parenting. I agree — while we are to treat our children with respect, they must not be given the driver’s seat. You wrote about modeling humility and conscientiousness, and said, “How they (i.e. parents) recover from their own occasional mistake, outburst, loss of patience or bad call may say more to a child than how they are in happy times.” Exactly! All is not lost when we make a mistake. As a mom of three sons and now a grandma, I have had many opportunities to model a confession of a wrong and a request for forgiveness. Humility is not taking on a doormat mentality, but is simply being honest about who we are and what we have done — and is an essential attitude in our pursuit of a relationship with God.

  58. I loved this article because it opens up the dialogue that feeding our kids a constant diet of how wonderful they are and how their opinions as so important in everything is turning out narcissistic teenagers. I am not saying that self esteem is not important but it has to come with a true sense of accomplishment. I hear so many kids giving nonsensical statements yet thinking they are dead right because they have been told every word that comes from their mouths is pure genius. We are not being fair to the kids. We need to spend more time on teaching and training them and yes telling them from time to time why they need to rethink something and how their actions may not be fair to others. Yes there are other out there.

  59. While I agree effective parenting has “collapsed”, perpetuating appeal to authority techniques is not the solution, it is the cause. Parents undermine their own roles by illegitimacy, ignorance, and lethargy.

    “Authority, unless justified, is inherently illegitimate and that the burden of proof is on those in authority. If this burden can’t be met, the authority in question should be dismantled.” Noam Chomsky. Noam make a great point about authority that is directly correlated to parenting. The title parent does not give legitimacy, justified parental decisions do. Unfortunately, many parents are adult mentally broken children themselves who cannot determine the burden of proof aside from “I’m the parent”.

    Parents also ignorant on both parenting and dominance. Being dominant over your child does not mean you should be mean. It means you must communicate to the child who the leader is. Parenting is not aggressive, angry or bossy. Family members should not fearful of adults, but rather respectful. Parents are the stronger minded being, calm but very firm. Parents set rules and they expect them to be followed; they set boundaries and they expect them not to be crossed; they place limits on what the others are allowed and not allowed to do and they expect everyone to stay within the limits. Parents are not dominant-aggressive, they are calm-assertive. Again we see the contradiction, parents want these expectations for their children but do not fulfill their responsibilities required to earn this behavior. Most parents are: mean, angry, bossy, weak minded, meek, inconsistent, make up rules and boundaries as they go, and hypocritical. Changing behavior is required for both the parent and the child, but rarely carried out by the parents.

    “The challenge of children and choices is not a mystery. Every parent must learn when to make the decision for the child and when to let a child suffer the consequences him or herself. Yes, children usually look to a parent for reassurance that they’re making good choices, but there is a fine line between parents allowing too many choices and parents who don’t allow choices at all. To learn the fine art of consistently making quality choices is a skill best learned from parents who leave room for their children to make their own choices on a regular basis, while learning from experience the difference between the benefits and repercussions.” Alexandra Delis-Abrams, Ph.D. Here again we see the parent either give up or resort to coercion. Many parents are ill equipped to teach rational choice making because they cannot make good choices themselves. Picture yourself as a child and your 60 lbs overweight father, who doesn’t exercise, and is washing down his 72 oz steak & mashed potatoes with his 4th beer. “Honey, I know what’s best for you so eat your peas.” Then comes the dreaded question all rational humans ask…”Why daddy?” How does he respond, with the truth “So you don’t become a unhealthy disgusting pig like me.”? Of course not, laziness takes over and next comes bribery or blackmail. “I’ll give you ____” or the universal fallback “because I said so”.

    Until you can accept your own weaknesses with a passion to grow with your children, Dr. Leonard Sax information is not only useless, but more importantly dangerous.

  60. “Treating children like adults doesn’t help them succeed in life”. Really? I challenge any reader out there to find a well adjusted kid who can recall being screamed at, bullied, verbally abused, belittled, neglected, insulted or shamed by their parents….the truth is if parents treated other adults the way they treat their children they could expect criminal charges being pressed every other day.

    • How did you draw the conclusion that in order for an parent to treat a child as a child when they are in fact a young child, it ultimately involves the parent bullying, verbally abusing the child, belittling the child, neglecting the child, insulting and shaming the child? Have you met no children whose parents did not raise them to be decent people but were who were obviously leaders in the household. I will give you a hint. I don’t think Pierre Trudeau’s children ran his household when they were pre-schoolers.

  61. I was married to a woman who could never say ‘no’ to her children, who would not let me set any limits on their behavior, and who failed to teach them values such as self restraint, self sacrifice, humility, or respect for others. My son was so out of control by the time he reached his teens that she sent him away to a boarding school for troubled teens in the wilderness of Idaho. The school was later shut down when a parent brought suit for fraud and abuse, but not before it cost me well over $100,000 in tuition and a variety of other nondescript charges (which I had to pay by court order). Now my children are in their forties and both have experienced failed marriages. This is another aspect of the story that should be told. Children who have been given everything they want whenever they want it often transfer that expectation to a spouse when they get married. No one wants to be married to someone who constantly makes demands and gives nothing in return.

  62. As a parent of three, I didn’t judge myself based on what the latest books or blogs said in regards to my parenting approaches. I raised my kids, now aged 21, 19 & 12, to know that as much as Mom loved them, there would be consequences to their actions either good or bad. Scored well on a test?? “You worked hard and it shows. I’m proud”. Wasn’t invited to a party or sleepover? “Maybe a limit was set on the number of kids invited or Remember when you did _____ to her? Maybe that’s why you weren’t asked”.

    My kids have had their share of ups and downs but they were all a learning experience. If a teacher gave detention for an infraction in school, I didn’t accuse the teacher of bullying. I wasn’t present when the infraction occurred therefore couldn’t argue either way. All kids, regardless of upbringing, will push the limit at times and that’s healthy in my opinion but when there are no limits – you have problems.

    To be honest, I pity some kids. They have never been told “NO”, there are no consequences for their actions, they don’t know how to handle responsibility and feel as if the world owes them something. As my sister says, “If it won’t look cute when their teenagers, don’t let them do it as youngsters”.

    Best advice I was ever given.

  63. Please listen to a podcast I did on parenting. Hopefully it will clarify a few things.
    https://soundcloud.com/angela-gollat/the-waking-parent-with-dr
    This is a deep rabbit hole, and it’s definitely not so black and white. People need to recognize that parents today are part of a bigger picture of evolution moving forward. Each generation is going to need new resources and tools that transcend the previous generation. We don’t always know how it is supposed to, or going to look. Example would be the tyrants and cultural “disturbers” of the 1960’s movement. Would we have thought those rebels were doing to set a new standard to youthful aging, be part of a movement toward a longer lifespan and higher quality of life? No, at the time, they were obnoxious rebels. And they served us by raising our standards of living. This generation is no different. It may look ugly at times, and remember, what life in 20-40 years is going to look like, we can’t imagine, and what we know is that if history leaves any clues, our kids are going to turn into something that we can’t comprehend right now, just like the Woodstock Baby Boomers. Conscious parenting is a global movement, and it may serve the future for some reason we cannot yet see. Attempting to “go back” in history to “authoritative” style may not be wise. There are wounds and gifts in every generation. We need to look at the landscape from a bigger view than what is happening .

  64. Hmmm…no word about the three fetal alcohol children born before mom graduated from high school. I wonder what book the previous commentator is following? No one in Toronto or Vancouver has seen the movie Idiocracy? As a still practicing educator who graduated in 1977, we have seen this coming for quite some time. Basically, parents who fail to grow up themselves. It is not just the Yuppies for who this article is written, but all social strata are suffering from a lack of parenting. Thanks to Cathy for writing this book report on Dr. Sax’ new book, The Collapse of Parenting, which provided inspiration for the title of her article. His three on gender issues are also a must read. Neufeld and Mate’s book, Hold On to Your Kids, should be consumed before starting to breed. Cathy could talk to few social workers, such as the ones I once worked with, who after a home visitation would drive up the street a ways, stop, and bawl their eyes out before they could go on. She could also check in with a few primary special ed teachers who could recount kids whose parents would tell them that they hate their children and that life would be better off if they were dead. Yeah there’s a whole lot of hurt out there, but some of us are still trying to make a difference for those wonderful human beings entrusted to our care. Seeing a heart and soul light up is still the real paycheque. I love my job.

  65. Thank you for an excellent piece. Children need structure and discipline. The main point is we should always try to keep a balance. For example, when it is time for a new shirt, you can say “Let’s go buy you new shirt” then allow the child to pick a suitable shirt. I work with my children to find that suitable shirt. It is of their choice, my ‘intervention’ occurs only and only if article is inappropriate (for example, with racist remarks or derogatory pictures or items).

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