Everywhere you turn, it is impossible to get away from the latest and greatest in parenting advice. Turn on the television and there are ‘professional’ TV shrinks analyzing how parents discipline and telling them what they should or shouldn’t do. In cases of bullying, or teenage behavior problems there is always some reference back to the parenting. Truth is, there are innumerous studies and surveys, research and polls, opinions and myths – bombarding parents each and every day of their lives about how the decision they make as mom and dad today will affect their children long term.
In so many ways, parents have entered the TMI (too much information) era of parenthood, where discipline and consequence always take a back seat to psychological well being and social acceptance among parenting groups and modern day standards. And just like our prison systems have succumbed to liberal thinking, so has our parenting.
It is no longer acceptable to spank a child. If you are seen yelling at your child at the playground, you are labeled as unstable, mean or abusive. Hell, if you get a divorce and do any of these three things a mediator may come into your home, and tell you that you are an unfit parent. Parents are encouraged to never raise their voice, to always follow through with a consequence and are constantly reminded how big of an impact our behavior as parents has on a child’s lifelong ability to achieve balance and success. This, all being dealt to a generation who was eagerly given the belt when they misbehaved and who realized quite frankly that ‘children are to be seen and not heard.’
At some point is fair to wonder if today’s array of parenting advice is in actuality hurting our children more than helping them?
The cold truth is that life is often cruel and unfair. The world that exists beyond the walls of a home are not ‘in love’ with the kids that walk out our front doors. There are teachers, other adults, and plenty of children who are going to be mean to our kids, hurting their precious psyche. And on top of that, what is going to happen when our kids have jobs? Is it going to be okay to quit because a boss is hard on them or expects certain things from their performance? Are children today being raised in homes, and with disciplinary measures that are quite simply too liberal?
Most parents would agree that there are times and events in a parents life when they need to find some advice about how to raise children. Of course, there are times when even mom and dad doesn’t know what to do in order to handle the child and provide the best outcome possible. But in many ways, parenting today has become extremely counter intuitive. Many of the publications about parenting seem to blanket children and thread them all into the same quilt of humanity, not taking into account that each and every child is different and will respond to different types of parenting and discipline. And at some level, parents need to worry and focus on what happens today, in the right here and now and handle things appropriately rather than walk on egg shells worrying if taking away a child’s I-Pod or denying them the right to go to a party is going to permanently damage them.
Parenting advice all around seems to agree that children need the adults in their life to be parents and to parent rather than to be friends. Yet, the advice has gone soft, and rarely if ever encourages parents to teach kids the harsh realities of life.
Perhaps worse, is that children today are growing up with a new breed of part time parents, that sends them home from school to empty houses. Some studies show that children with two working parents spend less time with mom and dad than they do with friends and teachers. The result is of course, parental guilt. This parental guilt for having to work, for not being there to attend plays and assemblies at school, for being forced to send children on a bus to daycare to spend the time after class with people who don’t really care about them causes parents to become even softer. It is often the root of over indulgence in a child, and seems to lessen the desire for parents to discipline harshly.
If you look at statistics, today’s child is much more violent and troublesome than the children 30 or even 20 years ago. School violence has been steadily increasing since 1996, teenage suicides are on the rise, acts of bullying (which is underlined by anger issues among kids) is on main network news almost every evening, and there has been a 78% increase in 17-21 year olds being incarcerated since 1981. Psychological illness, including depression and anger issues among teenagers, as well as the number of kids ages 6 18 being medicated for behavioral disorders (which didn’t exist two decades ago) are at all time highs and are forecasted to double over the next 10 years according to information from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Based on those numbers alone, does it seem like today’s parenting methods are helping our children, or hurting them?
Perhaps the parents of yesterday were hard on their children. Maybe some of the rules and the consequences were tough. You could go so far as to say that maybe parents of yesterday were less concerned about ‘pleasing’ their children than today’s parents are. Yet the numbers speak for themselves. And the real world which is often heartless and cold, unfair and unrelenting, is waiting for all of our children. How in the world are they going to deal with the ‘real world’ if they aren’t given glimpses of what that actually looks like?