The Importance of Parental Leadership
In a recent Maclean’s article entitled, “The Collapse of Parenting”, writer Cathy Gulli argues how kids today are suffering because parents are no longer in charge. She identifies how many parents of today’s generation are deferring to their kids because, in essence, they have lost confidence in themselves and have relinquished parental authority.
What is referred to as the Culture of Disrespect, is proposed to be facilitated by the collapse of parenting and has been shown to have led to an explosion in kids becoming more fragile, more overweight, less resilient, more anxious and depressed. She goes on to reference numerous themes put forth by Dr. Leonard Sax, physician, psychologist, and author of “The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups.”
The article has received an enormous amount of attention, so much so that the article has been deemed one of Maclean’s Magazine’s most read and shared stories—EVER! Upon reading the article myself, several themes emerged that undoubtedly stood out for me as occurring on a nearly day-to-basis in my practice with children and adolescents as a therapist.
What happens when parents are uncomfortable leaders
It seems to be a troubling phenomenon, wherein parents, despite good intentions and perhaps even compensation for how they were raised as kids and how they strive to raise their kids differently, are seemingly uncomfortable in their role as ‘decider’ or ‘pack leader’. More often than not, it seems that parents of today’s generation feel propelled to ask their children rather than tell. While this search for equality within a family is on the surface, impressive and considerate, the problem has become one where kids are actually overpowering their parents.
I want to be clear that like anything in life, behaviour, intentions, values, traits, and the like exist on a continuum. My intention is not to cluster every parent or every child as being part of the collapse of parenting pattern and/or the culture of disrespect. What I want to express is my agreement with the author’s position on the connection between parents who lack authoritative qualities in their style of parenting and the resultant pattern that has emerged in children of such parents
What happens when a parent asks instead of tells
By parents dedicating more effort to pleasing, avoiding conflict, and by turn placing little to no demands or limits upon their child can, whether unintentionally or not, lead to a pattern wherein there is no hierarchy in the family unit. Why might this be a problem, one might wonder? Well, for starters, without a clear presentation of who is in the driver’s seat in a family, a child is more apt to experience a lack of boundaries and will be more likely to go against attempted limit-setting.
A common example that comes up time and time again in meeting with parents is the concern many moms and dads have about their child’s proneness to having explosive temper tantrums. To take the classic example of a child in a store wanting a treat of some kind, perhaps a candy bar — wherein following a parent’s refusal of such a wish, the child then takes to instant yelling, crying, throwing of objects, and/or similar such behaviour.
As a parent who is more likely to ask than tell, to relinquish boundaries, rules, and structure in order to have their child’s wishes met, it is likely that such a parent will be hard-pressed to have their demands or limits be taken seriously.
Saying ‘no’ to your child
To strike somewhat of a balanced position in this — while as a parent you may adjust expectations to the needs of your child and listen to your child’s arguments, this does not, however, mean that you will necessarily change your mind once you have heard all of that information! In the event of needing to say ‘no’ to your child, this does not and cannot be seen as a malicious attack on a child’s character development. It is, in my opinion, and seemingly that of the author’s as well, that saying ‘no’ is absolutely essential in helping to frame a child’s world so that he/she can develop not only a clear sense of right from wrong but also develop realistic expectations.
By giving in and prioritizing a child’s needs above and beyond the needs of a parent’s, sets up a cycle where the child will feel in control to then make up their own demands, without respecting others’ differing positions or being able to handle opposition from others.
Building resiliency in children
The importance of building resiliency in children is paramount. It isn’t about striving to be a “perfect” parent. Perfection means making no mistakes but without mistakes to learn from how can one become resilient in life?
It has long been established that individuals who are resilient fair better in life,
- they are more apt to set realistic goals,
- have appropriate expectations for themselves,
- see weaknesses or fall backs as a chance to do things better,
- recognize their strengths, and they are able to bounce back from failure.
- This list goes on.
All in all, where there is a collapse, there all too often can be a re-build.
Help for Parents
In reading this post and finding yourself in search for where to begin your newfound striving for balance in parenting, you may wish to consider arranging an appointment to discuss such parenting needs with me. I practice at Toronto Psychological Services (TPS) in Etobicoke (416-531-0727).