Parents vs. Kids

it goes without saying that every child wants and needs to have a mom and dad to respect and admire. Someone who is strong and mature, self-controlled and decisive, and who will look after them. Kids don’t want parents to be their pal or playmate, exclusively, even though playing with one’s child is an important part of parenting.

In addition children deserve to have a voice in the family, appropriate to their age and development. In fact they should be encouraged to express themselves freely and appropriately, respecting the feelings and rights of others. The trouble is that some parents go much farther than that. They endow their kids with authority to make decisions they are not equipped to make. And when kids are trained to believe that they have the right to make their own decisions about nearly everything, they develop expectations that could condemn them to a life of frustration and misery.

In our American society, with the passing of every year, it seems that parents give more and more authority to their children. Is this a problem? You bet it is. Children are not equipped to take a position of authority or to make adult decisions. When they are allowed to do so over a continuous period of time in a situation in which the parents could very well make those decisions, the consequences can be dire.

Consider two trivial recent events that demonstrate what I’m saying. Though they may seem to be of little importance, you will get the point.

Incident #1

During a visit to a specialty food store which offered delicious tastings, I overheard two people talking, just a few feet away from me. Turning to get a brief look, I saw a couple in their thirties, standing with their daughter, about age ten. The gentleman had told the lady that he would like to stay for a few minutes in order to sample some of the interesting foods. She said she would rather just get what they came for and leave. He persisted, however, but she stood firm. She said, “Tiffany doesn’t have the patience to wait while you do that; she won’t be able to do it.”

Incident #2

The very next day, as I sat at a table of an outdoor cafe in a little tourist town, I saw a lady walking toward my direction accompanied by her little girl, about six years old. As they approached the coffee house, the lady asked the little girl, “Where do you want to sit?”

I had to wonder whether these two events were typical of the parent-child relationships. If that were the case, what sort of opinion might the child form about her parents? Will the child conclude that the parent(s) are weak? That they can’t make a simple decision? That they can be manipulated? That they lack confidence in their judgment? Any and all of these conclusions can lead to a child’s loss of respect for the parent(s), and to a state of anxiety, if the child concludes that the parents are able to make decisions … so the kids have to do so themselves. Ultimately the child may conclude, ‘nobody has my back, so I’m going to go my own way.’ This is one source of rebellion, defiance and anti-social behavior.

Now, what could explain this? How could this huge change in parenting styles have happened? The answers may be complex, but it seems that it began with the teaching and opinions of Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose book on baby and child care became the ‘bible’ for parents of newborns in the early 1950’s. He advocated a less strict and more lenient way of raising kids. This attitude became popular, and later was expanded to the field of public education in experimental schools which allowed students to learn ‘at their own pace.’ Apparently, the grown-ups decided it was not fair to expect all kids to learn in the same way. These principles made their way into more schools, and kids began to get the impression that it was now up to the schools to conform to THEIR needs, rather than for the children to conform to the expectations of society. This was a huge shift in thinking. This is what has led to the entitlement mentality that so many people complain about today.

The topic is much to big for a brief blog post, so let’s just leave it there. If you are a parent and you wonder whether your child has developed unrealistic expectations of what they deserve, and if this has become a problem … and you would like feedback … please feel free to reach out. I’d be honored to be of service. The phone number is (219) 309-3928.

For more thoughts click here: The Tantrum Princess

Thanks for reading!