“Command. Don’t ask. Don’t negotiate,” instructs Leonard Sax in his 2016 book “The Collapse of Parenting,” in which he blames parents for a number of society’s ills, including obesity and mental illnesses.
I know reading such indictments of me and my peers will, despite my instinct to dismiss them, produce feelings of shame and ineptitude. I read them anyway, drawn to their specious certainty about a possible world in which children always do as told and teeth-brushing takes 2½ minutes.
And then, as predicted, comes the self-scrutiny.
While my husband and I are pretty good about standing by a “no,” we do allow for some conversation and negotiation on our way there. Are we ceding too much ground? Also, when it comes to our daily eating and sleeping routine, we lean a little toward flexibility — and away from structure. While more rigidity might establish more parental authority, it would also generate more insanity as we’d all struggle to uphold the systems we put in place. How bad is it to allow life, and all its attendant feelings and chaos, to occasionally get in the way?
According to Katherine Lewis, author of the new book “The Good News About Bad Behavior,” it’s time to let go of these concerns. “The command and control, the ‘I’m in charge’: it doesn’t work,” she said.
Say goodbye to ‘Father Knows Best’
There are four forces behind this, including the rise of social media and web culture, which has us “always looking outside ourselves,” along with the decline of community and unstructured play time. Today’s children tend to roam the world as independent contractors, and are taught to focus more on individual achievement rather than their contributions to family, neighborhoods and friends.
The last force in Lewis’ quartet? Parents. Lewis said that while she doesn’t blame us, many parents would benefit from rethinking our approach to discipline.
– Elissa Strauss
Read more: Why The Old Way of Parenting No Longer Works
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