“What went wrong, John?” asked a fellow boomer who, like many folks my age, are dismayed at what has happened within the American family over our lifetimes. Specifically, we have seen the end of mere childrearing and the consequences to all concerned of this new and harmful thing called “parenting.”
In the 1960s, the forces of cultural deconstruction began demonizing all forms of traditional authority, including authority in and of the workplace, military, classroom teacher, and Constitutional government. Arguably the most significant demonization involved the authority of parents.
Two bestselling parenting authorities of the late 1960s and ‘70s, family counselor Dorothy Briggs and psychologist Thomas Gordon, published books in which they advocated for families being democratic. They meant that children, even children as young as 2 or 3, should have an equal voice in family matters. No, I’m not exaggerating. Read their books.
Unless you’re a baby boomer, you probably don’t notice how radical parenting advice of that sort has played out. Today’s parents are noticeably uncomfortable with being authority figures, for example. Note the ubiquity of parents who talk to their kids as if they are peers. They explain themselves to their children as if they are asking their approval.
They “problem-solve” with their kids, and they are especially diligent about asking their opinions, of course. Anything less is sure to destroy a child’s sense of being the most important human to ever live, as well as any chance he will ever have at becoming the first surgeon to perform a successful brain transplant. The operative word is “collaboration.”
Parent-child collaboration — a rebranding of “democracy” — is a centerpiece of the new way. In public, it’s a form of virtue signaling.
For example, two parents pushing a toddler in a shopping cart walk into the produce aisle of my default grocery. They look serious, and do they ever sound earnest. They’re asking the child: “Where do you want to go next?” and “Do you want to go down this aisle or that one?” and “What would you like for supper tonight?” and “Are you ready to go home now?” and “Which one of us should carry you?”
Why are they asking patronizing questions of that sort of a toddler? The answer, of course, is they are identifying themselves as parents who are mindfully and intensely sensitive to their child’s feelings, which is utmost to being collaborative.
Bless their big hearts; parenting progressives of that ilk don’t realize they are setting precedents that are almost certain to come around and haunt them. Giving a young child the impression that nothing happens that is not to his liking, that he must approve of what his parents are doing, that they await and depend upon that approval to know they are doing the right thing, and so on, is almost certain to result in a child who refuses to obey instructions and instead starts incessant arguments and tantrums. Let us not overlook the tantrums.
That time bomb often explodes during the early teen years, by the way. I’m just sayin’.
Visit family psychologist John Rosemond’s website at www.johnrosemond.com; readers may send him email at [email protected]; due to the volume of mail, not every question will be answered.