Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Collapse of Parenting - Leonard Sax

Title: The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grownups
Author: Leonard Sax
Publisher: Basic Books, 2016 (Paperback)
Length: 287 pages
Genre: Adult; Parenting
Started: May 11, 2018
Finished: May 12, 2018

From the back cover:

In The Collapse of Parenting, internationally acclaimed author Leonard Sax argues that rising levels of obesity, depression, and anxiety among young people can be traced back to parents abdicating their authority. The result is children who have only a slippery grasp of right and wrong, who lack discipline, and who look to their peers and the Internet for direction. sax shows how parents must reassert their authority - by limiting time with screens, by prioritizing the family, and by teaching humility and perspective, among other strategies - to refresh and renew their relationship with their children. Drawing on more than twenty-five years of experience as a family physician and psychologist, along with hundreds of interviews with children, parents, and teachers, sax offers a blueprint parents can use to help their children thrive in a changing world.

My colleagues and I had a professional development day last week, and this author was one of our guest speakers. We received a copy of this book at the end of the talk, and needless to say, I devoured it within 24 hours.

I've been blessed as a teacher in that up until this year, I really haven't had to deal with difficult parents in particular, but this year alone I've had several incidents related to overbearing parents and administration not willing to stand up to them. After each incident, I remember thinking to myself that neither my parents nor any of the parents of the kids I went to school with (circa late 80s and throughout the 90s) would've had the gall to even consider calling a teacher to complain about or request half the things I've had the privilege of entertaining from modern parents so far in my teaching career. Since I parent my daughter similarly to how I was parented, I wondered if parenting on a large scale had really changed all that much since my childhood, and according to the author the answer is yes.

To paraphrase the author's research, which echoes much of my anecdotal experience, in the interest of giving children more of a say in decisions that affect them, the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction and parents have essentially abdicated their parental authority over their children. As a result of parents neglecting their job to specifically teach cultural values and morals to children, kids turn to their peers and internet culture to learn what is valued and what they should emulate. Which is, in my experience, being materialistic and obnoxious.

The author further goes on to say that most of the problems recognized in kids nowadays: lack of healthy eating habits and general fitness, a larger number of kids being medicated for anxiety/depression/ADHD etc., that America has fallen behind in academic standing compared to the rest of the world, and that kids are so damn fragile compared to previous generations, can be traced back to this abdication of parental authority. While I don't personally believe that every single instance in each of these categories can be chalked up to crappy parenting, I do think the author's hypothesis makes a good overall point that definitely does apply to many modern day families. He argues for a focus on the family that isn't rushed or over scheduled (and without screen-time) in order for kids to get their value systems from their parents rather than peers or the internet. He compels parents to diversify their kids' activities so their identity isn't completely composed of just one thing, and also to help develop empathy by spending time with others from all walks of life. These are things I can completely agree with, and I think following those would facilitate a huge change for many families, but I do acknowledge that even giving this advice comes from a place of privilege and that this isn't possible for all families, especially given our culture's inability to find a good work-life balance.

I especially liked the author's final chapter on what the purpose of life is. Many kids I find (and a good chunk of adults) seem to think life is just about being successful and making money. Many find out later that life should be about more than that, something that gives your life meaning. The author argues that through proper parenting and cultivating values in children throughout their young life, young adults will be well adjusted enough to handle their post secondary lives because they know exactly why they are working so hard at whatever they choose to do, to achieve that personal meaningful existence.

I think anyone who works with kids in any capacity should read this, it gives a lot of insight into how many modern parents operate and explains a lot of the behaviours we're witnessing in this generation of kids.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like these new updated covers compared to the original releases.

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