Saturday, December 1, 2007

Parents behaving badly

In a somewhat related note to an entry on why American children do not respect their parents, M pointed out the following blog entry from Judith Warner:

Megan Meier, a 13-year-old from Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, killed herself last year after an online relationship she believed she was having with a cute 16-year-old boy named Josh went very sour. What she didn’t know – what her parents would learn six weeks after her death – was that “Josh” was the fictitious creation of Lori Drew, a then-47-year-old neighbor and the mother of one of Megan’s friends.

The story is here in the NYT but what caught my attention was the following in Judith Warner's entry was this:

In part, Levine blames parenting experts for this turn of events.
She blames the self-esteem movement, decades of parenting advice that prized "communication” over limit-setting and safety. She blames the narcissistic needs of parents who want their children to like them at all costs.

This is a pretty strong accusation. I had always wondered about some of the parenting books that I had read and whether there was any basis for the kinds of recommendations that they were making. Some of the recommendations are pretty innocuous for instance, I've read that when babies cry they may be wet. Alternatively, I've also read that babies like being in a wet diaper because it reminds them of being in their mother's womb. I've often thought of relegating these books to the recycle pile.

There are others that are not so innocuous, for instance Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish's book on How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk is almost a bible in day to day dealings with children (and people in general). Although I give them credit for arguing for limit setting and letting children learn the consequences of their actions, I sometimes wonder if their recommendations have any basis on data (and I emphasize data rather than their personal experiences or anecdotes). No doubt that they have learned through their personal experiences but some times I have to wonder about the "other" cases, i.e. those kids that do not follow the script that is in their book.

The accusation made by Madeline Levine in Warner's blog entry is directed toward the PC/liberal environment that children are in today which in some way makes them not respect their parents. I'm starting to lean in the same direction as well although personally, I am still confused about how to handle the day to day stuff without seeming to be an "enabler" and wanting them to like me. I guess I sometimes think of it as this: I'm here to be their parent not their friend. This begs the question: What is a parent?

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