Book Review: The Collapse of Parenting

I just wanted to share some highlights from a book review I read on NPR.com recently (the full article can be found here).  I’m especially passionate about parenting right now, at this stage of my life, because we are well beyond the halfway point of time that we’ll have our children in our home to parent them!  Our twins will be 13 Thursday, March 10.  I CANNOT believe this is happening!

Leonard Sax, author of the book The Collapse of Parenting, conducted over 400 studies which led him to reach the following two conclusions that I want to share with you:

On the problems with parent-child relationships he’s seen over the years

So many kids today care so much more about the opinions of other kids than they do about their parents’. And that’s really harmful because the regard of your peers, if you’re an 8-year-old or 14-year-old, that can change overnight. So if you’re concerned first and foremost about what your peers think, you’re gonna be anxious. And we’ve seen a 400 percent explosion in anxiety among American kids in the United States over the last 30 years. An American kid in the United States is now 14 times more likely to be on medication for ADD compared to a kid in the United Kingdom.

On the correlation between medication and the collapse of parenting

I can tell you exactly how it happens. Here’s a typical story: This boy tells his parents that he’s having trouble concentrating and focusing and they take him to a board-certified child psychiatrist. And the child psychiatrist says, “Ah, sounds like maybe ADHD, let’s try Adderall or Vyvanse and see if it helps.” And oh my gosh, what a difference — medication helps enormously. The child, the teacher, the parent and even the prescribing physician saying, “Hey this medication was prescribed for ADD, it’s clearly been helpful, therefore this kid must have ADD.” But he doesn’t.

The parents bring him to me for a second opinion and I ask some questions like, “What do you do in the evening?” and the parents have no idea, he’s in his bedroom with the door closed so his parents don’t know what’s going on and they think he’s asleep but he’s not. He’s staying up ’til 1 or 2 in the morning playing video games night after night. He’s sleep-deprived. And if you’re sleep-deprived you’re not gonna be able to pay attention and all the standard questionnaires, Conners Scales, etc. cannot distinguish whether you’re not paying attention because you’re sleep-deprived or because you truly have ADD.

My thoughts

Bottom line, and the author even deals with this dilemma as well, should we as parents worry about being our children’s friends?  I often say this, and to answer the question, NO!  As parents of adolescents, it is not my role to be their friend…right now!  Don’t get me wrong, it’s important that I develop a great relationship with them, but not so that we can be friends now.  We’ll worry about that later!  Right now, my primary role in their lives is to be their parent, their father!  There are a lot of other people out there that can be their friends, most notably their peers, but guess what?  No one else can be their father!  Their mother!  Their parents!

So, my dream is to one day have a relationship with my children, like I have with my parents right now!  My two sisters and I are in our 30s.  I can honestly say, whenever we’re together, and with our parents, and our families, we have a great time together!  We can all be in the same room together, we really can all coexist!  Not every family can say that.  One of the things I can honestly say though, while we were growing up, was that our parents were secure with their role as being our parents, and there was never a moment of confusion as to whether they were our friend, or our parent!

I’ll delay my awesome three kids not necessarily being my BFF right now,  because they need me as their father more than a friend.  However, I’ll be making daily deposits into their lives so that one day, I will have some equity in their friendship account!

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