Arguably the hardest decision you will make in adulthood is whether to have children – given we now know it is the number one predictor for divorces as the stresses of childrearing put a toil on marriage.
It seems to me the empowerment of children comes with the high price of disempowering parents. Affluence, coupled with some well-founded hysteria around the pandemic of child abuse has further muddied the power relationship between children and parents. Parents allow children the choice of food as toddlers and continue to allow them decide what they wear, the school they go to, how they spend their free time: so don’t parents only have themselves to blame for this when they subscribe to laissez-faire parenting?
So in all honesty I was not surprised that a prominent psychologist is of the opinion that Australians are the worst parents, lamenting that “Parents are frightened of being seen as bad parents or frightened of saying “No”.
I firmly believe parenting has become a growing challenge as a direct result of the confusing position we find ourselves in the West when we are told by our children that we are equals. It would seem the long-held practice of hierarchy between parents and the offspring has gradually broken down.
Well-functioning families have clear intergenerational boundaries that separate parents and offspring according to the roles and rules that govern family behavior. In the West, this power structure has become more reciprocal and marked by greater mutuality during adolescence
But in Asia, this power structure and line of authority generally does not change until much later, possibly even as late as early adulthood for the majority of families.
When I consider the complexity of parenting in this global digital age where reliance on internet and social media even extends to schools which are now insisting children and teenagers use Ipads for homework, which in turn is impacting on childhood and disrupting family life, I remain even more convinced that laissez-faire parenting should be challenged. Maybe it is time for Westerners to learn the ways of their Asian counterparts instead of stigmatizing Tiger Mothers.
It is comforting to know I am not a lone voice. Evolutionary parental counselor, Tracy G. Cassel argues that children are not our equals, pointing out,“if our children were born as fully competent adults (mentally), they wouldn’t need parents to help keep them safe, help them learn and help them navigate this world until they are our equals and ready to take it on themselves”
“ The overarching problem with viewing our children as equals is that it tries to negate that we do hold power over our children. What’s key, though, is that coming from a place of power and coming from a place of respect do not have to be antithetical to each other. They can and should complement each other if we’re to be effective parents.
But to deny that we are indeed in charge and hold power over our children is a grave mistake that leads us to unfortunate scenarios with our children.”
I fear ultimately we are producing a generation of kids that are peer-parented, aided with the tools of facebook and texting. As a result, they become young adults who do not believe in the power of listening and are arrogant enough to think they can find all their answers via google – leaving parents feeling disempowered, disappointed in lack of joy in parenting and very, very relieved when the kids move out.