The Collapse of Parenting

The Collapse of Parenting February 1, 2016

Leanne Italie:

A confirmation of Jean Twenge’s researches about “Generation Me.”

Dr. Leonard Sax has been a family physician and psychologist for 27 years, conducting workshops around the world for parents, teachers, social workers, counselors, school psychologists and juvenile justice professionals.

He’s also a dad, and it’s from all those perspectives that he took on his fourth book, an alarm bell of sorts titled, “The Collapse of Parenting,” out recently from Basic Books.

Sax, who lives in Exton, Pennsylvania, argues that American families are facing a crisis of authority, where the kids are in charge, out of shape emotionally and physically, and suffering because of it. He calls for a reordering of family life in response.

The Associated Press: What exactly do you mean by a collapse of parenting?

Sax: I wrote about an office visit with a 10-year-old boy who is sitting and playing a game on his mobile phone, ignoring me and his mom as I’m talking with his mom about his stomachache. And his mom is describing his stomachache and the boy says, ‘Shut up, mom, you don’t know what you’re talking about.’ And he laughs.

That would have been very unusual in 1990 or 2000. It is now common: children, girls and boys, being disrespectful to parents, being disrespectful to one another, being disrespectful to themselves, verbally and otherwise. The mother did nothing, just looked a little embarrassed. The culture has changed in a profound way in a short period of time in ways that have really harmed kids. …

AP: What types of things can parents do to help a child or teen become a fulfilled adult?

Sax: The first thing is to teach humility, which is now the most un-American of virtues. When I meet with kids I ask them what they think it is and they literally have no idea. I’ve done that from third grade through 12th grade. The high school kids are more clueless than the third-graders.

They have been indoctrinated in their own awesomeness with no understanding of how this culture of bloated self-esteem leads to resentment. I see it. I see the girl who was told how amazing she was who is now resentful at age 25 because she’s working in a cubicle for a low wage and she’s written two novels and she can’t get an agent.

The second thing is to enjoy the time with your child. Don’t multitask. Get outdoors with your child.

The last thing: Teach the meaning of life. It cannot be just about getting a good job. It’s not just about achievement. It’s about who you are as a human being. You must have an answer.


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  • Goodness – I’m glad to see that people are starting to talk about this. The proliferation of this type of parenting goes even as far as the educational system at times. We have been identified as “bad parents” because we don’t “helicopter parent” and we do allow our children to learn from the logical consequences of their actions (ie., forget your lunch/homework….we DO NOT bring it to school!). We were one of very few parents who didn’t sign up for a Reminder App to tell us what our children had for homework – we audaciously thought it was their responsibility, not ours! Our choices hardly go over well in a society which judges a parent’s “love” and “commitment” by how much they coddle and enable children/teens, etc!

  • KonCern

    Well it was predicted by the 2nd wave feminist movement that by the 2000, Children will be raised and indoctrinated by the community .
    So if the village is messed up what will be of the innocent children. ?
    ” the hands that rock the cradle , ruled the world.” Those hands use to be parents especially mothers. Now those hands are the glorified babysitter in the daycare industry. Thanks to feminism, women resent the task of rasing a godly seed….don’t ask her to sacrifice for the good of her baby. That would be a politically incorrect expectation to ask of her.and yet we ask we our children are confuse , rebellious, selfish, ….? I guess we look at parenting and especially mothers and we will find them lacking, leaving the babies up to snakes that comes into the garden via electronic media with no supervision…oh well, who cares?
    Many churches capitalize on the daycare industry because mothers also have to work to pay tithes and offering. So, it is now embedded into our culture , to subcontract the raising of God’s inheritance to the perverted in the feminized culture. We have created a vicious cycle for ourselves driven by materialism and discontentment….

  • What is your working definition of “feminism”? I think feminism is nothing more than an honest advocacy for women to have equal rights within society – to be able, allowed and even encouraged to live into God’s gifting and calling up on her life. If women are called to be stay-at-home mothers and wives, then they should do so. If they are gifted and called to lead a Church, then they should do that. The failures and struggles of parenting cannot be fully laid upon women, feminism or mothers, as they are only half of the parenting equation. Does parenting become more difficult when both parents are working? Certainly. But it becomes the responsibility for both moms and dads to raise their children responsibly. Ideally, parenting should require BOTH parents to sacrifice for the good of their children – not just mothers.

    I would heartily agree, however, with your contentions about the role of materialism, discontentment and electronic media!

  • KonCern

    I did say 2nd wave as a qualifier. The Women Suffrage Movement were responsible for much of the equal right laws including the right to vote. And many of them respected men and were very happy to be at home. They weren’t competing against men and want to promote ” mother god”…
    Feminism is an Ideology, and it’s meaning maybe different to others….
    But your idea is naive ; Feminism is antithetical to the Bible. It is an affront to the Bible and conflicts with the Bible.
    I provided quotes from so call 2nd wave leaders of the 60’s/ 70’s that influenced the culture. Having our children communally raised was a Stated goal. Now it is a way of life. A Goal accomplish, and so is the consequences–we live in a messed up Village, and it is rasing our babies.
    Stay at-home mom was a way of life, prior to the 2nd wave. Now they are few and in between, and are looked at with disdain, by modern day 3rd wave feminist. So that , when Michelle Obama said she will be “Mom-in-Chief,” many of them were mad and disappointed in her.
    Parenting is for mother and father, I did not say otherwise. But I did single out mothers, because they [most] are refusing to take that responsibility. As a Christian, it is the responsibility of the father to work out side of the home to provide. Stay-at-home moms also Work. It is WORK to manage and care for the Children and a home, mister / marm , that is WORK.
    Feminist see that as a disgrace, viewed with contempt and disdain.
    The Bible does have some thing to say to mothers, about their Role in the Home. Home is First, especially when Babies are involve.
    Gifting and Callings cannot supersede the commands of God. We are to subject ourselves( including our giftings) , to the written Word of God.
    Or else, ,feelings, experience, desires and outright rebellion will bring confusion in the body of Christ,including the Home. And so it is today.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Anything beyond anecdotal data to back up these rather grandiose assertions? This has been a headline in every generation going back to the Renaissance.
    Are there kids who grow up spoiled? Sure, and I’d actually concur that consistency and smart discipline have declined among modern parents. But walk into a class of 4th graders and you’ll a good mixture of smart, engaging, compassionate and challenging children like you always have.

    Doomsday cultural prognosticators may sell a lot of books but they are almost always wrong.

  • yeah i agree with you that parents need to teach their children humanity first. They need to know value of life.

  • Peter Wolfe

    HI Andrew, this from the authors website:

    “From July 2008 through June 2013 I took an extended leave from medical
    practice in order to devote myself full-time to these visits. I have now
    visited more than 380 venues across North America and around the world,
    encountering students, teachers, and/or parents face-to-face. Listening
    to children and their parents outside of North America has convinced me
    that we in the United States and Canada now face challenges – of our
    own making – which are significantly different from the challenges
    facing parents in Scotland or Switzerland or New Zealand.”

    My wife is grade 6/7 teacher here in Canada and certainly the anecdotal stories confirm this, parenting is much different now than in my day as a parent. It would be good to have actual research data on this.