It is often lamented that children are misbehaving more and more. Whining, tantrums, back talk are the norm. Parents are often at a loss on how to manage their children’s negative behavior and struggle to set limits and stick to their rules. Most adults would agree that they are uncomfortable asserting authority in their home and disciplining their children. Modern parents would be hard pressed to give a reason why they are so uneasy.
Wendy Mogel, author of “The Blessings of a Skinned Knee”, comments insightfully on the issue. She contends that many parents who grew up in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s have difficulty demanding respect from their children. Their ideals are of egalitarianism. They were taught to embrace the notion that authority should be questioned and challenged. Parents will put up with impolite, brazen and disrespectful behavior in the name of democratic equality. Mogel points out, “Political philosophy (is) sabotaging their home life.”
Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline, also shed lights on this complex problem. She states that, not only do modern adults have difficulty commanding authority, modern children do not know instinctively how to obey their parents. She attributes this to the human rights movement of the 1960’s. That era changed our traditional mores. She says, “Adults no longer give children an example of submissiveness and obedience.” Before the 1960’s, “Mom obediently did whatever Dad said…or at least gave the impression she did because it was the culturally acceptable thing to do….in the good old days few people questioned the ideas that Dad’s decision were final. “
Nowadays, Mom and Dad are considered to be equal partners. Very few modern mothers feel comfortable saying, “Just wait until your Dad gets home!” Submissiveness and obedience at home are outdated principles.
The problem persists outside our home as well. There are also fewer models of obedience and submissiveness on T.V., in schools and on our streets. All minority groups, as they should, are demanding and gaining their basic human rights. American culture values democracy, individualism and independence.
Children are just following the trend. Consciously or unconsciously they have picked up on the ethics of their home and their society. They want to be treated with respect and dignity just like everyone else. They want to be independent and celebrate their individuality. There is no frame of reference for them of dutiful, obedient, submissive behavior. Society has unwittingly taught children to fight for their rights and children are balking at the slightest attempts to reign in their negative behavior. They can’t listen (or behave) because the underlying messages of our home and country are telling them not to.
Adults uncomfortable asserting their authority and children unable to receive it has created a parenting mess. Parents trying to run their homes on the principles of individualism, independence, and democracy, are running into problems. Mogel feels, ”children are not our equals and they don’t want to be……a democratic system doesn’t work very well for …..children; it just makes them feel insecure.” For children to grow up to be productive, and emotionally healthy they need authority figures in their lives. Those authority figures need to be their parents and teachers. Without limits and rules, children are unhappy, stressed, anxious and depressed.
To further complicate matters, kids have become very adept at pushing limits and snubbing rules. Mogel warns, “Parents get fooled because their kids are such skilled debaters, but children are not psychologically equipped to handle winning those debates.” Parents are exhausted by their children’s arguments, making it even more difficult to enforce rules. However, parents must maintain their authority in their home because children need them to and kids “don’t have the maturity to regulate their own television viewing, monitor their own language or teach themselves good manners.”
In our “Parenting Simply” workshop we address these issues. We learn techniques to help us assert our authority in our homes and enforce limits and rules in a kind, dignified and respectful manner.
We hope you enjoy!