Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Leonard Sax: The Collapse of Parenting


In a recent talk on nurturing children, Sh. Zahir Bacchus recommended the book The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax. Having previously read Boys Adrift by the same author on the recommendation of Sh. Nuh Keller, I ordered a copy right away. I suggest you do that right now as well!

On the request of Salik, I will post highlights from each chapter when I get the chance, however I highly recommend reading the book itself as it is peppered with real life stories and examples we can learn from.

Chapter One: The Culture of Disrespect

  • The purpose of childhood is to teach children the rules of good behaviour and what constitutes good character in our culture.
    • In North America and Western Europe, schools began to back out of this responsibility in favour of emphasizing numeracy and literacy. Therefore placing the burden of responsibility to teach this culture more so on parents than ever before.
  • The second half of the twentieth century saw the empowerment of the previously disenfranchised: people of colour, women, employees, and children.  While the first three give equality to mature adults, the last one takes away parental authority. Without parental authority, deference to parents is gone.
  • TV shows in the past always depicted parents in a positive role as consistently reliable and trustworthy. Sax examined 150 of today's most popular shows and found that not one of them shows parents in this light -- even on the Disney channel. It is difficult to parent in a culture that is constantly undermining parental authority.
  • Songs used to be loving and positive, now the vulgar ones make it to number one.
  • Look at the messages on shirts: "Do I look like I care?", "Is that all you got?", "Out of your league". I even see little children with shirts like "Too cool for school" or "Dad's the boss, Mom is his boss, and I'm their boss". We laugh these off, but the messages are real and affirming the culture of disrespect all around them. As a high school teacher myself, I am shocked at how much vulgarity students insert into their everyday, casual conversations. They refer to friends or beckon them with curse words, and this isn't taken offensively. A child who is taught to have self-respect could never tolerate this or dish it out -- it's not normal, but for youth today it has become normative.
  • The notion of history being a smooth trajectory of progress is false to say the least. And yet it has trickled into North American society in such a deep seated way that a product need only advertise itself as "new" to be synonymous with "better". This easily transfers to people so that youth is better than being older, which is why elders aren't respected or considered valuable and relevant -- again, undermining parental authority. It's no wonder that North Americans are obsessed with anti-aging products.
"Two hundred years ago, it was reasonable to trust in the future without being utterly stupid. Who can believe in today's prophecies, seeing as we are yesterday's splendid future...'Progress' means, in the final analysis, taking away from man what ennobles him in order to sell him cheaply what debases him."      - Nicolas Gomez-Davila
  • Have fun with your kids. Don't let them opt to spend time with friends instead. "Why? Because having fun together is one of foundation of authoritative parenting in the modern world" (Sax, p.28). If fun is only found with friends, they won't want to spend time with adults. Without that time with adults, the culture of respect cannot be imparted.
  • Parents today want to please their children because of their desire to be loved by them, but this backfires. "The child expects to look up to the parent, to be instructed by the parent, indeed to be commanded by the parent. If the parent instead serves the child, then that relationship falls out of its natural balance" (Sax, p.30)
Upshot of it all? When there is no parental authority, children seek that authority in their peers who are children themselves.


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