Parenting From the Middle
We have changing structures and attitudes in the United States that affect the way that we parent. Who would have dreamed two or three decades ago that we would have a debate over children 10 to 6 years old walking to and from the park alone? Yet, in the summer of 2015 there was just such a debate. Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, Maryland parents who allowed their 10- and 6-year-old children to walk home alone, had to defend themselves against charges of neglect (St. George, 2015). While 8 Keys to Old School Parenting for Modern-Day Families, by Michael Mascolo, is not about this aspect of parenting, the book addresses one of the many concerns encountered by modern parents.
In the review of 8 Keys to Old School Parenting for Modern-Day Families, Elizabeth Soliday notes that our “prevailing parenting model is 'child–centered' ”(para. 3) in contrast to the authoritarian model of the past. “Children, not parents, take the lead in their own self-determination” (para. 4). While not everyone will agree, Soliday notes that the book’s author argues that a child-centered approach has produced “over-indulged children who lack compassion and concern for others” (para. 5). Yet, no one is advocating a return to authoritarian parenting; what is put forward will be familiar to child and adolescent counseling and clinical psychologists, as well as developmental psychologists—authoritative parenting. So, what’s the issue?
Soliday notes the author’s replacement of familiar terms used in parenting such as “logical” or “natural” consequences with “meaningful” or “morally responsible” consequences. One example provided was that a child who is routinely disrespectful when reminded that the computer time limit is up could receive “a meaningful, morally responsible consequence of having to earn computer time through practicing respectful treatment” (para. 8). I don’t have a major problem with the consequence suggested or the language used. However, in an evidence-based era, where are the data showing that meaningful and responsible consequences will produce more compassionate, respectful, and responsible children than logical or natural consequences? To what extent will or does the outcome depend on the parent’s definition of moral and responsible? It’s worth a thought.
By Elizabeth Soliday
PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(39)