Because I just posted an article on the lack of influence parents have on their kids <okay … not lack … just the extent of influence> … I thought would post some research to address some mis-perceptions with regard to today’s parenting.
If you want to get depressed upon the state of parenting just Google parenting. You will find an endless array of articles talking about the decline of parenting and how parents are bringing up a generation of anti-social, undisciplined, irresponsible unfocused kids.
And that <opinion/belief> couldn’t be further from the truth.
Reality, on a variety of measures, doesn’t match this attitude.
It is true that times were different when I was growing up <yeah … I am old>.
Parenting when I was young was an odd mixture of tighter overall discipline yet a little more almost laissez faire attitude with regard to freedom and risk … especially if you compare it to today. You had lots of rules with lots of freedom to make mistakes … and some quite big mistakes.
What I do know after doing some research? I am unclear … unless miracles were involved … any of us survived childhood.
Today … the amount of freedom parents allow their children to have has plummeted. The percentage of kids walking or biking to school has dropped from 41 percent in 1969 to a mere 13 percent in 2001 <Time magazine>.
This is happening despite the fact many experts <without research … simply observation based opinions> believe the intent and philosophy behind parenting hasn’t changed. They argue it’s the tactics in which parents implement that has changed <and that has affected children conduct>.
John Becker, a marriage and family therapist in Plymouth, says:
“ the very philosophy of parenting has changed in the past 25 years. While the main goal of parenting – to instill character and moral development in children – has remained unchanged, he says, the focus of how to do so is different.
In years past, parents were more concerned with raising non-self-centered, obedient children – whereas today, there’s a stronger emphasis on building a child’s autonomy, self-esteem and individuality. Back then, he says, children were expected to be at dinner at a certain time and to eat what was in front of them. Not doing so was a sign of disobedience.
“Nowadays, I think parents are more sensitive to kids’ individual needs: ‘Well, what if I don’t have a taste for something like that,’ or maybe if I’m hungry earlier?” he says. “It’s just going about it in a different manner.”
Many of these opinions are shared by me. But that wasn’t the point of this article. The point was to seek truth. I like this generation of kids and, in general, I tend to believe parents are doing a pretty good job <being a parent is tough>.
I went in search of research studies.
Some researchers have argued that actual children conduct may not have changed during the past decades, and what is different may be other factors such as perception or enforcement of such conduct.
Now that, my friends, I wholeheartedly embraced as a concept.
As we get older our vision with regard to the past can get awful fuzzy. Perception and reality have a tendency to not match up.
For example … that broken arm falling from the tree house didn’t constitute pain .. it was a badge of childhood memories <which suspiciously didn’t include any pain>.
Regardless … I dug up some research to address the negative parenting perceptions.
The best most complete study I found compared 1986 to 2006 parents <it was actually a study on abnormal children exploring conduct as tied to parenting>.
Well. Let’s review some details.
It suggests that as compared to the 1986 parents, 2006 parents had greater expectations in relation to going to school, doing homework, being polite, telling parents where they will be going, etc.
In addition, 2006 parents were more likely to monitor their teens as compared to 1986 parents.
Ok. Another perception example …. I found this in a parenting magazine … filled with opinions and such <note: this is kind of scary in that parents read this as fact and it is simply opinion>:
- A dialing down of discipline
The structure and control in children’s lives today, however, only seems to extend to a certain point. When it comes to discipline, parents and experts agree that society has put fewer expectations and responsibilities on children than there were 25 years ago.
“Too often, I think, we’re a little bit too light on our kids nowadays. We’re telling them, ‘You shouldn’t do this. This will have adverse effects,’ but then we let them off the hook and they don’t experience the adverse effects.”
Well. Back to the research.
The results of research do not suggest that today’s parents are more permissive or relaxed than parents in 1986. In fact, they seem to report having higher expectations and monitoring their kids more than parents did 25 years ago.
On a separate note … I will admit that it bothers me when research is not cited but rather they do the infamous “parents and experts agree” … which implies research but it is simply collective point of view opinion.
The authors of the study also examined whether any changes in conduct problems between the 1986 and the 2006 teens could be due to parenting changes.
The results were actually surprising.
The answer was yes, but not in the way you think.
The authors found that changes in parenting practices from 1986 to 2006 actually made an impact on teen’s behavior: they seemed to have decreased the amount of conduct problems.
But how could parenting changes in the last 30 years have reduced the conduct problems among kids if conduct problems among kids apparently got worse? That is, if teens got worse, how is it that parenting made it better? The authors argue that parenting changes made the problem less worse:
Yes, kids appear to be having more conduct problems, but these problems would be even worse if parents had not changed since 1986.
In addition … statistically <another study> … while parents may feel guilty about not being able to spend enough time with their children due to shifts away from traditional parenting roles and sharing more responsibilities, working parents are actually spending more time than ever with their children.
Prior to 1995, moms spent about 12 hours a week looking after kids and by 2007, college-educated women were at 21.2 hours a week, and those with less education around 15.9 hours.
The same holds true for fathers.
College-educated men spent around 4.5 hours with their children prior to 1995 … which has doubled+ to 9.6 hours a week now.
Dads without a college degree also saw an increase from 3.7 hours a week to around 6.8 hours a week.
Despite the research statistics …
Today’s parents are more likely to feel guilty about not being able to spend enough time with their children <note: and do you wonder why with all the ‘lack of parenting’ articles strewn throughout the internet and magazine??!!??>..
In the end.
The findings of the study I am citing do not support the view that any population-wide ‘decline’ in quality of parenting has led to an increase in youth antisocial behavior or overall misconduct in the youth population. Kids are still kids.
The truth is that research shows you actually have to be a really bad parent – with excessively lower levels of parental control and responsiveness – to find a strong association with risk for conduct problems.
However, as noted, quality of parenting appears if anything to have improved and these changes may have been protective. Models suggested that increases over time in conduct problems might have been greater had it not been for observed changes in parental control and responsiveness.
<main research source: The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology>
All that said.
I chuckled when I found one of those lists that some old fart wrote up about their childhood:
First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing and didn’t get tested for diabetes.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.
Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.
We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
We ate cupcakes, bread and butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren’t overweight because we were always outside playing.
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.
No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live in us forever.
Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment.
It is a fun list … but I have said this before … and I will say again … every generation looks backwards with a tainted eye.
Our childhood was different … and similar.
The trappings may be different but the construct remains the same.
Freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we how we learned to deal with all those things … defines a childhood.
It doesn’t really matter how a parent actually gets to those things … as long as they get to them.
My last post <and research> may have seemed harsh to a loving parent. And I can find gobs of articles written by unhappy influential parents who make statements like “although peers are important, too often, that’s overemphasized, and parents really need to understand that they are, and always will be, the most influential people for their children.”
We can talk about who influences the most until we are blue in the face … my real point is that it isn’t a competition with regard to who is most influential to a child.
Peer group, invasive technology and the times in general that we live in <nor research> will never overshadow the value of a mindful parent.
Doing your best to produce the kind of person who you believe can make a difference in Life.
That’s the bottom line.
Are they going to be people that aren’t afraid of the world, that are going to go out and make a positive impact and be productive?
That is the most important parents perspective and attitude … and ultimately the responsibility they assume to the best of their ability … because that is what they can do.
It is just the right thing to do.
And no research or post or even expert opinion article can, and should, stop a parent from being a parent – and caring. Good parenting will never be defined by society or research … it will be defined by the actual people who assume the responsibility – Parents.