The iconic image of the insouciant, slovenly-dressed millennial lounging on the sofa waiting for Uber Eats to deliver his dinner so he can begin an online electronic game competition is not the random product of some writer’s overactive imagination. This self-absorbed, lazy, narcissistic creature didn’t just step off a spaceship and suddenly populate the earth. These “young-uns” have parents. Where were they when this truculent creature began to emerge? This is the question that Cathy Gulli is trying to answer.
“My 17-year-old son doesn’t even want to get his driver’s license,” one mother wailed. “We even offered to buy him a car, but he said - ‘no thank you’. He doesn’t want to pay for insurance. ‘I’ll just take Uber’, he said. “What about when you go on a date,” I asked, astounded? ‘Oh...we don’t go on dates,’ he answered. ‘Girls are too demanding.’ Somebody please kill me,” the frustrated mother moaned. She obviously didn’t see her part in it.
In an article in Maclean’s, Cathy Gulli uncovers the mystery of, where have all the parents gone? She writes:
Not long ago, Dr. Leonard Sax was at a restaurant and overheard a father say to his daughter, “Honey, could you please do me a favor? Could you please just try one bite of your green peas?” To many people, this would have sounded like decent or maybe even sophisticated parenting—gentle coaxing formed as a question to get the child to co-operate without threatening her autonomy or creating a scene.
To Sax, a Pennsylvania family physician and psychologist famous for writing about children’s development, the situation epitomized something much worse: the recent collapse of parenting, which he says is at least partly to blame for kids becoming overweight, overmedicated, anxious and disrespectful of themselves and those around them. The restaurant scene is a prime example of how all too often adults defer to kids because they have relinquished parental authority and lost confidence in themselves. They’re motivated by a desire to raise their children thoughtfully and respectfully. In theory, their intentions are good and their efforts impressive—moms and dads today are trying to build up their kids by giving them influence; they also want to please them and avoid conflict. In reality, parents are at risk of losing primacy over their children.
In his book, The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups, Dr. Sax explains further:
A rule such as “No dessert until you eat your broccoli” has recently morphed into “How about three bites of broccoli, and then you can have dessert?” The command has become a question capped with a bribe.
“So, if the girl served green peas does eat one bite as her dad asked,” Sax says, “she is likely to believe that she has done her father a favor and that now he owes her a favor in return.” Food may be the first manifestation of the collapse of parenting, but many of the problems within families are a result of this type of role confusion. In this way, what happens over a meal is a metaphor for how uncomfortable parents have become in their position as the “alpha” or “pack leader” or “decider” of the family—the boss, the person in charge. The grown-up.
Parents are striving to raise their kids differently from how they grew up. They say, “I can’t do the stuff I was raised with, it doesn’t feel right. I don’t want to yell, I don’t want to spank,” says Andrea Nair, a psychotherapist and parenting educator. “We’ve come a long way from when you called your dad ‘sir’ and when he walked into the house you would jump out of ‘his’ chair.”
“We even offered to buy him a car…” - That’s where all the parents have gone.
Please share your thoughts with us! This is certainly a very interesting topic that raises many questions. Do you agree with Cathy Gulli or Dr. Sax?