Solutions For Parents

Teenager » Discipline and Guidance

Living in an Adult-Centered Society

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My concerns for families now are that over a twenty year period,  families have increasingly divested themselves of several key parental responsibilities that are essential to limiting rage, violence and aggression against others and institutions. Parents are responsible for continual and closely watched supervision of adolescent and teenage family members.   Instead of this type of monitoring, with visual sighting of what children are doing with their time, families continue to be addicted to over-scheduling and overworking, at the obvious risk of causing children to believe that since adults can’t read their minds, they won’t find out exactly what they are doing with their time.  

Parents are also from the moment of a child’s birth responsible for choosing acceptable boundaries and activities matched to the child’s personality and interests, talents and obvious strengths. Any parent of a toddler knows this, ask a preschool teacher, talk to a teacher …Children cannot learn the early stages of self control and limit-setting if they have no boundaries or family rules or traditions to follow.   Moms and dads tell me they have trouble with limits and rules because they aren’t around to enforce them. How true!  Somebody else is watching the store!  But, human nature being what it is, adults who make up rules without any involvement of their children don’t have the ability to follow through and the rules have no meaning for the child. 

The major responsibility that parents fail to consider is a more cultural and diverse issue.  It virtually didn’t exist thirty years ago when groups and communities were more contained and tight.  Today’s parents think primarily about their own lives, their own needs and wants, and they live in an adult-centered society.  The courts, the legal system, police practices, colleges and universities, schools and medical facilities, and every other institution under the sun all support an adult-centered societal model.  Our society caters to the whims of adults.

Children are increasingly treated like late 19th century children who were viewed as pieces of property, returning them in their parent’s eyes to ownership status.  For example, If let’s say a child shows an interest in ice hockey on TV.  Dad sees this as something he (dad) could get interested in.   It would be good bonding and exercise after work and mom can use the time to cook dinner, or get take out.   She can add onto her schedule taking the girls to ballet or supervising school projects. Decision made.  Johnny plays hockey.  There is no time lag to really access whether the kid is going to stick with it or whether the family can really afford the equipment or can get him to practices, etc.

The decision has been based on adults’ needs.   Parents (adults), in these high speed years of rapid change, are so used to doing what feels right for them that they barely acknowledge the possibility of negative outcomes related to how their children are developing.  They have no knowledge of child development; there is no one in the circle of their extended family to make comments about how one child is slow to warm up, or whether the other kid has trouble handling scissors- the multi generational neighborhood doesn’t exist.  And it is a true fact that information on any subject for any reason is instantly available.  

Parents play an information game I call “Child Development Lotto” in which adults look no farther than to literally match what they read on the internet or see in a TV program with some observed behavior or emotional response they observe in a child or family member.

Example: Mom reads an article on Autism on the internet and is shocked.  “My” child is like that- he doesn’t answer me with any information, no specifics; he is a loner; he twirls bead and strings and pieces of metal.   “I have to get him to a specialist.” She could as easily be talking about a family heirloom that she wants to be appraised, or a dishwasher that is broken and needs to be repaired or a bird that she found in the yard with a broken wing.  She takes pieces of information from an unrelated source, generalizes across the news reports she hs read, experiences a moment of insight into her own children as if she owns them and runs the kid the next day to the clinic for a $2,000.00 assessment, independent of any other input, not even from her pediatrician. 

In fact, if she did call the pediatrician, he or she would probably say, “that is impossible,” or “sure take him to be tested because actually there are more boys than girls who develop this disability.”  Ten years ago a study of pediatric professionals showed that 80% of them spank their children and advise parents that there is no harm because it is a stress reliever for parents.  They cautioned not to use excessive force or extended time punishments as these discipline methods do not actually stop bad behavior; the actions by parents only temporarily interrupt the misdemeanor.  But, permission is granted because parents need to release tension and reduce their stress

Ask Dr. Susan