This New Parenting Trend is Not Good For Kids (And What They Really Need)

It’s fascinating to watch yo-yo parenting trends come and go, but not always so fascinating to see how they affect children.

Overhearing a young mom recently inspired me to consider and write something that might help us keep our balance.

She and a friend were talking, and I heard her say, “Well, we were late this morning, again, because Natalie couldn’t decide what to wear. I really want her to make her own decisions…” and I missed some of the remaining conversation. I did discover, however, that Natalie is 2.

So let’s talk for a minute…

I’m a huge proponent of moving kids toward independence and so I understand this rationale. My 4 year old loves to make his own sandwiches, and I let him, even though it’s messier.

But this new trend of insisting our youngest children make every decision can cause some major problems, and I’ve noticed that it can easily and quickly lead to a child-centered life.

For one, it is overwhelming. A two year old isn’t mentally equipped to make a hundred little decisions a day, outside of normal play-time decisions. Children need guidance and that includes having a parent take care of basic decision-making to free them up to learn age-appropriate lessons. We’re in charge and when we act like it, it protects them from overload.

More importantly, it insinuates too much authority. When a young child is accustomed to making all the decisions, the balance of authority is lost, and she becomes confused when it is necessary to concede to her parents’ wishes.

Perhaps the knee-jerk trend to be equals with our children comes from the history of assumed over-bearing authority from parents–you know the stories your parents tell. But we don’t have to parent in ditches. Maintaining respect and a rightful position of authority may be one of THE most important parts of healthy parenting, and I’m afraid we’ve lost it to a large degree. Parents may have been more overbearing and even harsh with their children in bygone years, but they were respected, and a great deal of good came from that as their children turned into adults.

Children still want boundaries. They want to test a safety net and know it’s going to hold. They understand, even if they can’t articulate it, that healthy authority is safe and loving. We can’t parent in fear of our children not liking us or somehow harming them if we act like the parent.

The key is in loving them, enjoying them, and establishing clear boundaries and then enforcing those boundaries.

They are happier and we are happier when we lovingly hold a place of respect where obedience is expected and required.

The alternative is not very pretty or healthy.


2 Responses to “This New Parenting Trend is Not Good For Kids (And What They Really Need)”

  1. sarah says:

    I have my kids make choices all the time, and it works fine. I make sure their choices don’t affect me. I don’t ask them to randomly choose pants, I set out two pairs and let them choose one. if it takes to long I tell them 3 min left and set a timer or I choose. I give them so many small choices, that don’t matter to me, walk to the bathroom or quack like a duck to the bathroom. empty the dishwasher or fold the towels. Since doing this, I’ve found when it comes time for the big choices, I don’t get a whole lot of back lash. I am very firm also. so they know, if they don’t choose one vegitable, mom will choose two. They know if they don’t get shoes on quickly I will do it, but they will have to sweep the stairs when we get home (or take out 3 pieces of trash from the car when we get there). I think the problem comes when parents don’t hold tight to the follow through.

  2. D. says:

    Kelly, I so get what you’re saying about this generation of walk-all-over-me parenthood. I feel flabbergasted watching parents allow their toddlers to rule the specifics of what they will and won’t eat or even the constant negotiations where you see the parent clearly grasping for their God-given role, but mostly afraid of their demanding child.

    On the other side, I’m not so sure how quick we should be to defend the harsh and overbearing form of parenting generation (s) past. Yes, kids did respect their parents, but much of that was out of fear. There wasn’t a whole lot of affection that went about to balance the firm hand. The fear often meant whippings in the shed without much guidance for the heart. Basically like the kid was a disgrace to their good name! Or even a ridiculous expectation of “children are to be seen and not heard.” I lived this principle at my grandparent’s house; I don’t have many fond memories of hanging out with them, as much as I respected their authority.

    I would lean more towards being an authoritative parent, which has it’s definite weaknesses. I think the difference between the authority of years past is it was just expected without an explanation or willingness to engage. Just obey, cause your told too. Well, yes, that’s true, but I think a kid needs to be walked through the why as well, even still being expected to obey. Our family is quite opinionated and very open about what we discuss in terms of situations we find ourselves in or the happenings around the world, local community, etc… How do you raise children that can think for themselves without them coming across as disrespectful to the generation where children weren’t suppose to have a say in much of anything? I would say we are more liberal with our kids expressing their thoughts and likes/dislikes, but I know when it turns into complaining.

    I agree that if we give our kids the ability to decide in areas that aren’t that crucial, we’ll find them more cheerful about obedience instead of when we monitor (which I can tend to error on) their every choice. I just don’t feel the same fondness about the generations past and their methods of child-rearing. It seemed cold with no thought to the heart behind the offences.

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