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I see a lot of talk about “modern” vs. “traditional” parenting lately. I’ve even shared some articles on my blog page about the pitfalls of “modern parenting,” not because I was trying to speak out against it, but rather because what I thought the authors had to say about parenting in general was interesting.
The thing is, I have no idea what “modern parenting” really is, and after conducting a quick Google search to find the answers, it seems nobody else does either.
I mean, I found articles about “positive parenting” and “attachment parenting” and “unconditional parenting” and blah, blah, blah, but I did not see anything on the first results page specifically devoted to the exact characteristics and methods of this highly touted and simultaneously highly criticized method known exclusively as “modern parenting.” (And I didn’t go any further than that because why? I have shit to do, and I don’t really care, if we’re being honest.)
From what I can glean based on the different categories of parenting, “modern parenting” focuses largely on fostering positive self-esteems in children by loving them no matter what and showering them with affection and responding to their every whim and desire and lifting their senses of self-worth through praise and avoiding strict rules in favor of therapeutic suggestions, while “traditional parenting” involves implementing rules and expected roles and household chores and consequences for behavior and discipline. Of course, there is also Really Fucking Terrible Parenting, which involves abuse and neglect and general shittiness. But I’m not talking about that kind of parenting. Those kind of parents can suck it.
What I don’t get is why we have this distinction between “modern parenting” and “traditional parenting” to begin with. Isn’t parenting, parenting? Either you’re parenting your kids or you’re not, right? Sure, you might be doing a shitty job of it (And we all do a shitty job of it from time to time — I don’t care if you “positive parent” or “authoritatively parent” or whatever the hell you do. There are times when you suck at it. I know I do. You should know you do, too.), but either you’re making the attempt or you’re not.
To me, it seems like there are some basic tenants to parenting that people wishing to raise successful members of our society should implement, and beyond that, it shouldn’t matter much how they do it. For example, it seems like all parents should:
- raise kids who embody love, compassion, and empathy
- teach kids the basic principles of personal responsibility and consequences for actions
- emphasize the importance of dedication and drive to achievement and success
- recognize kids’ varying interests and personalities and love them unconditionally (provided axe murdering the neighbors isn’t one of their preferred hobbies)
And it also seems to me that all parents should find a way that works both for them and their individual children to achieve those goals.
The problem I see with distinguishing between “modern parenting” and “traditional parenting” is that hard-core, inflexible proponents of “modern parenting” seem to find rules and consequences and expectations and a little bit of distance and privacy between children and parents to be Bad Things, while hard-core, inflexible proponents of “traditional parenting” seem to find fostering individuality and hugging and kissing and not always having a switch on hand with which to beat a child’s ass when he steps out of line to be Bad Things.
Where’s the middle ground?
I can tell you as a teacher that there are some behaviors I notice in my high school students that I desperately want to avoid instilling in my own kids, and, at the risk of offending the “modern parents” out there, I think a lot of it is a result of being too praiseworthy and attached and accommodating.[/nextpage]
For instance, every day I have to deal with students who think they are entitled to do and receive whatever they want whenever they want it. They don’t feel like working today? They don’t believe they should have to. They don’t like an assignment or activity? They don’t believe they should have to do it. They want to wander the hallways because they’re bored? They believe they should be allowed to — and right now. They want an A on an assignment or in the class as a whole? They believe if they whine and argue and stomp around about it enough, their teachers should give it to them, even if they haven’t done shit to earn it. It’s madness, really.
Every time I see kids whose parents bend to their every whim and desire — he wants the blue fork instead of the red fork, so despite the fact that the parent has already gotten the red fork out, she retraces her steps to get the blue fork so Junior doesn’t have a shit fit; or she wants to turn on every light in the damn house and, despite the fact that it’s costing a fortune in electricity, the parent lets her because isn’t it important to let her explore and discover the world around her on her own terms? — I want to scream.
These types of parenting choices are not helping to achieve the basic goals of parenting I highlighted up there, goals that are important for living productively and successfully in our capitalist, first world society, by the way. In fact, they’re doing the opposite. They’re creating monsters of epic proportions — narcissistic, selfish, lazy, ethic-less monsters. Monsters that nobody can stand to be around, most importantly.
On the other hand, I also have to deal with students who are the product of strict “traditional parenting” — kids who are afraid to take anything less than an A+ home on an assignment for fear of being berated for not being disciplined enough and who won’t indulge their creative or artistic interests because their parents expect everything they do to be in pursuit of their future roles as practical family providers.
While these kids aren’t as insufferable to be in the same zip code with as are the products of “modern parenting” gone awry, their circumstances truly are sad, especially when it seems like love and affection is either never doled out to them or only bestowed upon them when they fulfill certain parental expectations. There is no room for mistakes in these kids’ lives, and it’s heartbreaking. Painfully so.
It seems to me like parenting has become this contest rife with hey-look-at-me-and-what-a-better-parent-than-you-I-am-because-I-wear-my-baby-or-because-I-spank-my-kids-and-you-don’t — a contest where the outcome is so one-sided that there are no real winners.
Why do we have to have specific parenting labels — “attachment parenting” and “positive parenting” and “modern parenting” and “traditional parenting” — and advocate that everybody do this thing right here and never do that thing over there? Why can’t we take the way we were raised, tweak the parts that didn’t work for us and sprinkle in a few things that our own children seem to need, and be happy with providing our kids with the kind of guidance that both works best for us as parents and them as children AND effectively achieves those basic tenants of parenting, even if that guidance involves a bit of everything or something different for each kid? What’s wrong with expecting children to follow rules and accept responsibility for their actions while at the same time loving them for who they are and encouraging them to explore their interests? Why can’t we do both?
In essence, why don’t we just eliminate all this bullshit about “modern parenting” vs. “traditional parenting” and get back to simply “parenting”?[/nextpage]