Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups by Leonard Sax

The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-UpsThe Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups by Leonard Sax
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars. I liked this book, but was disappointed in its execution. Let me explain.

We are in a culture of disrespect in this country. Parents have abdicated all authority, and that abdication is costing our children, and society, a ton. We don't know why our children go to school, and we don't teach them correct principles. Our children are fragile and don't know how to fail, how to recover from failures, or how to be courageous. And this is all the fault of parents. We need to fix these issues in our homes.

Unfortunately, all of these astute and important observations somehow morphed into the same worn out diatribe against cell phones and video games that I hear a lot from the previous generation. While the author successfully made the case that parenting has gone awry, nothing lays causation at the feet of technology. In every example it was parenting that was to blame. So why be anti-technology?

While I am on the topic I'll share this thought from a recent tech conference I attended (sorry I don't have a citation-- I want to say the speaker was a VP of something from Twitter.) For our kids, the digital and physical world are blended, and both are "real" to them. So our parenting needs to become equally seamless. You wouldn't let your kids be alone with a stranger, so don't let them be online in a private conversation with out. But you also wouldn't lock your kids in the house to make sure they never encounter a stranger. How will they learn social skills? So let them safely explore the digital world. Know where they are going, who their friends are, and when they will be "home" (offline.) If they are home late, start hanging out with the wrong crowd, or sneaking out digitally OR physically, stand up and be a parent. Ok, so I might have restated that thought in my own words, but I appreciated the thought. Back to the book...

Yes, our culture has issues, but we all now live in a technical world. Absolving yourself of that world doesn't solve bad parenting. And your fear of technology doesn't solve the parenting problems either. Some of the worst, most fearful, least authoritative parents I know also abhor technology and refuse their kids video games, cell phones, social media accounts, etc. Refusing your kids' access to cigarettes is not the same as teaching them to not smoke. For me this ruined the whole book. I bought into the whole message, I see the problems in our lives and in the families around us, and this is the prescription? Useless.

This was headed toward a 5 star rating until it fell off the rails in the last few chapters. The author goes further down the anti-tech path without returning to the real issues. Parents need to learn to be authoritative again. They need to show love. They need to teach values. None of those have anything to do with smart phones. That is just a symptom.

So for falling off the rails, the best I can give this one is 3 stars. There are good messages in here, but don't get sucked into the false causality that leads you to give up technology in the hopes that all your problems will go away.