We know now that child abuse can cause both emotional trauma and long-lasting health damage. Does it necessarily mean that you should fulfill all your child’s wishes?

Published in hardcover in December 2015 and now also available in a paperback edition, The Collapse of Parenting written by Dr. Leonard Sax strongly criticizes the general trend towards permissive parenting.

The collapse of parenting

Dr. Sax shows what happens when parents totally abdicate their authority and try all too hard to please their children. Sometimes this happens because being a parent is a demanding job that can easily take away all your energy. Sometimes moms and dads simply cannot brace themselves to have an argument with their children. Some parents are so much afraid of getting too authoritarian that they end up refusing to have responsibility for their kids.

Although it is often recommended to treat your children as adults, the naked truth is that kids are in no way adults. Only a parent can teach his or her children to tell right from wrong. Kids simply lack life experience and can be easily influenced by peer pressure and the media. Left to their own devices children are extremely likely to indulge in activities that are detrimental to their health and development.

Thus, these days the average teenager spends some 70 hours a week in front of a screen, child obesity borders on national catastrophe and kids only rely on TV and the Internet for guidance on what to do with their lives. Very often difficult kids are sedated with potent drugs rather than taught self-control and self-discipline: this both harms their health and makes them even less disciplined.

Nowadays, children often get too much-undeserved praise.

However, it is only their behavior and not good looks, identity or intelligence that should be praised. Blinded by continual flattery kids grow up completely unprepared for challenges and lack motivation for hard work. It seems that you cannot boost a kid’s self-esteem with praise: by doing so you only make him or her dependant on other people’s opinions.

Dr. Sax says: ‘The job of the parent is to… explain what is and what is not acceptable. To establish boundaries and enforce consequences.’ He urges parents to teach their children people skills and set limits on their screen time. He underscores the importance of spending a lot of time with your child; this time should be productive and full of wholesome activities.

He advocates for teaching your kids humility and modesty: they should only be congratulated on achieving something tangible like good exam results. It is also important that parents engage their children in taking regular exercise and control their consumption of junk food. Last but not least, reading and crafting are far preferable to playing video games and watching TV.

To sum up, to be a good parent you have to love your children and meet their needs. You also have to be strict enough to impose limits, teach your kids how to behave well and make sure that they show respect for other people. You also must be able to say ‘No’ and not be afraid of a confrontation.

Easier said than done if you ask me. Then again, good parenting doesn’t come easy.