Q: You seem to blame all of America’s parenting woes on mental health professionals and imply that if parents still raised kids as did people in the 1950s and before, they wouldn’t be having the problems they’re having today. But times have changed, John. Is it realistic to think that children can still be raised like their grandparents were raised?
A: Times have always changed. Since America’s colonial beginnings in the 17th century, every generation has put its own stamp on culture. Demographics, technology, politics, economics … you name it, it has changed, and constantly so. But through it all, the fundamental understandings that informed child-rearing remained unchanged, the simple reason being that children, unlike the “times,” do not change from one generation to another. That’s why my parents approached the responsibility of raising children pretty much the same way as had their parents, who had raised their kids the way they themselves had been raised, and so on.
In the 1960s, mental health professionals claimed that traditional child rearing was psychologically harmful. They proposed a radically new approach based on equally radical understandings and principles. Psychologists like best-selling author Thomas Gordon (“Parent Effectiveness Training”) proposed that families should be child-centered, children’s emotions contained deep meaning, and the parent-child relationship was a relationship between equals; ergo, children should be given equal sway when it came to making family decisions.
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