If my parents told me once, they told me at least 100 times, “Don’t talk to anyone about their religious or political beliefs.” They meant, of course, that those topics are likely to generate tension and angry conflict. As such, they were not the stuff of polite social conversation. Notwithstanding the fact that I find religion and politics to be the two most interesting conversational topics of all, a third caution should be added to the list: parenting. In other words, don’t talk to anyone about how they are raising their children.
Numerous people from all over the country have told me of parenting disagreements that led to the breakup of even close friendships. I’ve long ago lost count of the parents and grandparents who have told me sad tales of how such conflicts have caused alienations within extended families. Teachers and administrators constantly convey stories of parents who take their children’s sides whenever academic or disciplinary issues arise at school. Most significant, disagreements between husband and wife over how to raise children, especially over when and how to discipline them, have become a major cause of divorce, ranking right up there with conflicts over sex and money.
This trend has been exacerbated by the growing popularity of radical parenting philosophies like attachment parenting, advocates of which promote extended breast-feeding and parent-child co-sleeping. As a prime example, the divorce of former child actress Mayim Bialik, author of "Beyond the Sling," a best-seller on attachment parenting, is currently in the works. Actually, that came as no surprise. Reading her book, I got the distinct impression that she and her husband did not see eye to eye where their kids were concerned.
Whether it’s a matter of complaints by men of playing second fiddle to the kids or complaints by women of husbands who come home from work and undermine their attempts to keep the kids under control, it’s obvious that marriage, once entered into for the purpose of having children, is now threatened by children.
Fifty-plus years ago, there was general consensus on how children should be raised. That consensus has been shattered. I submit that the shattering began when parents began relying on advice from experts who themselves did not agree on even the most fundamental of parenting matters. I am acutely aware, for example, that a significant number of mental health professionals do not appreciate — a mild way of putting it — my traditionalist perspective. But even if I was taken out of the equation, agreement in the mental health community still would be lacking.
The larger problem, however, is that when the parenting traditions of a culture begin disintegrating and are replaced by parenting anarchy, the very survival of the culture is threatened. Until relatively recently, parents were trying to raise children such that America was sustained and strengthened. Today’s parents, by and large, have tunnel vision. Their parenting is all about the child or children. The needs of the forest are ignored in all the fuss over the supposed needs of the individual trees.
And no one can agree over what the trees need in the first place.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.