See also my video of these highlights & commentary: https://youtu.be/97XUyjKWieI
Table of Contents
Dr. Leonard Sax is a family physician MD and a PhD in psychology. He has conducted more than 90,000 office visits as a practicing physician between 1989 and today. He has given hundreds of lectures on parenting and related topics around the world. His other books are “Girls on the Edge”, “Boys Adrift”, and “Why Gender Matters”. His work is well researched and easy to read. Contact him at email@example.com and https://www.leonardsax.com/.
These are my notes and impressions of the book and do not represent all ideas of the book. When I add my commentary I preface it with “Note- …” I don’t put many sources he cites into these notes, please refer to the full text for related studies. He also shares many more fun and helpful stories than I report here, as my intent is to quickly highlight a few key principles.
Theme of the book: For authoritative parenting to work the parent has to have authority. The parents used to be the ones in charge, but now the kids raise each other, and there’s a culture of disrespect and rudeness the children have toward everyone, toward their parents and even their peers. They rely on their peers to raise them, not their parents. They think that the parents don’t deserve to know what’s going on in their lives. They think they should be the one who gets to choose what school to go to etc. but parents used to be the ones who decided all this. So parents aren’t really parents anymore.
Note- I have a concern that he might suggest that the age before adulthood is quite old such as mid-20s. Of course many today do. He correctly defines adolescence as the time between when someone can have children and when they are adults, but I think it is dangerous to have a longer and longer expectation of kids to be biological adults (puberty) without being cultural adults. I foresee a future where culture will have increasing respect for mature youths as adults in society. Today our youth simply aren’t mature whatsoever.
A few overview notes before diving deeper:
Ch 3 – You can explain your expectations but you don’t need to negotiate. Parents must command.
Ch4 Education – American kids are more disrespectful to their teachers than Australian kids etc. In Australia when a student leaves the classroom they say “thank you sir” or “thank you ma’am” or “great lesson.”
Some think it is going to allow for higher creativity in America to allow students to be so disrespectful, but not so.
America is unique in using all the technical gadgets in the classroom. There’s no proof that these actually help. We don’t need to turn the classroom into an arcade room! Other countries without this stuff are doing way better in education even though America spends more on education. Education is less about technology and more about respect for teachers, and good teachers.
Don’t let your kid go to another kid’s house where violent video games are played.
It’s ok to be the only kid without a cell phone throughout high school.
The parent’s job of limit setting etc. is more important than the kid liking the parent.
Tons of excellent solutions in Ch. 7.
Beginning of the thorough notes:
Introduction: Parents Adrift
If a kid is hungry enough they will eat essential healthy foods like broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables that they need to prevent vitamin deficiencies and poor health.
Parents are letting kids (as young as 8) decide which school to go to against their better judgment. Parents today mistakenly think that being a good parent means letting kids choose everything. They think that’s how kids learn and that parents can’t make all the decisions for them or they won’t learn how to decide on their own. Today’s parents are unwilling to force a child to go to a certain school because they don’t want to deal with the complaining that might ensue. 40 years ago parents sending a kid to a private school would not let the kids choose and would overrule the kids preference for their sake. Today it is common to let a kid have the final say.
One dad saw drunk kids at his house, he bought a breathalyzer and when he found a drunk kid he called the kids parents to bring him home, which they did, but the parents were upset that he did this, thinking that it was okay for underage drinking at people’s houses due to the argument that they’re going to do it anyway. The boy’s parents were offended by the phone call and did not thank the dad. They didn’t use the breathalyzer often but they kept it in view for parties.
One mother who advocated letting kids drink at a young age ‘because they’re going to do it anyway’ was seen when her kid got in the car and she picked him up from school; she asked the kid how he was doing, he said “turn around, shut up and drive.” And she did.
American kids are now less resilient, more fragile, more overweight, and more likely to be diagnosed with mental problems.
Over the past three decades there has been a massive transfer of authority from parents to kids. “Let kids decide” has become a mantra of good parenting. What the kid believes and wants is now seen as important or more than what the parent sees as best.
These well-intentioned changes are profoundly harmful to kids.
Humans are different from animals because of culture. Customs are learned and differ between communities.
Kindergarteners are being pushed to be less playful and more academically rigorous; this is not good. The kids aren’t learning proper socialization. And the authority of parents in our society is less and less, so the kids aren’t going to learn it from their parents either. Basics like don’t hit, share, clean up aren’t being learned.
It used to be that kids wouldn’t join a club if their parents didn’t approve because the approval of their parents mattered. Not so today.
He asked hundreds of kids at different venues: “if all your friends joined a certain social media site but one of your parents had a concern about it would you still join?” The kids didn’t answer yes or no, they just laughed. The answer to them was obvious: you join.
(Note- social media on phones is one of the most toxic influencers of our time, and Dr. Sax points this out excellently in this book. Elder Packer pointed this out in a pointed way: “Largely because of television, instead of looking over into that spacious building, we are, in effect, living inside of it. That is your fate in this generation. You are living in that great and spacious building.” (President Boyd K. Packer Jan. 16 2007 Lehi’s Dream and You – Boyd K. Packer – BYU Speeches))
Parents are reluctant to insist that time with family is more important than time with same-age-peers. Parents are suffering from role confusion, they are unsure what authority they have and how to exercise it. Kids’ attitude toward their parents these days is ingratitude seasoned with contempt.
It used to be that kids would learn right and wrong at schools but not so anymore.
Note- kids books these days don’t even try to teach morals, they’re only aim is to make it as entertaining as possible to sell the most books possible and to just “get the kids to read”; they don’t dare include any moral teachings in the books just in case that would offend some kids or bore some kids. I went to a school assembly a few years ago where a young author told a story about how when he first released his popular nonsense kids books, an old man marched up to him, and scolded him for making these books which teach no morals whatsoever. The audience at the assembly laughed, but I agree with the old man. Authors and influences have a moral obligation to teach good morals. I believe the author remembered and retold this story because deep down, he knows the old man is right. Bravo to the old man who spoke up!
When kids misbehave it’s less controversial to suggest that the kid has oppositional defiance disorder or hyperactivity disorder than to suggest that the parents need to train the kid. They turn to diagnosis and medication rather than parents working harder at training the kid to have social skills.
Parents today shoulder a greater burden than prior generations now that they are the only ones teaching social skills. And they have less tools to do it.
Parental authority isn’t all about enforcing with discipline. Parental authority is about a scale of value, that parents matter more than same-age-peers.
For the majority of human history kids have learned culture from adults, now they are learning it from other kids.
(Note- I believe Jesus said something about this when he said if the blind lead the blind, they will both fall into the ditch.)
American kids today don’t learn culture from grown ups; they have their own culture, the culture of disrespect. They learn it from their peers and teach it to their peers.
Several decades ago the popular song was “I want to hold Your hand.” Today the popular song is “I want to F*** you.” A radio edit version played, but the extremely popular version was the uncensored version. It reached number one in the United States.
(Note- still think the US is a Christian nation? Elder Cook recently said, “The goal of honoring the Lord and submitting ourselves to His will is not as valued in today’s society as it has been in the past. Some Christian leaders of other faiths believe we are living in a post-Christian world.” (Elder Quinton L. Cook, 2017 Oct. Gen. Conf. “The Eternal Everyday” The Eternal Everyday (churchofjesuschrist.org)))
Kids wear t-shirts saying “do I look like I care”, “out of your league”, “is that all you got”, “you look like I need another drink”, “find me another drink you’re still ugly”, “I don’t need you I have Wi-Fi”, and “you looked better on Facebook”.
The Disney channel actively promotes disrespect and undermines the authority of parents. Its shows depict parents being frequently absent and ignorant when compared to the kids. Talking animals are shown to be more insightful than fathers. In the 1960s- ’80s parents were shown as competent leaders. There are no kids shows these days that depict parents as reliable and trustworthy.
Two generations ago American teachers taught right and wrong in plain terms. Do to others what you would have done to you.
Note- as a schoolteacher now I am shocked to encounter many kids who say “I only respect people who respect me”; they’ve missed the whole point of respect… they see no problem with treating others poorly that they don’t like. They are quick to find fault with others and justify their extreme rudeness and disrespect. The author points out how kids are starting to tell teachers to “shut up”. That is completely unacceptable, but let me just say it’s even worse than that. There’s a tragic trend in limiting teachers in giving any sort of corrective consequences for bad behaviors, and the schools are becoming zoos where the teachers are the doormats. Kids spend 8 hours a day at such places, is it any wonder they go home and treat their parents with contempt?
Parents and teachers today don’t command, they ask, they question. The kids answer only with the answer they know parents want to hear. To assert your authority is to communicate culture to the next generation.
Prolonged childhood in humans is how culture is passed on. When parents mean more than peers, the parents can teach right and wrong in a meaningful way. They can help the child develop a stable self, based on their nature and mission rather than social media likes. Parents are the ones who can instill a love for music, art, and education.
(Note- much of what is listened to today could not be classified as music. Same for art. Good parents can help kids mow past all the weeds (pushed by kids and some adults) and get to the real fruit.)
In the 20th century every kind of authority became suspect in Europe and America. It’s great that people got rights and equality, but we forgot that children shouldn’t be treated the same way as adults. The first job of the parent is to teach culture to the child and authoritative parenting requires authority.
(Note- responsibility always comes with rights. Maybe we should hatch up a “Bill of Responsibilities”.)
In America we think new means better. You even see it in our architecture; it’s more common in America than elsewhere to tear down old buildings to put new ones up. (Note- some of that of course is related to our prosperity and ability to upgrade, but it’s still a good point, we are losing respect for all things old (including people). Its also puzzling why we are voting for our government to spend more and more debt based money we don’t have to replace old buildings with new, etc.)
In America the celebration of youth for youth’s sake is more pronounced than anywhere else. Products are advertised in America as being good because they are newer. In America billboards advertise plastic surgeons to make you look younger. You don’t see these advertisements in Europe and elsewhere. In America we value youth more than maturity, and this undermines the authority of parents.
Progress now means taking away from man what nobles him and selling it cheaply for what debases him!
In other countries people know the stories of their ancestors, they know the history of their country, they speak of it with pride, they wear the clothes of their parents the kilts etc., they are more than just museum pieces, they are to be worn whenever the occasion arises. Could you imagine American youth wearing the clothes of their ancestors? Youth elsewhere do so proudly.
Parents mistakenly think that a child is being independent when they skip a family vacation and go stay at a friend’s house instead. They are still dependent, they’re just transferring that dependency from their parents to their peers. This results in the child’s top priorities becoming pleasing their peers. The parents become an afterthought, a means to another end.
It’s hard to say no to a child that you love, but parents must do this.
Note- this is called tough love, it is essential element of wholesome love. This is why parenting can be excruciating at times. To express your love, you have to say no, and the child likely won’t fully understand for a long time. Parents must help underdeveloped people to make good decisions in the vulnerable stages where they aren’t aware of the dangers, etc.
If most of the good times happen when kids are spending time with other kids, it’s no wonder that kids won’t want to spend time with adults.
Parental authority needs to be exercised so that the kid has positive experiences with the parents rather than all spare time for positive things being with peers.
Today in the US and Canada kids’ primary attachment is to other kids.
(Note- the same goes for marriage, ensure you’re involved in those fun times, not just your spouse going off to play with other adults without you all the time.)
For the first time kids are turning not to parents, teachers and other responsible adults for direction, but to their peers whom nature never intended to be a guide. Kids cannot make each other mature.
Many kids today feel their life is none of their parents’ business, and feel the parent is intruding whenever the parent tries to speak with them. They are rude to their parents but cheerful with their peers. When the kid is withdrawing like this it’s a relationship problem, the kid is no longer attaching to the parents, only to the peers.
If you’re just trying to get your kids to love you rather than trying to train them morally, the odds are you won’t even get them to love you.
Note- well said, there will always be a more fun exciting parent, or a more fun and exciting peer group a child can be spending their time with rather than their parents. So the parent must do its duty to teach morals and to create wholesome recreation as a family, and to limit peer time.
Parents are to instruct, lead and even command their children. Everything is out of balance when this is switched around and the child is the boss. The more you try to earn your children’s love the more pathetically unsuccessful you may be. Parents who put their child’s wishes first only earn their child’s contempt. But parents who are responsible in their duties to train their children do find that typically their children love and respect them.
Children who get what they want when they want it, who live in the culture of pure disrespect, are not well equipped to handle the pressures of naturalization and adulthood. Sometimes you have to wait before you get to eat the donuts, and sometimes you don’t get to eat the donuts at all – that’s life.
The trend started in the 1970s and continued through the mid-2000s where the trend tapered. Obese kids (obese not merely overweight) have gone from 4% to 19.6% in less than 4 decades.
The New York times bragged about Michelle Obama’s kid exercise program being successful but all that happened was very young children 2-5 weren’t quite as obese, and there was no data for older children. Their obesity reverted back to the obesity rate of the 2000s, still not where they should be.
Fitness is not the same thing as slenderness. Many skinny kids can’t run a quarter mile without huffing and puffing. Fitness for American kids was 52.4% in 1999 and 2000, but in 2012 it fell to 42%. (This study controlled for economic status, race etc.)
A pediatric preventive cardiac clinic is a new thing.
The norm in America as recently as the 1970s used to be kids eat what’s for supper or they go hungry. Nowadays kids choose what’s for supper.
(Note- another excellent example of where kids simply aren’t mature enough to be making these serious decisions! Let parents be parents! Restore their authority! Don’t confuse agency with training! Parents will be held accountable for letting their kids run wild! Of course when I say run wild I mean freedom to indulge in excessive behaviors with no repercussions. Kids these days do need more running in the wilderness, that’s not what I’m getting at.)
Family diet standards used to include no dessert until you eat your vegetables and no snacking between meals.
The number of times American families eat at fast food restaurants has recently increased over 200%.
Michelle Obama made a school policy of junk food, providing more healthy food, and results we saw included lots of healthy food in the trash can, and a lot less kids getting school lunch at all. Michelle said schools should put more effort into marketing healthy food but kids today grow up in a culture where their desires are paramount.
School lessons are often presented as entertainment. University professors are graded by students based on how much fun their classes are. Kids are used to eating junk food and that won’t be easy to change. In affluent neighborhoods kids are bringing their own unhealthy lunches to school. Just offering healthy choices (while still offering unhealthy ones) won’t result in consistent healthy choices! It’s good that we are trying to get school food more healthy, but it doesn’t work when kids are so entitled that they can still access junk food.
Note- this is one of the reasons public schools are so toxic, even just the food! Of course the attitudes they learn there are even more toxic. But how likely is your child to chose water over wine at these institutions? You can’t just offer kids luxury vs humility and expect them to consistently chose the more virtuous humility. I think it borders on the unreasonable to think that these little bodies could consistently say ‘no’ to such toxicity all around them day in and day out. Lets face it, our kids are addicted to junk food they’ve been exposed to for years at school (and to the extent of our ignorance and permisivity, at home.) Parents, protect your children! You no longer live in a wholesome society! Times have changed, wake up! The end is near! This introduces one of the mighty themes of this book: you can’t offer your kids both virtue and vice. You have to restrict the vice. You are a guardian, not a butler! You have to show them by their experience the benefits of virtue over vice. As the prophets say, they must ‘stand in holy places’ so they can gain experiences with the Holy Ghost, so that when they encounter the lower realm, they’ll recognize it for what it is.
Parents are now carrying bags of snacks for the drive to and from the school, heaven forbid the kid experiences one minute of hunger. Parents are overly concerned about kids becoming hypoglycemic.
Animals with free access to food become fatter than animals with scheduled access to food even when it’s the same amount of food they eat.
Kids who never experience hunger will grow up to be fatter and psychologically weaker.
Rather than only allowing dessert for eating all their broccoli, it now becomes “ok you can have dessert after you eat 3 bites of broccoli.” Parental standards are slipping.
Parents beg their children to eat greens and the kid then feels like they’ve done their parent a favor if they do so, and that their parent owes them something. So don’t ask or beg, you have to tell. Restrict rewards when they don’t comply.
Kids today are watching lots of television, more than an hour and a half a day. The most common leisure activity in the recent past was outdoor play, not so anymore. Furthermore, back in the day a family had one TV set so they were at least watching TV together, and there were only a few TV shows on the TV, and they were wholesome. Not so today.
The average American child now spends 50 hours a week in front of a screen. 70 for the teenager. Just a generation ago kids spent all their time playing outside and only came in for meals. One mother asked her child “it’s such a beautiful day, why don’t you go play outside?” The child responded sincerely “but where would I plug in my Xbox?” Children now have less time for play than they used to and the play is more likely to be organized and supervised by grown ups. But the biggest change is now kids would prefer a screen.
Many schools have banned dodgeball due to theoretical liability issues and supposed bullying out of a concern that such a game might lower a child’s self-esteem.
In 1969, 41% of kids walked or rode their bike to school. By 2001 it dropped to 13%.
If there’s a grocery store within a mile of your home, take a daily or every other day walk to it with your kids, and carry the groceries home.
Less sleep at night means more obesity, and particularly so for children.
When you’re very tired your brain plays tricks on you and says “I’m very tired I deserve junk food.”
Ages 2-5 need 11 hours a day of sleep. 6-12 need 10 hours. 13-18 at least nine.
At 10 they’re only getting 9 hours. At 15 only 7.3 hours. At 17 only 6.9 hours.
Age 6 to 18 kids are sleep deprived.
American kids today are getting significant less sleep than American kids 20 years ago.
American kids have screens in their bedrooms and they don’t have self control to turn those off when it’s time to sleep. The bedroom should be for sleeping.
When the AAP came out with these guidelines to not have screens in the bedroom, the media just mocked it as an impossible standard.
Since 2011 affluent American Kids are reporting that their favorite thing to do by themselves is sleep.
The culture of disrespect leads to kids not eating vegetables, kids not doing chores, more likely to play video games, and less likely to sleep when they should.
The most disrespectful kids are the most likely to become fat. Many Studies have reported this. Chronically defiant and disrespectful kids are 3x as likely to become obese as respectful kids. Slender kids who are disrespectful were 5x as likely to become obese.
Many parents today give in when their defiant kids insist on junk food.
A 90s study in In New Zealand showed some of the defiant kids are skinnier because the parents decide what’s for supper, and if the defiant kid doesn’t want it, they go to bed hungry.
Defiance of the kids is also leading to more diagnosis of ADHD and pediatric bipolar diagnosis.
It’s normal for kids to get mad and have mood swings, it’s not necessarily bipolar disorder. But parents don’t know how to deal with these behaviors so they’re turning to diagnosis and medication. Parents need to set and enforce consistent rules, limits and consequences.
Kindergarten class used to teach respect, courtesy and manners; now they’re just teaching grammar. And the parents aren’t equipped to teach the kids these things, so we have kids who are never learning them.
Parents today don’t teach common rules of civility to their kids because for one, their parents didn’t need to teach it to them, and for two, they’re uncomfortable asserting parental authority.
The job of the parent is to teach self-control, to teach what is and is not acceptable to establish boundaries and enforce consequences. Two decades ago that was common sense.
In ‘94 it was unheard of for someone under 20 to be diagnosed with bipolar. For every 1 kid diagnosed with bipolar in 1994, 43 kids were diagnosed with it in 2003.
Bipolar is typically weeks to months for each cycle, and in America they are saying for kids it happens in just a few minutes, they call it rapid cycling. Mood swings of being energetic and irritable is normal for kids, it is not bipolar! They want to give your kids Risperdal and Seroquel and other adult bipolar drugs.
Kids who have not been disciplined are going to scream in the toy store for the toy.
It’s easier to resort to medication than competent authority-based parenting.
Temper tantrums are increasingly being diagnosed as psychiatric disorders like bipolar ADHD and Asperger’s.
When parents abdicate authority, a vacuum results, and nature doesn’t like vacuums. Medications fill the role that the parents should have fulfilled.
The book highlights a doctor who accepted tons of money from the drug company to push these diagnoses and drugs to the kids.
Over diagnoses and medication to kids for psychiatric disorders is mostly a problem in America. In the same period where bipolar in children was exploding in America, it was decreasing in Germany and Spain. The Europeans are skeptical about whether US kids really have bipolar. For every one child in England given a bipolar disorder, 73 in the US are. ADHD is also way over diagnosed in America.
Teachers recommend getting hyper kids evaluated, the doctors try Adderall to see if it helps, and sure enough it does. He sits still quietly and everyone’s happy.
Outside of North America people don’t take kids to doctors and get experimental medications as the first line of defense.
Teachers outside of America are much more comfortable with their authority, they’re comfortable with using a firm voice to get a kid to stop doing disruptive behaviors.
When a kid becomes reclusive, spending most of his time in video games, and becomes irritable from that behavior, parents are quick to take him to get a psychiatric diagnosis of ADHD and medicate him. Parents report the sparkle in the eye of a child going away once they get on these medications. When they get off the medication the twinkle comes back.
Sleep deprivation mimics ADHD almost perfectly. Many kids have gaming consoles in their bedrooms and their parents have no idea that they are staying up late gaming everyday.
Parents are compensating for sleep deprivation of their kids from screens in their rooms by powerful stimulation medications. Kids’ failure to pay attention is usually sleep deprivation, not ADHD. The symptoms are strikingly similar. Seroquel Conserta & Risperdal are being given to kids for bad behavior.
A basic duty of a parent is to ensure the child gets enough sleep. Now that we have online gaming popular at 2:00 a.m. parents need to be more assertive with their authority to say no to this. Girls are staying up late on social media.
Help your kids diversify their friends. For example, if your kid only has gamer friends, what’s going to happen when you cut down your kids gaming time? If your kid only has soccer friends, what’s going to happen when your kid gets an injury and can’t play soccer?
In the US, around 10% of kids are on ADHD medication and in the UK it’s about 0.7%.
There’s a 14x higher chance that an American kid will get treated with medication for ADHD than a kid in the UK. One family moved to America from England and they noticed a stark contrast, in America, all the teachers doctors everybody was pushing for her kids to get on ADHD medication.
From 2009 to 2013 there was a 10-fold increase in American ADHD diagnosis.
Medicating kids under age 12 with mood stabilizers and antipsychotics between 1993-2009 went up 700%.
We have turned misbehavior into a medical issue to be diagnosed and medicated rather than trained and corrected. American parents are not doing their job of culturing kids.
Abdication of parental authority leads to prescription medication.
In America doctors say “let’s try x medication and see if it helps.” But in Europe medication is the last resort.
20 or 30 years ago the school principal, when there’s a kid acting out, would have told the parent “your son is rude and disrespectful and exhibits no self-control. You need to teach him some basic rules about civilized behavior if he is to stay at this school.” Now School administrators don’t speak authoritatively to parents, they just suggest a medical practitioner or psychologist be consulted, at which point the kid is diagnosed with something and given medication.
When you tell a parent that their kid is disrespectful, responsibility is placed upon the parents to teach that kid. And with responsibility comes authority to do something about the problem. But when a kid is instead referred for psychiatric evaluation, the responsibility is transferred to the physicians. Parents no longer ask what should we do to change his behavior, they ask should he take medication. Medications are now being used for behavior modification, and it’s happening in America to an extent unimaginable outside of America.
ADHD medications all work in the same way, they increase dopamine, and it is very likely that long-term use of these results in a person being unable to feel natural normal feelings.
If you do feel like you absolutely need a medication try a non-stimulant one such as Startera, Intunive, or Wellbutrin.
Antipsychotics are being used to treat kids’ behaviors. It’s the same medications used to treat schizophrenia. Kids on these medications are much more likely to develop diabetes and obesity. The younger the child the greater the risk.
When kids have diagnoses the parents respond to their behaviors by saying “he can’t help it, he has x diagnosis.” Of course the kids learn this too, and say “I can’t help it, I have x”
One boy ran around a classroom making buzzing noises and would not stop, ignoring the repeated instruction from the teacher. The teacher finally said “stop or else”. The kid said “or else what?” The teacher said “or else I’ll make you stop.” The kid then buzzed even louder and the teacher tried to stop him at which point he bit her wrist drawing blood. The teacher called the parent and the parent said “don’t you know he has a psychiatric diagnosis, he probably needs a medication change, you should have called The psychiatrist directly, don’t you have his number?“
When teachers and parents expect good behavior, kids often give it. Command, don’t ask, don’t negotiate.
The fact that a parent feels the need to negotiate already undermines their authority. When you lay down a rule and the kid asks why the answer is because mom / dad says so. American parents two generations ago did this routinely and comfortably. Most British and Australian parents still do.
Doing a check up on a 6-year-old, he said “now we’re going to look at your throat.” The parent interjected a question “can the doctor look at your throat? We could get ice cream.” The parent turned it into a negotiation and a bribe when it should have just been a task that quickly got done. The authority of the grown-ups was undermined. The situation unnecessarily became a long drawn out drama episode because when it was up to the kid, no, they didn’t want the doc to look at their sore throat!
Older children can get more explanations, but younger children in particular should be commanded to do things. And these explanations are not negotiations! It’s okay if the kid disagrees or doesn’t see things your way.
The general rule for authoritative just right parents is “don’t ask, command.”
The parents most horrified of the suggestion to command their kids are most likely to be medicating them.
The family meal is a marker for a constellation of behaviors. Parents who eat with their kids are more likely to control the amount of video games, internet usage etc. No phones or TV in the background during family meals. Kids who have more meals with parents are less likely to feel sad, anxious and lonely. They’re less likely to have external problems such as fighting and skipping school. They are more likely to report feeling satisfied with their lives. Kids who eat with their parents are less likely to become obese later in life. On a scale from 0 to 7 dinners with parents a week, the more dinners with parents the better off the kid was. The change was statistically significant at almost every step. Kids with six dinners with parents a week do better than those with five.
In Scotland, Switzerland and New Zealand, it is less common than in America for families to have radio and TV on during dinner.
Parents around the world (but especially in America) mistakenly think that kids’ time in dance and sports etc. is more important than time with the family around the dinner table.
When you get a report of bad behavior of your kid, don’t rush to the child psychiatrist, talk to your kid. Parents are the ones with the primary responsibility for a kid to teach and enforce the rules of good behavior.
Note- perhaps over diagnoses and prescription by American doctors also has something to do with American doctors going into medicine for the prestige and money rather than for a genuine interest in helping people. It also surely represents uncritical thinking on behalf of these doctors. So they have seen a trend in aspiring young doctors and nurses who care less about people and are just getting a degree and a comfortable job.
Achievement has dropped dramatically as medication has been on the rise.
Australian teachers don’t have students undermining their authority, trying to bring them down. They do not have the culture of disrespect we do in America. Students in Australia routinely thank and praise their teachers.
(Note – Shortly after reading this, I ran into a missionary from Australia. I told her about what I’d learned about the culture of disrespect in America, and how it isn’t like that in Australia. She said “well… yeah.”)
Even elite schools serving affluent kids in America have disruptive uninvolved rude boys and girls.
Some think that the disrespect of the kids in America is the price we pay for greater creativity. But since 1995 American innovation has been remarkably narrow. Innovative leaders are now mostly in Europe and Asia. America is 11th in the world for filing patents per capita.
1945-1970 was the Golden era for American invention back when students were much more respectful and differential toward teachers.
Studies show that kids’ creativity in America has gone down dramatically over the past two decades. Less synthesizing less creative less energetic less emotionally expressive let’s talkative and verbally expressive less humorous less imaginative less unconventional less lively and passionate less perceptive less apt to connect seemingly irrelevant things and less likely to see things from a different angle.
The culture of disrespect undermines true creativity while strengthening same age peer conformism. There is nothing creative about a teenager telling an adult to shut up.
Even in the 1960s it was only a very small portion of students involved in the Vietnam protest at schools.
(Note- this is correct and the book “The politically incorrect guide to the 60s” goes into detail about this. The 60s were a conservative time, but certainly a transition time. The loud minority found out how to take over the universities, etc.)
Book “the smartest kids in the world and how they got that way.” She says America over invests in technology for education. The most successful countries are utilitarian with no tech gadgets in schools. The kids don’t have wireless clickers and the board on the wall is only connected to the wall. Most kids just raise their hands and that works out fine. In America sports trump academics in schools; outside the US athletes are not excused from class to participate in games.
In America we try to make education cool and fun with screens and gadgets to motivate kids to learn. But the solution is in changing the culture so students are less worried about pleasing peers.
Teacher training in Finland is highly selective. It’s as prestigious as getting into a medical school in the US. At some US colleges students need higher academic standards to play football than to be a teacher.
American students who enroll in college are less likely than students in other countries to graduate. American students are studying less at college and learning less at college than a generation ago. They show little gains in cognitive skill, reasoning and critical thinking; only about a third of them going up more than one point on a 100-point scale in their college years. They see college now more as building a social network than intellectual knowledge. In the 60s American college students studied 25 hours a week, in the early 2000s it decreased to about 12 hours. American college students study less than college students anywhere in Europe with the exception of Slovakia. American graduates look mediocre or worse compared to there graduates of other countries.
(Note- with the trend in grading on effort rather than performance/merit, America is steadily going down, and it’s beginning to show.)
Contemporary American culture and its pop music undermine academic scholarship.
Kids outside of America spend more time doing homework and less time complaining about what a drag show is.
It’s no longer true that a kid will get a good education just because he’s in a good neighborhood.
Parents must be extra involved to ensure their kids measure up not to American academic standards, but international.
Gamer kids are often out of shape and quick to give up at anything physically rigorous.
More and more kids are aspiring to be professional video game players and parents are afraid to deter them from that dream. When the bubble of their amazing self-image is popped they are lost. The online world creates an alternative culture dominated by mostly younger people. Back in the day you heard stories of kids who tried out and failed but worked hard and came back and did great; you’re not hearing those stories as much anymore. In the video game world the games come first, they are more important than family or health. If a gamer told his peers he was going to get in shape they would think he is joking. Success in the real world means nothing to them.
Kids who do well in school encounter one difficult class and give up altogether.
Psychiatrists spend minimal time with a person before they prescribe dangerous medications.
There is an extraordinary rise in the amount of youth in America being diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
Americans used to be at the top of the list for entrepreneurs and people actively looking for work, but now we’re near the bottom. The rise in adults unemployed not looking for jobs is pronounced in America much more than Europe.
A good parent-child relationship is robust and unconditional. Even when there are occasional problems and consequences the relationship remains intact. But in peer relations everything is conditional and contingent, leaving kids to be anxious about immediately answering texts from their friends etc. They don’t want to look incompetent in front of their friends so they won’t take risks to try to develop new skills. Children do need unconditional love and acceptance but that can’t come from peers or a report card.
Schedule family vacations just for the family. No friends allowed or all that time your child will just be spent bonding to the friend as an expensive play date. The main purpose of a family vacation is to strengthen the bonds between parent and child.
Strengthen bonds with children and going on walks, drives etc. on a weekly basis. Find edifying leisure activities like prayer, music, art and dance.
Parent-child bonding needs to be a higher priority than extracurriculars or peer activities.
Try to live near extended family to give your child more perspectives and connect them to your culture.
Note- this can also mean living in an area that has similar values. In the 2023 October General Conference it was emphasized that we should stand with holy people in holy places.
Your parenting style has to change as your kid grows up. Of course the newborn needs pure and constant affection. For a toddler your role is a cheerleader/encourager. As the kid gets older you have to correct, redirect, and point out shortcomings.
If your teen can’t think of anything fun to do other than gaming, shut down the game and get him into the real world. Parents have the duty to instill their values upon their kids rather than just letting the world impress its values on them. The Internet and mobile phone are the primary ways contemporary American culture is pushed on to kids. The more time a kid spends with friends on the phone, the more likely they are to turn to them for guidance. These devices are widening the generation gap and undermine parental authority.
The more time kids spend on Instagram the more likely they are to think that Instagram is important. They become persuaded that their peers know about what’s important and their parents don’t.
In Holland schools close at noon every Wednesday so kids can have family time mid-week.
In Geneva Switzerland the schools close at lunch for 2 hours a day so kids can go home and have lunch with a parent. Employers often give extra time off work for people to go home and eat lunch with their kids. In Scottish culture family comes first. In their airport there are playgrounds etc. In America there is no institutional family time built in so you have to fight for it, you have to cancel the extracurriculars, etc. Your kids can’t attach to you if they hardly ever see you.
The waning of adult authority is directly related to the waning of attachment to adults which is replaced with attachment to peers. An acorn shell prevents it from growing until the time is right, and if it’s prematurely opened, it won’t grow into a tree. Similarly a child whose primary attachment is to parents will become a successful (& balanced) adult. Breaking of bonds across generations is the key reason kids are so fragile now.
Self-control has now proven to be more important than openness to new ideas, friendliness, IQ, and GPA to predict whether an 11-year-old will be successful and happy 20 years later.
People who are more conscientious (having self control & integrity) earn and save more money and are happier and more satisfied with life. They are less likely to be obese and more likely to live longer. They’re less likely to abuse substances and engage in risky sexual behaviors. No other personality (character) trait has this strong of a correlation. Many parents assume that good grades and test scores are the best predictor to happiness and achievement. But honestly integrity and self-control matter much more in predicting these things.
Note- at the heart of being conscientious is self-discipline and a moral compass guided by conscious and strict training.
Going to bed early and getting up early are good measures of deliberate self-control. Self control is the characteristic most emblematic of conscientiousness. Parents must set the example of self control by avoiding late night indulgences and keeping their word.
Note- yes, kids hold onto every word, do your best to follow through on even the small commitments. And they understand maybe to mean yes, so be careful with that. And its not only the youth these days who have trouble with excessive technology usage. Lets admit that we are whipped by these surprisingly addictive time wasters, and find solutions for all.
People who make lots of money can still be in financial distress when they don’t know how to live within their means. People with a low IQ can succeed due to discipline, and people with high IQ without discipline often fail.
You help an 8-year-old build self-control by saying no dessert till you get your vegetables. You help a teenager build self-control by saying no electronics until after homework.
In a matter of weeks a child can change from being impulsive to self-controlled with the correct behavior intervention. If you’re going to change the rules, tell your children that you’re going to and why. After 6 weeks of consistent enforcement of rules your child will be more respectful to you and other adults, and you’ll both be enjoying life more.
Note- this is a great key, when we train our kids, they actually become more enjoyable. Many parents today complain of not enjoying parenting, and it is likely connected to their letting their kids treat them as doormats and butlers. Even if there are some hard times of establishing that you really mean business, once the parameters are set and the bluffs are called out, things stabilize, and a structure of safety and peace for all ensues. Parents who discipline their kids correctly and consistently soon find that such discipline is hardly if ever needed. The critics complain that these are ‘short term’ results only, but the fact is that kids need to learn good behavior, and when they have the experience of good behavior, the spirit will reward them with joy for that, so they’ll know by their experience that 1. They are capable of good behavior and 2. That it is in their best interest to behave.
Parenting is not about teaching cliches like “follow your dreams.”
One researcher Carol Dweck suggests never telling your kids they are smart, but praising them for working hard instead, so they don’t get a self-concept of being “smart” that gets smashed when they encounter something they don’t know how to do. Kids give up sooner on hard tasks if they’re just told they’re smart. This way we praise them for their behavior not their identity.
But interestingly when it comes to teaching virtue it’s the opposite, identity works better than behavior. For example it’s better to say “I can see you’re a very kind person” than “that’s a very kind thing you did.”
In one study participants were told the study was to find the prevalence of “cheating” and in another they were told to study is to find the prevalence of “cheaters.” Cheating more than doubled when they just said they were looking for cheating rather than when they said they were looking for cheaters. Apparently kids are more comfortable cheating if they don’t see themselves as cheaters. Similarly kids are more likely to help in a project if they are encouraged to be helpers rather than just to help.
(Note- they learn “this is who I am, therefore this is what I do! This is also why it is so critical to learn our identity as children of God. The ‘smart vs hard worker’ is a tricky one because it doesn’t imply a behavior as part of their character, but a trait as part of their character, which eliminates the pathway of effort.)
Many students report having high ethics yet they also admit cheating. They are separating cheating from ethical behavior. They see themselves as nice kids who occasionally cheat, not as cheaters. In reality behavior influences and eventually becomes identity. If you cheat over and over you are or will soon become a cheater! Your actions over time will change your character. Parents used to teach these moral fundamentals but many no longer do.
Note- this is a very important point. There’s a big trend now to only identify behaviors and fail to identify the negative identity character traits that those behaviors are turning a person into. As the popular saying goes, “you made a bad choice, you’re not a bad person.” But that’s not the whole truth. If you consistently make bad choices, you are in fact a bad person, and that used to be common knowledge. The recent advent of refusal to connect behavior with identity is destructive. This does not mean go around pointing fingers, it means when you have to, tell it like it is. Obviously everyone needs to be reminded that they are children of God with lots of potential, but they also need reality checks. 2 Nephi 9 of the Book of Mormon makes it clear that liars go to hell, not just people who lie, but liars. The good news of the gospel is that Christ can grant us a return to innocence, he restores our identity as a pure and wholesome being, destined to inherit the kingdom of God, where no unclean thing may enter.
Over the past two decades the ethics of students have gone way down. They want to be successful and they think their colleagues are cheating, so they cheat to try and compete. “Just do it” and “go for it” define popular American culture. In America Pepsi billboards say “live for now.” This is a symptom of the collapse of parenting.
One father had a kid who had a promising career in football. But the father told the kid “you’ll be spending this summer on a fishing boat.” He didn’t ask the kid, he told him. And the kid indeed was sent to the fishing boat where he learned hard work. The father didn’t say anything, he just signed his son up for a tough summer job. At the time the son resented it but he later appreciated it as a time where he learned hard work and to see what others’ difficult lives are like.
You don’t teach virtue by teaching, you teach it by requiring virtuous behavior so that virtuous behavior becomes a habit. There is a popular notion that if you want a kid to be virtuous you first have to explain to them the benefit of being virtuous. But virtuous behavior is what causes people to become virtuous. If you compel children to act more virtuously, they actually become more virtuous. Proverbs says train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. In other words, if you compel a child to behave virtuously, when he is an adult he will continue to behave virtuously.
Many parents think they need to let their kids do whatever they want, to spend hours on games, to stay up late photoshopping selfies for Instagram and texting.
Parents now think that kids can grow up doing whatever they want and suddenly become virtuous when they are adults. Aristotle wrote that a person becomes virtuous by repeatedly practicing virtue. Excellence is not an act but a habit.
The Hebrew of Deuteronomy doesn’t say “teach them diligently” to children, it says “inscribe them on your children”. The Hebrew verb used here is “shanon” meaning to cut with a knife. To say merely “teach them diligently” is watered down.
You must ask kids to pretend that they are virtuous before they really are. Action shapes character. CS Lewis said that the pretense leads to the real thing. That when you are not feeling particularly friendly, behave as though you are, and a few minutes later you will be. To get a quality you must begin to behave as though you have it. This is often the only way to get good habits.
Many college graduates go to Wall Street not knowing what to do with their lives and thinking ‘if you don’t know what to do, you may as well make money.’ They fail to realize that the environment of ‘get while the getting is good’ impacts a person’s character.
The 21st century assumption is that if you give kids a choice between right and wrong and show them why they should choose right, that they will choose right on their own. This is a mere guess about human nature which evidence does not support.
Rather than giving kids the option of healthy and unhealthy lunch, require them to eat the healthy lunch for years, then they will have learned the benefits and habits of that character.
The ideal of education is not to learn a bunch of things, it’s to learn culture.
When kids aren’t cultured they have no standard to measure pop culture against. They don’t know that today’s music is garbage because they haven’t seen the real good stuff. They don’t know that porn masturbation and video games are just cheap substitutes for what life really has to offer. They don’t know how to compare the virtuous lifestyle of Mother Teresa to the selfish lifestyle of popular figures.
Self control and honesty are not innate; they must be taught. You can’t rely on US schools today to do this job.
Some people call abdicating parental authority as ‘enlightened wisdom’, but it is neither. It is a mere retreat from adult responsibility.
Note- Ayn Rand (despite her obvious flaws which this author has pointed out) does a good job depicting some of this in her books, that there are fewer and fewer people willing to take responsibility, willing to act, willing to make decisions, and more people who simply refer you to someone else to solve the problem. What is life if we never take the blame, good or bad? People are no longer willing to risk, and are living shell lives, ever hiding behind the next bigger bloque.
People think if they prevent their kids from doing stuff they want to do, they will be crazy as soon as they leave the house, having “not learned how to choose good behavior on her own”. But longitudinal studies show that well behaved kids are more likely to grow up to be well behaved adults. Kids raised by more permissive parents are more likely to get in trouble as adults. People who think kids who grow up in strict homes will become wild adults are often basing that on some popular movie or something Oprah said. Research provides no support for this notion and flatly contradicts it.
If you’re hiring a new employee and one candidate has a track record of honesty and hard work whereas the other candidate has a track record of idleness and troublemaking, which will you hire? The same logic applies with how we treat kids and what kind of adults they’ll turn into. Parents used to understand this.
The line of what is a child and what is an adult is isn’t so clear as the legal age makes it seem – no magic transfer of responsibility takes place on their 18th birthday.
There’s too hard, too soft, and just right. Too hard parents rarely show any love and have excessive demands. Too soft parents don’t have rules and consequences. If you are not enforcing rules, you are too soft. Just right parents show love and have consistent rules. Just right means being both strict and loving.
The public understanding over the past 30 years of what it means to be a just right parent has drifted steadily away from authoritative to permissive.
Parents worry that if they are strict their child will be an outcast, the only one not allowed to do what others are doing. Often the kids are fine with a peer not having a phone etc, it’s the parents who are the most concerned.
See Books by Meg Meeker:
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know
Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men
Meg Meeker didn’t let her son play video games. Her son insisted that when he was an adult living on his own he would get some video games and be like the other guys. He did so, but ended up selling them as they only collected dust. As a youth he didn’t identify as a gamer, his identity involved people skills and various cultured interests and hobbies. He was not impressed by video game skills as he matured. He observed that gamers were often clumsy in real life situations. Age matters. If a boy starts playing games as a young person they will imprint on his brain in a way that they won’t when he is 18. The young brain is very plastic and immature.
Note – great point, we must make limits on the minors we are responsible to care for so that they become balanced adults. Without limits as children, they can develop toxic addictions which can last through life. Kids depend on adults to help guide them.
Longitudinal studies show that kids who spend many hours a week playing violent video games become more hostile, less honest and less kind. This is the impact of years of playing those games. Ban first person shooter games from the house. If your kids like shooting things let them go to a gun club and really shoot things. If your child’s friend plays violent video games do not allow him to go to that house.
It is not important for your children to be popular. Being popular in the US today often entails unhealthy behavior and attitudes beginning with a disregard for parental authority.
Being kind and self-controlled is what matters.
It is realistic for you to hold your children responsible for their behavior. ‘Just right’ parents expect their children to behave the same way out of the home as they do in the home. That’s integrity. Parents can drop by a friend’s house to see what the kids are doing unannounced, etc.
Parents don’t have to choose between being strict or loving.
Some parents don’t give their children a phone at all even through High School as there’s no need for it. The other peers don’t really care, it’s the other parents who get on your case. Parents peer pressure other parents to give kids phones.
Note- this is great counsel, if a kid needs a phone for something they can borrow the parents phone. But the big picture is that phones are much less needed than people think, particularly for youth.
It is never acceptable for your child to be disrespectful to you. It’s okay for a kid to say ‘I don’t agree with you’ but it’s never okay for a kid to say ‘shut up’. Don’t allow that language in your house.
Show kids that people can disagree respectfully. Disagree about something on casual non personal topics like food and politics. This teaches them to respectfully disagree on more important topics without disliking the other person. Listen to each other and state why your opinion is different.
Many parents don’t want to interfere with what supposedly makes their kid happy. But this is confusing happiness with pleasure.
Many kids value the virtual world of video games and relationships in that virtual world more than real world abilities and relationships. The gaming world may give them pleasure but it will not give them sustained lasting happiness. The pleasure often transforms into addiction. The hallmark of addiction is decreasing pleasure over time. Tolerance develops and the game becomes impulsive, involuntary and unthrilling; the addict cannot find pleasure in anything else. Happiness comes from fulfilling your potential which is beyond online gaming. Parents concerned about their children’s gaming should follow their instincts and intervene even if the kid claims they can make a living off of it and have friends from it. The desire to live in the virtual world is an uneducated desire. It isn’t easy to intervene but you’re not trying to win your kids approval, you’re trying to do your job as a parent, to help your child find their potential. You may not know precisely where your child’s potential is but it’s surely not in 20 hours a week online gaming. The same applies to limiting social media and texting.
The job of a parent is to teach a child to enjoy things that are higher than cotton candy. Video games Instagram and texting are the cotton candy of today’s pop culture. Parents must battle the culture of ‘live for now’ and to teach in its place integrity. Today’s cultural message is that your child is fulfilled when he gets what he desires. That a child knows how to be fulfilled better than their parents. The popular message today is ‘do whatever feels good whatever floats your boat.’
Note- this is like the slogan of the Rolling Stones which they adopted from Satanist leader Allester Crowley, “Do as thou wilt, this is the whole of the law.” (PS- the Beatles praised this guy and featured on an album cover.)
Arthur C Brooks pointed out that today’s goal of ‘if it feels good do it’ equates our morals with protozoa.
Living just for the present is the culture of infants.
Being a human means more than gratification of immediate desires. It involves service, mastery of the arts, faith in something greater than oneself, discipline in pursuit of a higher goal.
Is false that to love someone you must trust them. Just because you love your child doesn’t mean you have to believe they’re always telling the truth. Adult relationships do involve more trust, but parent-child relationships are different from marriage relationships.
The parents who think their child will never lie to them are wrong. Your children are more likely to lie to you than anyone else because they don’t want to let you down. Though cheating is viewed casually today, they have a feeling that their parents’ morals of no cheating is correct, so they are very likely to lie to their parents about cheating (note- and other morals commonly rejected in public by peers which parents wouldn’t approve of such as sloppy dress, foul language, inappropriate premature dating and intimate relations, movies watched with peers, skipping class, skipping homework, drug use, pornography use, etc.)
A generation ago there was an alliance between parents and schools. If kids cheated in school parents would be notified and give consequences to reinforce the school discipline. Today when the school tries to punish a kid, the parents often oppose it.
One school teacher reprimanded a kid for cheating on a test in front of the class. The kids’ parents had friends on the school board and were wealthy donors, they made some phone calls and the teacher was informed that if she didn’t want to lose her job she needed to apologize to the girl in front of the whole class. So the teacher did so and told the class ‘the district doesn’t care if you cheat, if you do so, I won’t say a word.’
Note- good for her at least trying to expose the corruption of the district. More and more organizations are chasing out all the honest people with their dishonest policies.
Note- There is a new trend now for school administrators to get rid of tests in general! There isn’t a point of a test where the students are allowed to use whatever resources they want. At that point it’s no longer a test, it’s no longer demonstrating what you know. It wipes out the integrity of the entire classroom. It trades education for cheap tricks. Eliminating tests only further enables kids to waste class time. Whatever the grandiose theory behind eliminating tests is, the reality is that it encourages idleness. It’s like communism, it may sound nice but it simply doesn’t work in practice. The correctness of a theory is limited by how much it really works in practice.
Some parents fear that if they’re strict with their kids, their kids won’t love them anymore. But remember the job description of a parent. The reward of a parent is knowing that you’ve done your job well. Merely seeking affection from your kids is not the top goal.
Often single parents are lonely and want excessive affection from their children and they trade their authority as a parent for this. In a relationship with an adult you are equals where everything is negotiable you can’t give orders. The relationship with the child is different, you have to set the rules and enforce them even if the child doesn’t agree.
The most common error in parenting is becoming too permissive out of a desire to win the affection of your kids.
Sometimes kids express hatred to their parents, and sometimes the parents aren’t too fond of their misbehaving kids. But the parent must stand by their authority to say no when their gut tells them to.
When misfortune befalls a kid, the parent often laments that they knew they should have avoided the situation etc but they didn’t.
Even if you’re concerned that doing your job as a parent will lose the affection of your child, you must do your job!
Parents say they want their kids to grow up to be kind and happy, but they don’t know how to make that happen. They often confuse achievement with fulfillment. Many American parents have confused virtue with success. Humility is now an un-American virtue. They teach that the only real sin is failure.
People don’t even know what humility means. They think it’s saying you’re stupid when you know you’re smart, and that’s psychosis, even if well intended. Humility means being as interested in others as you are yourself. It’s listening to others and being interested in their views.
Often kids are assigned to write about how amazing they are.
We often hear ‘dream until your dreams come true.’ A better slogan would be work until your dreams come true. Even better is to say ‘work to pursue your dreams but realize that life is what happens on the way.’ (Note- and the best saying would be ‘work to pursue God’s will.’)
High self-esteem at a young age sets a person up for disappointment and resentment at age 25. When parents and teachers carefully nurture self-esteem it often results in a crash after college when they learn that just because everyone said they are amazing doesn’t mean they are. A culture of self-esteem leads to a culture of resentment, confusion and hostility about people who actually do succeed. Courage involves recognizing risks and your own limitations.
Humble people rejoice at the success of others.
Protagonists in the works of Ayn Rand are unabashedly selfish . They pursue their own interests relentlessly and unapologetically. None of the major protagonists are parents, nor is the author. It is immature when you think the world is all about what you want.
Note- I don’t think this is a totally correct representation of the heroes of Rand. Of course he is right that they are too self-centered, but the heroes definitely have redeeming qualities even in this regard. They treat their employees with respect and equality based on merit. They recognize the evils of forced redistribution of wealth, and even though they aren’t themselves parents, they show many proper social governing dynamics in how they work with their peers and society. Interestingly Joseph Smith taught that self-aggrandizement is a true principle when you are doing God’s work, in so much as the bigger you get the more you can help others. The question was put to him, “Joseph, is the principle of self-aggrandizement wrong? Should we seek our own good?” His answer: “It is a correct principle and may be indulged upon only one rule or plan-and that is to elevate, benefit, and bless others first. If you will elevate others, the very work itself will exalt you. Upon no other plan can a man justly and permanently aggrandize himself.” (Truman Madsen Joseph Smith tapes) Consider God himself, if he had less power and influence than he does, he would not be in the position he is to offer mercy and goodness to so many. I think the heroes of Rand ultimately would benefit the lives of their peers, but it is true that the heroes in the story do lack principles of chastity and religion and are more heroes of the terrestrial level than the celestial level.
When a kid has learned humility they are more likely to recognize whether they’re trying to do something just to look good, or doing that thing because they are genuinely interested in it.
In an era of ‘walk tall and stand proud’ it takes courage to teach humility.
Note- yes, true humility is both empowering and a unique path in life these days. As the old saying goes, you may not be climbing the ladder everyone else is, but you are climbing a more important ladder. People often won’t recognize that, and could call you a fool. But your goals are completely different from their goals. For example, you might lose a soccer game because you value your teammates having fun so you pass the ball the less skilled player; you might be removed from an intensive program requiring perfect attendance because you had to help someone at a critical time; you might be a friend to someone who isn’t particularly friendly because you’re not in it for you but for them; you might make a lower wage because what you do during the day creates meaning in the lives of others; Naturally all of this must be done in wisdom and order, but remember, God’s ways are higher than our ways, His wisdom and order may look different than the wisdom of others. Everyone has different ways they can contribute, and we all can and should consider doing more than we are currently doing. That can mean more time on the clock, it can mean replacing current activities with others, etc.
Many families require their kids to do rigorous chores even if friends are visiting and even if they have lots of homework. Many parents who can afford to hire out manual labor choose to have their kids do it to teach their kids the value of hard work. If it doesn’t require an electric current you can usually do it yourself with your family. It’s a mistake to hire out all the manual chores so your kid has more time for school work and extracurriculars. You send an unintended message that your kid is too important to do menial tasks.
Teach kids that the world does not revolve around them. They are a member of a family with obligations to the family, and those obligations are paramount.
One family did not allow their kid to go to an after ball game party because the ball game was the time for recreation, then it was time to go back to chores.
When parents reasonably limit recreation time of kids, it’s common for other parents to pressure those parents to be less responsible.
Teach your kids early on that they won’t be the cool kid. For an American kid to be cool nowadays it means dressing provocatively, disrespecting your parents, and staying out late at night. Don’t allow any of that.
Denzel Washington once came home proud of how he became a star. His mom rebuked him saying “you don’t know how many people have been praying for you and for how long, go get a bucket and wash the windows.”
“The culture of social media is the antithesis of humility.” Social media as used by youth are all about self promotion. It’s all about broadcasting and aggrandizing the self.
Usually when a parent is trying to help a kid but the kid remains rude, the root cause is access to social media.
It’s not about whether or not you should be your kid’s friend on social media. If your kid is into the culture of disrespect, get them off the media!
When was the last time you did something with your kid that you both totally enjoy?
Most American parents, especially mothers, do not enjoy much of the time they spend with their kids. American women report preferring cleaning, cooking and just about everything else above child care. American mothers spend more time on child care but enjoy it less than French women. Most likely the French kids are better behaved.
In the book “All joy and no fun, the paradox of modern Parenthood” by Jennifer Senior, she points out that mothers do more routine activities with kids and fathers do more play with kids. She also says American mother’s multitask, trying to be Mom’s while they try to do housework or professional work. Men are less likely to attempt this multitasking. American women with children report feeling rushed much more often than American women without children, but American men with children don’t report feeling more rushed than American men without children.
It’s no fun to try and field texts and emails while you’re with your kid. When you’re with your kid, focus on your kid. Perhaps spend time together outdoors so you are not tempted to look at a screen. Kids may resist going on outings at first but they enjoy it when you’re there. Sometimes kids don’t want to go do family fun and the parent has to say “too bad you’re going.” Once kids discover that they can have fun with their parents the relationship totally changes.
Spending fun time with your child is not an optional elective to be squeezed in after you’ve done the work of the day, it is essential. You must plan for it, insist on it, and make time for it.
One successful college football player reported that during his senior year of high school, even though he was very successful and could have spent all his time at parties, his favorite pastime was to spend the evening at home with his parents. He declined invitations to parties in order to stay home with his parents to play board games with them or watch old movies with them. His parents were both strict and loving. In this family the kids were not allowed to play at a home where there were no parents, and dates had to be interviewed by the parents, and dates were not allowed into bedrooms. The kids thought they would need therapy from all the terrible things their parents were doing to them (the rules). Then the kids went to college and watched everyone else’s lives fall apart and realized that it was everyone else that was going to need therapy, not them.
Little things make the best happiness. Simple family activities like a board game or a sport or an old movie.
Absolutely no screens at dinner.
Cars advertise children entertainment systems in the back seat, the mother is shown smiling and the children with headphones smiling. Its as though the mother is saying “isn’t this great, we can spend hours together and I don’t have to talk to them at all!”
Everyone is in a rush, take advantage of what time you have to talk, including the car. Don’t allow your kid to separate themselves from you by putting on headphones in the car or any other time they are with you.
It requires a significant investment of time to devote attention to kids. Adults and children may need to cut back on their schedules to get family time. Many parents and kids are simply trying to do too much. They send an unintended message that relaxed time together as a family is the least important thing in life. Many parents are overbooked and instead of cutting back they overbooked their kids so their kids can be as stressed and overwhelmed as they are.
Outside of America it’s rare to find people who boast about how busy and sleep deprived they are. It’s rare to find full-time parents outside of America who spend all day chauffeuring kids around even over the summer holiday. Americans complain about their busy lives and it’s actually boasting.
Parents need to teach their kids balance, to not be over scheduled. The joy of quiet moments. When parents overly emphasize skills that the child can gain, they are sending an unintended message that ‘what you do is more important than who you are,’ that achievements matter more than family.
Don’t push a kid to live as though they were continually preparing their college application.
When kids learn to not worry about what they look like in the eyes of others they can do less and become more.
Note- ‘do less’ isn’t to say be a bum hippy. It is to say, less focus on trivial things and monetary things, and more focus on eternal things like relationships, spirituality, wisdom, and truth. As Hugh Nibley puts it, we all have a full time job discovering the history of this world. We are a bunch of ignoramuses. But when you are chronically overscheduled with work and extracurriculars, or fanciness or other trivialities, cutting things out of the schedule is a great place to start, and the only way you’ll begin to have time for culture, and for wholesome (modest) recreation (which is an essential ingredient in family life).
You might have to move to find a less stressful job or learn how to become comfortable on less income. Parents must teach priorities; they must teach the meaning of life!
Note- The excuse is often made ‘we have to provide’ when what is really happening is endless toil to have the bigger house, the fancy clothes and beauty products, the elaborate vacations (when usually tossing a ball at home will suffice), etc. Both men and women must watch out for what they are doing, what they are asking each other to do, and keep a razor focus on the essentials, or we will miss it.
The middle-class script everyone in America repeats is:
- Work hard in school so you can get into a good college.
- Get into a college so you can get a good job.
3. Get a good job so you can make a good living and have a good life.
All of this is false!
- Working hard in school is no guarantee you’ll get into a good college.
- A good college is no guarantee of a good job. Many graduates are waiting tables or are unemployed.
- Having a good job is no guarantee of having a good life.
In Germany and Switzerland there’s no shame if a kid wants to become an auto mechanic instead of going to university, even if both the parents are university professors. But in America there’s a stigma attached to being a mechanic, a lack of respect attached to blue collar work.
Many American parents think the primary purpose of K-12 schooling is to get into an elite college. But K-12 should actually be to prepare us for life, not more school. Many of the skills needed for life are different from the skills needed for getting into a top university. Kids focused on college avoid classes that might be difficult since they might not get an ‘A’ even if those classes interest them, they rather choose the uninteresting classes they know they can get A’s in. They sign up for extracurriculars not because they’re interesting but because they might look good on a resume. They aren’t living they are performing. Sadly parents encourage this performing.
Note- it’s quite tragic that the graduate must know the various classes of worms (part of the biology required curriculum), but need not know anything of farming, astronomy, nutrition, construction, finance, and so forth. Of course schools can never teach it all, but we wish they would teach more practical things.
Young people choose to be doctors because it looks like a clear path to a fulfilling life. But these people often don’t have basic things about life figured out. They don’t know what they really want in life, what will really make them happy.
Note- maybe this is why they’re just prescribing everyone medication, because they really don’t know the answers!
There are many miserable wealthy people who work 80 hours a week and loath what they do. If you loathe what you do you are a slave. Time is precious. No amount of money can recover lost time. This leads to resentment for what they do, such as doctors who resent their patients.
Note- On the one hand fathers are primarily responsible to provide, and that can mean a less preferred job. But insomuch as there are reasonable alternatives, and insomuch as we are often living for wealth rather than a faith based approach to finance of meeting our basic needs and setting a little aside for times of trouble, to these extents we often can and should find more fulfilling work.
Note- someone recently spoke to me that we are seeing Isaiah’s times of rude youth, and so it is, but I say we cannot go on in such permissive management of them. The plague is of the authorities, not just the youth! The wickedness is compounding across generations.
The middle class script can make your kid more risk-averse and cautious, and that does not help him prepare for life. Willingness to fail is one of the keys to life, but it’s not part of the script of getting perfect grades and going to the perfect school, so they never take those risks, they never attend the interesting classes (note- they quickly learn to oppress all feelings not calculated to maximizing profits.)
Note- well is it said that failure is a good teacher too and that it is a stamp of maturity to accept sunk costs, to accept that you were wrong, to accept that you were not perfectly wise, and to move forward even when it hurts to do so rather than to stay where you are. People who can’t admit they were wrong often live a life of resentment and chronic disappointment.
Empower your children to take risks and congratulate them not only when they succeed but when they fail because failure brings humility which can bring growth and wisdom and an openness to new things in a way that success almost never does.
Steve Jobs said getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have happened to him. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, being less sure about everything, freeing him to enter one of the most creative periods of his life.
An Australian school headmaster Robert Grant was known to say “I hope your child will be severely disappointed by his time at this school.” this was a way of saying your kid needs to learn that there are hard things in life, that if a kid does not experience disappointment in school he will be unprepared for it when it comes in real life. That he will react with quitting rather than more trying when he fails if he has experience with hardship (and being in over his head). The right kind of education should prepare your kid to handle failure, to slip loose of a dream when the dream is over and move to another field of endeavor with no loss of enthusiasm. Many schools now, especially in America, don’t teach kids any life skills because they’re too busy preparing them to get grades.
A movie called ‘flashdance’ features a character telling another that ‘if you give up on your dream you die.’ These false ideas are pushed that if you work hard enough it will happen, that if you build it they will come. Parents are also often stuck in this toxic script which only allows one trajectory, one storyline. It’s toxic for the same reason that social media is: It’s all about me, my success. They equate fulfillment with personal success.
Note- mother Teresa taught that we should not try to find how far along we are on the journey, we should just keep serving. This is a brilliant focus on what matters most – everything but the self.
Teach kids to focus on who they are, not what they do. (Note- this is not to say teach kids to be self-centered narcissists, it is to say that they need to understand their character matters more than their achievements.)
People need to face the fact, the fear that their endless achievements won’t lead to fulfillment.
It’s about who you truly are not who you pretend to be even if you never get noticed for your integrity. Life is not a movie about your personal success.
Responsible parents need to tell kids that their dreams won’t come true, that they need to find another dream. Parents afraid of their authority will never speak these difficult truths, but if you don’t who will?
There’s no point in letting your kids relax and do what they desire if you have not first educated that desire. Once desire has been educated youth can enjoy leisure time more fully.
Parents must instill meaning in their children; without meaning kids are more likely to become anxious and depressed. Once kids have a sense of meaning they can pursue achievement with confidence because they know why that achievement is worth pursuing.
The main purpose of school is not to prepare for university but to prepare for life. The purpose of life involves meaningful work, loving someone, and supporting a cause. When your kid wants to know why they should work hard at school you need to be able to answer with a bigger picture than just getting into college and making a good living. Teach them that experience matters more than acquisition. The most serious consequence of shifting to a peer-oriented society is that the parent is no longer able to provide the big picture to the kid as the kid looks to the peers to learn about what really matters in life instead of parents.
K-12 is now a race to nowhere. They’re in a rat race to get good grades, to go to a good college, but they have no idea why beyond the vague promise of a comfortable job at the end of the rainbow and the lack of any coherent alternative.
Pursuing fame wealth and good looks (as pop culture insists) for their own sake impoverishes the soul.
Set meaningful goals and work toward them with integrity.
We must recreate a culture of respect as was depicted in old time movies like The Andy Griffith show. Movie characters used to be good people, good role models for kids.
The word ordinary has become a derogatory term synonymous with meaninglessness.
Your neighbors are going to accuse you of isolating your kids. But you can be courageous for your child’s sake so they can grow up to be brave and humble like you.
Don’t try to be authoritative one moment and cool the next. Your job is to be the authoritative parent, not the cool peer.
There are three things emphasized in this book unique to America:
- The culture of disrespect and ‘live for now’ is unique to America. Americans now advocate letting kids do whatever they want.
- It is also only in America that powerful psychiatric drugs are a first rather than a last resort.
- It is also unique to America that we over schedule our kids and ourselves. Rather than boasting about how busy you are, boast about lying on the grass looking for shapes in the clouds with your kids.
There is no greater responsibility between human beings than that of a parent to a child. The parents must not only feed and clothe the child, but instill in them virtue and a longing for integrity, and to teach the meaning of life.
The collapse of parenting has led to an explosion, particularly in America, of fragile medicated children. You must create an alternative culture in your home and exert without apology the primacy of family ties. (Note- this is why many are turning to homeschooling, though there are other important ways too such as modifying holiday traditions, weekly routines, sabbath observance, etc.)
Teaching children virtue and character is not an extracurricular optional activity for superior parents, it is the duty of all parents notwithstanding their imperfection. This is a mandatory assignment and we have to do our best at it, we cannot abdicate it.