The Collapse of Parenting Book Highlights, Abbreviated Version

Abbreviated version of my highlights and commentary on Dr. Leonard Sax’s “The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Adults”


Ch. 1 The Culture of Disrespect

Ch. 2 Why Are So Many Kids Overweight

Ch. 3 Why Are So Many Kids on Medication

Ch. 4 Why are American Students Falling Behind

Ch. 5 Why Are Kids So Fragile Today

Ch. 6 What Matters

Ch. 7 Misconceptions

Ch. 8 Teach Humility

Ch. 9 Enjoy

Ch. 10 The Meaning of Life


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


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


Peers are leading peers. The blind leading the blind.

Note- also beware the church groups, those can be just as bad. I know I met my sketchiest childhood friends at church.


Ch. 1 The Culture of Disrespect


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.


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))


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


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


(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 (


Talking animals are shown to be more insightful than fathers. In the 1960s- ’80s parents were shown as competent leaders.


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.


Note- tough love is an essential element of wholesome love. This is why parenting can be excruciating at times. To express your love, you have to say no


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. Parents who put their child’s wishes first only earn their child’s contempt.


Ch. 2 Why Are So Many Kids Overweight?


The norm in America as recently as the 1970s used to be kids eat what’s for supper or they go hungry.


Family diet standards used to include no dessert until you eat your vegetables and no snacking between meals.

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. Just offering healthy choices (while still offering unhealthy ones) won’t result in consistent healthy choices!

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.


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.

Note: Church activities these days typically have toxic food every time.

The most common leisure activity in the recent past was outdoor play. 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?”

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%.


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.

Note- the Church has long taught not to have screens in bedrooms too.

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. Chronically defiant and disrespectful kids are 3x as likely to become obese as respectful kids.


Ch. 3 Why Are So Many Kids on Medication?

Psychiatrists spend minimal time with a person before they prescribe dangerous medications.

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.

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.


They want to give your kids Risperdal and Seroquel and other adult bipolar drugs.


For every one child in England given a bipolar disorder, 73 in the US are


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

Sleep deprivation mimics ADHD almost perfectly.

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.

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.


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.


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?“

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 general rule for authoritative just right parents is “don’t ask, command.”


On a scale from 0 to 7 dinners with parents a week, the more dinners with parents the better off the kid was.

In Scotland, Switzerland and New Zealand, it is less common than in America for families to have radio and TV on during dinner


Ch. 4 Why are American Students Falling Behind

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.”)


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.

The most successful countries are utilitarian with no tech gadgets in schools.

American students 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.


Ch. 5 Why Are Kids So Fragile Today

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.

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.


Electronic 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.

Your kids can’t attach to you if they hardly ever see you.

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


Ch. 6 What Matters


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.


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.


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.


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.” Help them see which dreams aren’t realistic, no one else will.


Note- 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. 2 Nephi 9 of the Book of Mormon makes it clear that liars go to hell, not just people who lie, but liars.


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.


Parents now think that kids can grow up doing whatever they want and suddenly become virtuous when they are adults.


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.


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.


 Ch. 7 Misconceptions


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?


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. 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.


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. Age matters. If a boy starts playing games as a young person they will imprint.


Longitudinal studies show that kids who spend many hours a week playing violent video games become more hostile, less honest and less kind.

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.

Expect your 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.

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.

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.


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. 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. 


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.)

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.

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.


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. The most common error in parenting is becoming too permissive out of a desire to win the affection of your kids.


Ch. 8 Teach Humility


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.


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.


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.


“The culture of social media is the antithesis of humility.” Social media as used by youth are all about self promotion. Usually when a parent is trying to help a kid but the kid remains rude, the root cause is access to social media.


Ch. 9 Enjoy


American mothers spend more time on child care but enjoy it less than French women. Most likely the French kids are better behaved.


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. 


In one 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. 

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!”


Overbooked parents tend to also overbook their kids. They send an unintended message that relaxed time together as a family is the least important thing in life.


You might have to move to find a less stressful job or learn how to become comfortable on less income. 


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.


Ch. 10 The Meaning of Life


  1. Working hard in school is no guarantee you’ll get into a good college.
  2. A good college is no guarantee of a good job. Many graduates are waiting tables or are unemployed.
  3. 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 K-12 should actually be to prepare us for life, not more school.

Kids focused on college avoid classes that might be difficult since they might not get an ‘A’ even if those classes interest them.


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.


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.


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. 

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