A Generation Of Toxic Parents Is Raising Anxious Kids
This week I was fortunate enough to interview award-winning Australian author and passionate educator, John Marsden.
His new book, a self-described parenting manifesto titled The Art of Growing Up is insightful, yet at times the advice within is hard to swallow.
‘Toxic parenting’ describes a number of 21st century approaches that John believes, puts our children at risk.
Approaches include: treating our children as princes and princesses who can do no wrong, acting as authoritarians who micro-manage every aspect of a child’s life, and being too busy to notice they even exist.
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According to John, we are experiencing a pandemic of anxiety and depression among our young people, and it is time that us parents acknowledged our role and took some responsibility for the damage we are doing.
There is no doubt parenting is a hard job, made even harder by the fact our ‘villages’ that previous generations relied heavily on, have shrunk.
Most families are suburban and nuclear. The average 2.4 kids live with mum and dad who likely both work and granny and grandpa might still be alive if they are lucky.
Time is tight for modern families and the ever-present issue of screen-time is a problem parents grapple with daily.
As John also describes in the book, too many parents are incapable of telling their children ‘no’.
I confess that I am one of those parents.
This morning while trying to get my two boys out the door, I complied when my toddler demanded a different pair of shoes to the ones he was wearing and wanted three different toys to hold in the car.
I later acquiesced to my eight-year-old who wanted some iPad time while I got the dinner ready.
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I don’t believe this is the very worst of toxic parenting, but I often do whatever it takes for an easy life because parenting is hard and like so many other mums, I am busy.
I have always tried to do what is best for my boys, but perhaps now it is time I tried harder.
In the past, when I have started a new job, hobby or college course, I have read multiple books and done research online. Interested in the subject matter, I studied so that I wouldn’t stuff it up.
Yet when it comes to parenting, the most important role I will ever play, I have up to now read and studied very little.
And I don’t think I am alone.
I am not talking about skimming the pregnancy and baby books or googling ‘why is my baby’s poo green?’ at 3am.
Rather, I am talking about thinking deeply and learning the best way to raise little humans. This ‘art of growing up’.
Our children, the next generation, will hopefully take care of us when we get old as well as look after the planet much better than we ever did. We surely need to nurture and guide them knowing we did the best we could.
There is a lot of ‘winging it’ when it comes to parenting. We all hope that love and shelter and occasional bribes are enough. And sometimes it IS enough.
But sometimes not.
We don’t have to agree with everything experts like John Marsden have to say, but imagine for one moment if we all took a more considered and thoughtful approach to our children’s upbringing.
John writes at length with suggestions about how we can be more effective as parents.
He says we need to ‘back off’ from micro-managing the minutiae of our children’s lives and trust them to do more by themselves. He thinks they need to reconnect with the natural world and make real connections with people in their local communities.
He believes children need more time to be bored and to use their imaginations. He thinks they should read more widely and become abstract thinkers; capable of understanding that not everything is ‘black and white’.
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I don’t believe I need to be (or can be) a perfect parent, but after reading John’s book, I do feel I should acknowledge my own failings and try to do better in order to give my kids the future they deserve.
Perhaps you should too?