Some of the sources that inform today’s parenting do not come immediately to mind when one thinks of raising children. Take Karl Marx (1818-1883), for example. Along with his buddy Friedrich Engels, Marx articulated the fundamental principles of communism. He proposed that capitalism was an economic and social system that exploited and oppressed labor and kept the “masses” in a perpetual state of subjugation and misery.
Marx was the unspoken godfather of the late-1960s/early-1970s psychological parenting revolution. The revolutionaries — mental health professionals, mostly — proposed that traditional parenting oppresses the “natural” (aka “inner”) child. This myth gave rise to a relationship-based, feeling-based, self-esteem-based parenting, and child-rearing in America has been on the skids ever since.
Today, the typical American parent practices — and, to be fair, unwittingly — what I call Egalitarian Parenting (aka Postmodern Psychological Parenting). The parents in question lack confidence in the legitimacy of their authority and behave, therefore, as if the parent-child relationship is constituted of equals. The general result is children who are flush with esteem for their “bad” selves but deficient in respect for their elders. Fifty years ago, such children were called, among other things, insufferable.
Because Egalitarian Parenting Syndrome is a form of co-dependency, its practitioners are usually clueless. Therefore, I have devised the following short questionnaire to help them self-identify (or not). The directions are simple: Answer each statement with either Mostly True, Somewhat True, or Not True. Then assign yourself 10 points for every Mostly True and five points for every Somewhat True.
1. When I talk to my child, I try to get down to his/her level (or did when he/she was smaller).
2. I generally end instructions with “OK?”
3. My child sleeps with me/us.
4. When my child throws a fit over a decision I’ve made, I often feel that his/her reaction means that I may have made the wrong decision.
5. I always want to be pleasing to my child.
6. If my child agrees to do a household chore, I usually pay him/her for doing so (because adults get paid for doing work).
7. I give my child lots of choices, like where he wants to sit when our family goes to a restaurant, what he would like for supper, and where he wants the family to go on vacation.
8. I generally explain to my child the reasons behind my decisions and instructions.
9. I allow my child to call adults by their first names.
10. I often get into arguments with my child.
If you score 60 or above, you are suffering from Egalitarian Parenting Syndrome. The good news is, you can recover. Here’s a great first step in that direction: The next time you need some parenting advice, ask your grandmother or some other person over age 65.
Visit family psychologist John Rosemond’s website at www.johnrosemond.com; readers may send him email at email@example.com; due to the volume of mail, not every question will be answered.