Is it that we over-parent? What parents need to understand

By Dr Rebecca Huntley


My very last look on commercial TV has been the usual morning panel where highly made-up ladies discuss “problems” in the paper headlines.

One of the subjects for debate was the increase in crime in certain parts of regional Australia.

My co-panellist launched in the way unworthy and idle modern parents are and an impassioned speech regarding parenting.

I asked her where her evidence was to get her statement and she stared at me like I had been a half-wit. The bad quality of modern parenting appeared to be self explanatory.

We’re hard on parents. By “we”, I suggest everyone.

Parents are demanding on each other and independently. People without kids can be tough for parents, and older generations, including grandparents, could be scathing about “modern” approaches to parenting.

A 2014 Ipsos Global Trends study found that 81 per cent of Australians think that parents don’t take responsibility for the behavior of the children, placing us among the spectrum of countries at the top three.

In the qualitative research I have conducted during the past ten years, the exact criticisms of modern kids and their parents come up time and again: that Australian kids lack esteem, are rude and qualified, are sheltered and mollycoddled, and haven’t the skills or the wit to entertain themselves.

We blame parents who apparently parent too busy at work or self-absorbed to actually pay attention to their kids.

Or, we are too overprotective, not letting kids be kids.

It seems parents can not win either way

They are either overly hands-off or overly hands-on.

Whether today’s kids are in fact worse than previous productions, or even the parents of today have been in fact competent that their agendas, is extremely tough to measure.

The perception which parents and kids are becoming worse seems to have taken hold.

The other component of this discussion that’s quite difficult to locate data that is authoritative on is whether parents do in fact spend less time than they did, say.

Not one of the reliable quantitative or qualitative research paints a picture of dramatically decreasing time spent with kids.

In fact has shown increasing involvement of both mother and dad in kids’ lives participation with homework in addition to managing active schedules.

So if anything, parents often feel that family schedules are weighed down with All This child busyness:

“volleyball, Pilates, all the birthday parties. It never ends.”

The busyness of even our kids is our fears and the final result of our intentions.

We want them to be exposed to lots of unique experiences and also to acquire diverse skills (improving the CV we expect they will put in the work with), beginning them early so that may turn into a boxing champ or a accomplished flute player.

We want them to enjoy activities. We do not want them to feel left out.

But our children’s lives’ busyness is also the consequence of an extreme fear of their own safety.

Parents Are Only doing their Very Best

We may lament the conclusion of a period when kids could play outside unsupervised, but it is a sentiment divorced from how our children’s lives really run.

If we are not paying someone to supervise our kids, we feel the need to personally supervise what they are doing, including the kinds.

If I look back at many of the talk groups I have conducted, the criticism of modern parents was mostly unfair, dominated by a perception that parents are either negligent or helpless, which kids are “out of control”.

Perhaps that’s a human tendency to feel like the past has been better than the uncertain and shaky present.

My experience was parents beating them up continuously if they picture they fall short, and doing their best.

If the rising generation is assumed to be evidence of the parents’ failures I have found very little to be worried about.

Are conscious of their parents’ hard work and their own great fortune. It is because they are just too busy, if they don’t stop to consider it enough.

Instead of being dumb in their approach my experience is that parents devote an excessive amount of time discussing their philosophies and approach with friends and loved ones.

Why should our kids be battery or free-range cage? What is the correct kind of school?

We may worry that we are over-complicating our lives and their lives but in the long run, a lot people can not help but encourage our kids into a complete schedule of activities or dish out for expensive private schooling, although we understand the research shows it doesn’t always provide the very best return on investment.

This investment in our kids is driven by love, but also fear: not merely that they’ll be abducted or hurt, however that no matter how hard they try at school, they will struggle to locate their location in the upcoming labor market, steamrolled possibly by clever and hardworking Asian kids abroad and within our own universities and schools.

As one grandma once put it to me personally quite bluntly: “If our kids do not get a fantastic education, they’ll be cleaning bathrooms for the Chinese.”

If you stand in the shoes of Australian parents, then is seems logical, although we may laugh or cringe at this sentiment.

Dr Rebecca Huntley is among Australia’s leading researchers on societal tendencies. She’s the author of numerous books, including Still Lucky: Why You Need To Feel Optimistic About Australia and Its Folks. Rebecca is the leader of research at Essential Media.