Have parenting standards changed from those set by previous generations, and are they now lower and easier to meet or are they higher and more difficult to reach? There is a wealth of information on the subject of raising children and it is available to everyone through the media of TV, newspapers, magazines, books, and parenting courses, too. Is the spread of information helping?
The big question is, are parents failing at the job? Does society perceive parents as having done a better job in earlier times? Are the standards set by earlier generations more difficult to meet by today’s parents and have they been lowered as a result?
Parenting Presents More Challenges Than Ever Before
Although the information about parenting is readily available, there is an overwhelming amount of it and it is often contradictory:
- Boys are being shortchanged by the education system; girls are being shortchanged by the education system; minorities are being shortchanged by the education system; parents need to be more involved; parents are too involved.
- Parents are smothering their children with attention and destroying their ability to learn independence; parents are so busy today as well as being distracted by electronic gadgetry (e.g., smart phones) that they no longer pay enough attention to their children to teach them independence, and expect to keep their children busy with electronic gadgetry, too.
- TV is destroying children and numbing their minds; TV is educating children and they are learning more, and more quickly and more happily than ever before.
- Gaming is harmful and making it more difficult for children to concentrate; gaming is increasing the ability of children to adapt to change and teaches multitasking, and is improving hand-eye coordination.
… and so it goes.
Parents who want to do the best by their children must walk this narrow path between enough and not too much of anything. If you hover over your children, you are labeled a “helicopter” parent”; if you don’t monitor them closely enough, you are labeled a “free-range” parent. Where is the middle ground here? Good luck at figuring it out.
A Widespread Belief Is That Parents Are Not Measuring Up
The Pew Research Center conducted a survey that suggests that society judges parents very harshly today:
- More than half (56%) of Americans surveyed claimed that mothers are doing a worse job of parenting today than mothers did 20 to 30 years ago.
- Slightly less than half (47%) believed that fathers are doing a worse job than fathers 20 to 30 years ago.
- Racial influence is reflected in the belief of African Americans (67%) that fathers are doing a worse job than fathers 20 to 30 years ago.
- Religious affiliation is reflected in the belief of white, evangelical Protestants (68%) that mothers are doing a worse job today.
Parenting Has Changed but There is no Evidence of Decline
A study of thousands of English adolescents over the past 20 years and published by the Medical Press in 2012 states that parental oversight actually increased from the 1960s to the 1990s.
- Both mothers and fathers now spend more quality time with their children.
- Parents expect more from their children—such as more politeness—than ever before.
- Parents are looking for more hard evidence that what they are doing and what they accept on behalf of their children is effective:
- They want proof that vaccines are necessary and effective.
- They want research done to prove that breastfeeding is better or no better than bottle feeding.
- They want to know what discipline methods are most effective and least harmful.
- They want proof that toys are safe and appropriate for the child’s age.
- The main concerns in child raising today are the societal factors of drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, and the influence of the entertainment industry. Parents want direction and help in guiding their children to deal with these outside influences.
The main difference today from 20 to 30 years ago is that parents now want evidence and assurance that what they are doing and what they are demanding both for and from their children is based on informed decisions. So, no, standards haven’t been lowered and, yes, parents are measuring up. They are not out of touch or too soft or failing to monitor their children’s health, education, or behavior.
Congratulations, parents. According to recent studies, you are doing fine.
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