Who’s the Grown-Up Here?: Helping parents abandon the “buddy” system

By Diane Cole

January/February 2016

The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups

By Leonard Sax

Basic Books. 263 pages.


What’s the matter with parents today? To judge from what family physician and psychologist Leonard Sax says in his new book, The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups, just about everything. For proof, Sax says, look no further than the ever expanding number of kids today who are overmedicated, overweight, overly fragile emotionally, and over-the-top disrespectful to everyone. His prescription: rather than attempting to “buddy up” to their kids as if they were peers, these moms and dads need to “parent up” and act like the decisive, assertive, authoritative figures he believes they should be.

Ho-hum, you think, there’s nothing new about faulting parents for being too permissive and too lax in their discipline. From the 1940s on, there’s been no shortage of critics chiding Dr. Benjamin Spock for his nurturing—or in their view, mollycoddling and spoiling—approach. Also, concern about the disrespectful attitude of younger generations to their elders can be traced back to ancient Greece. But what lifts this parenting critique from being mere curmudgeonly finger pointing (though there’s some of that, too) to being thought provoking is the way in which Sax links contemporary parenting styles to the increasingly common practice of…

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