A long post, a few years old, about the psychology of parenting has recently made the leap from Facebook to WhatsApp, where it is now being passed on from Muslim mother to Muslim mother, and subsequently to their spouses as confirmatory evidence of everything they have been saying. Hurrah.
Parenting is hard, there’s no doubt about it, and most of us need all the help we can get at times. Some of the recommendations in this long, long post are obviously common sense, sensible advice… limits to screen time, eating together as a family, teaching children to have virtuous characters. All wonderful. But I do wonder: does Dr Sax have evidence to back up many of his other claims, which seem to be largely based on personal anecdotes?
To me, it feels all too reminiscent of the fad for Laura Doyle’s apparently sage advice for married couples that was all the rage amongst Muslims a decade ago. Sadly, most of the people I knew who were proponents of the Surrendered Wife thesis back then are now happily divorced; that’s my own personal anecdote for you, not at all based on empirical evidence and flying in the face of the Alt-Bro movement taking the ummah by storm.
The Collapse of Parenting seems to be a variation on the theme. The usual apocalyptic narrative of the imminent collapse of human civilisation as we know it, because traditional roles have been undermined by the secular and liberal ideas of the age we are living in. A decade ago, the emphasis was on wives submitting to the authority of their husbands: waving a white flag as if captives of the enemy. Now it is the turn of our children: they too must submit, be subdued or be vanquished. Thus has the family been transformed into a military unit, wherein all authority lies with the General.
Well, each to their own. I’m not American, so have no idea if what Dr Sax describes as occurring in American society is in any way reflective of fact. What I do know is that of all the parents I know personally, all are trying to raise good children, giving them fair opportunities, a good education and, hopefully, setting a reasonable example to inspire them to grow into confident young adults. It isn’t easy by any means, but there’s a clear difference between authoritative parenting, and being authoritarian. I fear this advice confuses the two.