By Jason DeRusha

I spent part of my morning explaining to my 5-year-old that I think he gets too many choices. Which makes tonight’s Good Question particularly important for me.

Strict versus permissive parenting? The way our parents were or the way parents today are? Are we better parents today than our parents were?

Esme Murphy put this question in our minds because of her latest blog entry. A Yale University professor is bragging about being an amazing mother because she never lets her kids do anything, essentially, other than study, get A’s in school and play the piano or violin.

No sleepovers, no TV, no video games, no choices.

Back to what I was talking to Seth about — choices. He gets to make a lot of choices: minor stuff, usually. Which of these things sounds good for dinner? Bowling or a movie? TV Wednesday or Wii Wednesday? But because of those choices, he seems to think he should have a choice on everything.

Which takes us back to the original question: Who is the better parent — the parents of the 1960s or the parents of today?

Share your thoughts in the comments (knowing that we’re generalizing here and really talking more about strict versus permissive parenting). We’ll use them on TV tonight at 10!

Comments (18)
  1. Dan H Hoxworth says:

    Consistency in behavior is crucial for parenting. Setting an example for your children. Helping them make choices for themselves. Letting them explore their interests (not yours) with boundaries. Children respond when given structure around which they can exercise freedom (choices). Responsibility is not a bad term for kids. Make sure that they are part of the family and bear responsibilities to the family.

    Finally, provide them with some unstructured time so that they learn to play and entertain themselves rather than you doing so.

    1. Dan H Hoxworth says:

      As far as the better parenting question, the roles of parents has changed a great deal from my childhood. At least in my generation, many mothers were primary household managers and bore the vast majority of parenting responsibility and fathers roles were more to bring home the bacon. I think that the more shared responsibility of parenting is positive role modeling for children. At the same time, it is more important that parents make sure their values and expression of those values through actions are consistent.

  2. Bill H says:

    A monumentally complex question with no single right/wrong answer. “Permissive” works for some, fails for others and vice versa. For every positive benefit, there is likely an unintended negative consequence. All you can do is try your best. If your motivation is selfless love and a genuine desire for the well being and betterment of the child, your odds for a positive outcome are maximized (but NOT guaranteed).

  3. Linda R says:

    Our parents. Mothers were home, only had one car in our family, could not participate in after school activities, dad worked nights and we went shopping rarely so we didnt know all the things we “could have” wanted…less access to “stuff.” Now we are exhausted and give up after constant nagging, just to get a moment of peace or silence. Its sad and I dont like it.

  4. Ruth says:

    My parents were the better parents. They taught me that there was right and wrong in this world and consequences to our actions. We learned disappointment and how to cope with it, not everyone made the sports teams. We learned that not everyone has the same talent and without failure how do you find what you are good at? I feel that the younger generation does not believe in right or wrong, “it’s all relative” ……Look at where that has gotten us….we need to be our childrens parent not just try to be their friend……I do think our generation expresses emotions more than our parents, which is a good thing, but we still need to be the parent and be careful of what our children are up to……so many choices, so many ways to get into trouble…..

  5. Kathleen says:

    I have to believe that I am a better parent than my own, because of an acceptance that “There is nothing too awful or too embarrassing to talk about.” My parents had a lot of unspoken boundaries with that kind of thing. Approachability is key. However, as I now watch my children parent their own children, I can’t help but notice that so many of the ‘teachable’ moments are no longer available with the constant stream of media ~ in the car, during a meal and often at bedtime. You have to believe that you will be ‘heard’ before you will risk your thoughts. Kids are amazingly intuitive.

  6. Nancy Aleshire says:

    As a child of the fifties, we didn’t have all the options that the kids of today have. For one thing there were only three tv channels and no such thing as 24 hour programming. We got to see the test pattern for a good part of the day. Christmas and birthday presents amounted to getting gifts like sleds, wagons, bikes, and clip on roller skates. Later on the Barbie doll was introduced and the various accessories that went along with that. We learned to invent things to play with. We would spend hours with Bridge and Turnpike and Girder and Panel building sets and If we got paints and an easel it was seventh heaven. Despite the lack of computers, DVD’s and video games, I don’t remember boredom being an option. We spent more time outdoors and with our friends. Obesity wasn’t much of a problem either. To sum it up, being part of the Leave it to Beaver generation did not scar us.

  7. Katie Bliss says:

    Consistency is key. Helping our kids make wise choices is important. Sometimes giving our kids no choice is important. ie: you must take the laundry downstairs. As a mom, I don’t really have a choice not to do the laundry-it’s about teaching responsibility and some work ethic. I love my kids dearly, but I don’t want them living with me until they’re 40. 😉

  8. Katie says:

    This assumes that if you are not strict you are permissive, which is hardly the case in many households. Giving your child a voice hardly puts them in charge, unless you put them in charge. We have a clear set of rules in our house & there …are consequences to breaking the rules, but everyone has a voice. This doesn’t mean you always get what you want, but it is nice to know your opinion is valid and heard. It also helps if you can understand how child development works and be age appropriate about rules/consequences. And don’t forget, there have always been humans that are willing to procreate and want nothing to do with parenting, it was just as true in the past as it is now. Don’t blame all parents just because some people aren’t interested in being good ones.

  9. Barb says:

    I see difference within the same generation. I recall a mother calling me that my son used the word “pee” (I know you can not use that on air) and then spent time telling me how to raise my son the same age as her son,, now age 19 her son has spent time in Juvenile detention, detox,rehab and now jail. My son is in college his major, Criminal Justice with emphasis on Social Services. My parents raised me to respect others and I did, my son respects others and I get what a kind young man he is from strangers all the time,, I passed on what was instilled in me, it was easy.

  10. colia says:

    I’m 30yrs old I’m very grateful of my mom and family I grew up being a average kid yes I made mistakes and had my share of making trouble , i had to look forward to facing consequence and my mom the fear of what’s going to happen to me because I chose poorly was enough for me I knew being disrespectful towards adults or being rude and nasty to my elders was going to get me trouble big time there’s no amount of money is this world that will have me disrespectful to my mom yes i had it all punishments, slap, spankings, ect. This has kept me in line and fearful of GOD. I know better to embarrass my family I do feel our patents have been stripped of being a parent teaching discipline and structure also bring held accountable for there actions its sad that kids are out of order these days and have no respect for anything. My answer is once parents, government , and laws of the land remove GOD out of everything you are out there alone asking for disaster , and corruption and GODS atonement is not there. Thank GOD for grace and mercy. AMEN

  11. gretel says:

    giving kids choices is good to teach them the value of thoughtful decision making, however, it does not need to be on everything. Parents can’t be afraid to put their foot down. I don’t have kids but my parents raised me right, not giving me the option to do my chores, but they still had fun with me and I’m pretty open-minded. “To each, their own.” I say it often. I just apply what my parents have given me in managing the people I do today and it works well.

  12. Katende says:

    Thank you so much for bringing up this issue. Obviously growing up in Africa, it has always been really hard for me to understand why my fellow class mates don’t care if the teacher is in class or not. These college kids will continue chating with their friends….But I have also come to understand that even though parents of today have failed to do their part, the entire judicial system has failed to explain to the parents the difference between disciplining a child and hurting a child. I have of course been scolded by a few of my friends when this topic comes up in a conversation.
    Thanks so much again for bringing this up. Now I know I’m not crazy because at least some people out there think there’s something wrong with some of the kids today.

  13. BR says:

    Numerous psychological studies have shown that permissive parents turn out the worst kids. These are the type of parents who never, ever say “No” or try to guide their kid in any way. The second worst type of parent is the overly strict (they call this group “Authoritarian” parents). These are the parents who say “no” too often and don’t give their kids room to breathe. As is true in most situations, moderation is the way to go. The middle-ground parents are called “Authoritative.” These are the parents that provide kids with structure and guidance, but they also give them room to breathe and explore a bit. Both qualities are necessary in order to help the kids grow into healthy adults.

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  15. MormonLady says:

    I agree with the person who said you cannot leave God out of the equation. All the major religions have a code of conduct similar to our 10 Commandments and teach about accountability, responsibility, and obedience to law. When we fail to pass our religions on to our children, we leave them wide open to the influence of media, peers, and the lack of civility so rampant in our cultures today. Raising a child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, by whatever name you call Him, is the most vital part of parenting. Just my opinion. Thanks for listening.

  16. Marv Koski says:

    After reading through all of the responses, they have some common threads – teaching kids to be responsible, to respect others, to observe boundaries, all with the added factor of giving the child an opportunity to think for him or herself. Like so many other things, parenting evolves with the times. The way my parents treated me was, in part, a reflection of the mores and attitudes of the time. I had to deal with things with my children that my parents could not have imagined. I see my son having to deal with issues with my grandchildren different from the times when he grew up with me. And so it goes. How involved parents are in their children’s development is critical to successful upbringing.

  17. TOM FROM GOODHUE says:

    How does the state collect road taxes on electric totaly electric cars?

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