Good Question: Do Parents Give Kids Too Much Power?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In business, in science and in parenting, we hope that as time goes on it gets better. However, a controversial new book is arguing that American parents are doing much worse.

In “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” Amy Chua argues that by refusing to let her kids go to sleepovers, watch TV and play sports she is getting her kids ready to succeed.

So, do today’s parents give kids too much power?

“I think we try to parent more. Our parents just let us do things,” said one St. Paul dad.

“Parenting is not necessarily worse, but a lot more relaxed. Thanks to Dr. Phil, we have “time-outs!” Come on!” said Scott Kurvers.

“Parenting is one of the longest running experiments on the face of the earth,” said Carol Bruess, head of the Family Studies program at the University of St. Thomas.

Bruess points to three types of parenting: authoritarian, permissive and authoritative.

Authoritarian is the style of parenting popular in the United States for most of the 1900s. It means a lot of rules and lots of discipline.

“Parents who were high in control, but low in warmth,” said Bruess.

Kids who became parents in the 1980s and 1990s had a reaction (perhaps an “overreaction” as Bruess said) to the authoritarian parenting style and swung to being permissive.

“Live and let live, let kids be free,” said Bruess, describing a parenting style that was most concerned with the self-esteem and happiness of the kids.

“We even had posters, ‘100 ways to compliment your child,'” she laughed.

However, giving kids all the power hasn’t seemed to work, as those kids are now young adults, entering the work force.

“Most of our parenting research suggests you should not be raising your child to be happy,” said Bruess.

Kids without rules and discipline are finding it hard to assimilate into a workforce that is generally structured, she said. People are finding those young people to be rude and to have an unreasonably high sense of self-esteem.

The other reaction from the authoritarian way of parenting is called authoritative or democratic.

“Not majority rules, democratic,” noted Bruess. “It says I’m still the parent, I make the rules, but they’re also high in warmth. I want to hear what you think, what you feel, but it was a combination,” she said.

“Well-socialized kids tend to be loveable kids, well-socialized kids are happy in the long run. But not right now, because you’re saying, ‘You need to do your homework,'” she explained.

As for Amy Chua’s approach, all authoritarian: “there might be some lessons in that that we can use and integrate into a warmer style of parenting,” said Bruess.

More from Jason DeRusha
  • tiredandretired

    Kids need boundaries, just like adults do. That doesn’t mean lots of little, picky rules. Set parameters, based on what’s most important: What values and qualities do you want your child to have as an adult? What is age-appropriate? What will help him or her successfully meet his or her responsibilities at home, at school, and in the community? Allow your child to work within age-appropriate boundaries, shrinking them when they are exceeded and restoring them when they are consistently met. Discuss these boundaries and decisions with your child, be consistent, be persistent, be caring, be firm. Kids need you to be a parent; not a peer. Kids have enough of them already.

  • harold russell

    there is a fine line between authority and abuse and in this society the protective nature of police and social services make parents cautious the government has taken the parents authority out of the equation but still trys to hold them responsible for the outcome

    i say to hold someone responsible for something for which you have taken away their control is is unconsionable

    in looking at the issue probably to many parents have erred and crossed the line into abuse and the result is over reaction and over protectiveness but it could be just to many government agencys creating self sustaining growth so how do we find balance

    here is how listen to both sides

    the parents are busy give them time to respond the others have nothing to do but complain or advance their self interest // use a grain of salt

    • Slim

      Just a little rambling about Gov telling us how???
      I don’t get it, as you are in charge in your house, you are not a victim!
      … and does that computer have any punctuation on the keyboard?

  • miki

    Actually, Harold, there is no fine line between authority and abuse. None at all.

    Parents are the grown-ups. They don’t have the right to be “busy”; they need to get off the cellphones and dragging tired, hungry children along for the ride, and letting their children misbehave in public just because they have their own plans.

    Keep a child to boundaries and nap times and meal times so they have some control over themselves, not everybody else. This can be done without screaming and arguments in public and threats and counting down (which never works), if the parent is willing to enforce those boundaries at once, and the child knows it.

  • Mike

    I’m sorry but I think I would have to disagree to some extent with almost all three who have commented here so far. Why?

    You can give a kid all the boundaries in the world but when the “supposed” parent does nothing to enforce those boundaries that method will not and does not work.

    Biggest problem I see now a days is that parents do not teach their children anything they want the schools and everyone else in the world to do it for them. Kids spend far too much time in front of the T.V. watching a movie or playing video games. There is nothing wrong with them doing that occasionally but to have them do that while they surf the net or take a nap is ridiculous.

    The other problem is these children are not being taught the simple things as far as taking responsibility for their actions. Nor are they being taught about cause and effect, i.e. you pushed someone down at school your are grounded for 2 days, you broke curfew you are grounded for a month, no car, no cell phone, no computer, no going out with friends, period end of story. Period, end of story, no do-overs or take backs..

    Parents need to parents first and their childs best friend second. Plain and simple. Parents need to be more apt to have their children do chores around the house also, vacuuming, mowing the lawn or shoveling the walk.

    • tiredandretired

      Re-read my original post. I described the importance of enforcement. You must have missed that. As for my idea working, I can tell you from experience that it does. My wife and I raised our children successfully with this strategy. They are now, responsible, productive adults. They recognize its effectiveness to the extent that they are using it in raising their own children. At this point, their high school kids are responsible, respectful, and top students. It’s hard to argue with proven success.

  • Dave Seavy

    Miki hit it right on target. Eforce the boundaries from the beginning, and you’ll have far fewer problems, and so will your child. The idea that I’m my child’s best friend is absurd. I’m his and her parent. It’s my responsibility to teach them right from wrong, and if I fail, they will too.

  • scott

    That’s why “Parents” are called Parents. Not best friend, chauffeur, heel or anything else. I have observed various families and their various styles of interaction with each other. Everything from rigid to extremely passive. I suppose whatever works for you, it’s your family after all. Myself, I am kind of in the middle, situation dictating. I realize that the mindset or skills that I’m trying to teach now will affect my kid’s for life. So I hope. For those who are just nothing but a BFF (best friends forever), please stop. See Mike’s posting for a clearer definition. Not only does it make you look foolish, it’s not working. Some of these kids are now entering the work force, college or life in general and they seemingly have it confused with social hour. Now they are the ones who look foolish.

  • Devils Advocate

    Children are Satanic. There’s really nothing that can be done for them.

    • Chuck

      Please save your sarcastic comments…
      You are wasting our time…
      Unless that is truely where you live…
      And that is really sad…
      Did your folks set you up for that?
      Either way, don’t bring us down.

  • Courteney

    It drives me nuts when parents skirt their responsiblities by saying “let kids be kids”. Or when they think that school/teachers/everyone else should be responsible for their kids success when parents need to set boundries, teach their kids at home, read with them, and give them responsibilites; not be their best friend.

    Sadly it seems like there are hardly any parents out there anymore that take responsibility. It seems like everything revolves around “letting kids be kids”. At least once a month I open my mail to a kids bday party….when I was younger I was allowed to have a couple friends over and I was the HOST. It was a lot of work and also taught me a lot. Now, everytime I have attended a kids bday party the “host” does nothing, just wants gifts, and the parents have the idea that this is perfectly fine because it should be the bday kid’s day.

  • laura

    Parenting is the most important job in the world, it is the most demanding and yet at the sametime the most rewarding job I have ever had. Is there a right way to be successful, probably, but I believe if you teach your child that they are valued, spend time playing with them, reading to them, let yourself be a kid again you will be on the road to success. My husband and I have five children ages 1 to 14 and we have family game night every weekend. None of our kids have been in trouble in school or outside school. The 2 older ones know that we expect good grades, respect for their peers and elders, and we expect them to be nice to everyone no matter what. So far we have been successful using this formula, we will teach the 3 little ones the same and I can only hope we will be able to produce 5 adults who are productive members of society.

    • Courteney

      Five kids? Every hear of OVER POPULATION? Thanks for contributing…I just love having to share even more of our stretched-thin resources because you you only cared about what YOU want and not what would be best.

  • Joker of Clubs

    Most the people here sound fairly reasonable. So far. I think my biggest parenting pet peeve is the automatic response of “my child wouldn’t do that” when any issue arises. That right there is why kids are not held accountable for their actions and are not going to do well in society when they are thrust into it. Society holds you responsible for your actions. If you don’t do that with your children, or if you don’t believe your child can do anything wrong, you are doing them a major disservice.

    • tiredandretired

      I agree. If we aren’t open to the possibility of our kids making mistakes, it becomes impossible to help them correct any mistakes that they make. Sometimes, we parents need to swallow our pride and focus on being problem solvers. Our failure to do so in the short term can result in tremendous long-term damage to our children.

  • K.

    Laura has the right formula and it really boils down to giving your kids attention and being involved in their lives. We did the same………playing with your kids and doing things with them. I have to tell you that the most knowledgeable parents are grandparents………like me. We’ve been there and done that! We didn’t know what we were doing at the time and it was a lot of trial and error. But, it all worked out. I have two beautiful daughters that are very capable, responsible, and well-adjusted. If I made mistakes, it didn’t ruin them for life. We all learned something together. I have to tell you that after they are grown and gone, that’s the best time to become their friend and it works much better that way. Now they are parents and doing a fine job of it. I’d like to think that maybe, just maybe, their dad and I were good role models. That’s the best we can hope for, isn’t it?

  • laura

    You have it ! Right grandparents are the most Knowledgeable. we are lucky enough to live in the same town as my parents and the relationship my children have with my parents also contributes to how they behave. My mom babysits for us while my husband and I work, it is a life saver for us and a blessing for my kids. I never would have admitted growing up that my mom and dad know what they are talking about, now my mom is the 1st one I go to when I need parenting advise. Magazines or books have nothing on Grandparents

  • laura

    Yes 5 kids and you pay for none of them, my husband and I are support ourselves and our children, we get no help from the government so sorry I am not going to ask your permission to have children. Until you know the story behind us having 5 kids you have no right to comment or judge. We had our first 2 children almost 4 yrs apart and then tried for over 2 yrs to have another child thinking that would be it nothing happened for 6 yrs and then God blessed us with 3 little ones! No fertility drugs nothing all in the hands of God. My children are taken care of and very loved. I will not excuse myself for having my children I love each one of them and couldn’t imagine life without them. They keep my husband and I young and everyday is an adventure. you must not have children or you wouldnt question the number of kids we have.

    • tiredandretired

      Too many people today jump at the chance to judge others and vent their frustrations at them. Assuming the worst about others seems to be a common affliction of today’s Americans. It is obviously inappropriate and counterproductive. I grew up in a large family. My parents worked hard to help us become good, responsible people. They didn’t take a dime of government money, either – even though money was always tight. We all learned to do our part and work hard, following their example. None of us are on the public dole, as adults. Despite growing up poor, we have 5 college graduates in the family, including 4 with graduate degrees. You sound like a loving parent, with good common sense and great values. Keep up the great work with your kids! God Bless!

    • Courteney

      Whether you use government support or not, how many kids you have does effect EVERYONE! Including me. Our resources are limited, space is limited, and even though you think you get no government ‘assistance’, you do. It is everyone else’s taxes that pay for the child tax credit, the school systems, social programs for kids/families, etc. That is a type of government assistance that is paid for by OTHER people.

      Your response says it all…YOU wanted more kids and didn’t care about what was best for anyone else. You honestly felt that it was only going to effect you and your husband. That is a selfish way to think.

      • tiredandretired

        What is incredibly selfish is your assumption that you get to make that call for her. She’s not telling you how many kids to have. Mind your own business.

      • miki

        Courteney, this world does not spin for you. Children are WHY society exists, why mankind exists. Sheesh. Get some perspective and maybe a dab of kindness.

  • laura

    My husband and I also pay those taxes for schools , we own our home and have this thing called property tax that we have to pay. The child tax credit, I did not create nor do I have more children to get that. My parents had 6 kids and never once got credit for any of us. I had a wonderful childhood and lots of great memories, I love having a big family, we are all very close and contribute to society. I am sorry, from your previous comments, your childhood might not have been as great as mine, but I don’t know you so who knows and I am not to judge. The number of children I have does not make a difference in whether or not you have to pay for schools or “social programs”. I would like to know what social programs you think my family and I use because as far as I know we get nothing from the government for free. My kids can’t even ride the bus because we are within 2 miles from school and the bus stops in front of our house every afternoon to let one kid off. My husband and I work very hard to make ends meet and provide for our family, we don’t get anything for free and we pay our taxes. We did not set out to have a big family, we were blessed with one!

  • Are we empowering our kids too much? | عالم رومانسيات

    […] to the opposite extreme — being permissive. “Live and let live, let kids be free,” said Carol Bruess, head of the Family Studies program at the University of St. Thomas, when she described a style of […]

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