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Good Question: Do Parents Give Kids Too Much Power?

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
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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.

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