Parenting On Bad Information

by Keith McCurdy

Doing a quick Google search it is easy to find some confusing information.  Mental health services have evolved and ballooned since the early 60s and yet we have more cases of depression reported than ever before.

 Millions of Americans, including children, are prescribed anti-depressant medications as several studies report their effectiveness being virtually the same as a placebo.  Technological advances that have reported to make our lives “easier” are now sources of consistent conflict in the average American home …. Facebook, cell phone usage, video games, computer and television exposure.

Our children have the fewest chores and burdens on them than any previous generation and yet, they are more depressed and anxious than ever.  Is our population really this sick or are we not equipping our children the way we used to?

Over the last two decades, the vast majority of children that I have worked with have been “normal.”  Yes, they may have had a myriad of diagnoses, but they were normal.  Regardless of their presenting problems, most often reported by parents, the majority of their issues were resolved by working with Mom and Dad.

We have gone from a nation that looked at our children as very durable and capable to one that is commonly asking what is wrong with our child.  Yet the more we have been led to believe that children suffer more and more with mental health issues and the more services we provide ….. the worse the overall picture has become.

Here is a simple example: When you were in junior high school how many people did you know that cut themselves?  Very few of us will come up with even one example of this.  Now ask that same question to a room of 100 junior high schoolers today and two thirds will raise their hands.  Yet their burdens of life have never been less than any generation before.  Oh yes, there are those that will say there is more stress on kids today than in our generation but I disagree.  There may be more stressed out kids, which is actually what the studies show, but the inference that their lives are more stressful is not clearly supported by evidence.

Our current efforts have been greatly misdirected.  We are always hearing about the need for more programs for children.  The efforts need to be directed toward the family, more specifically the parents.  Today when a child demonstrates wrong, problematic, odd behavior we immediately ask what is wrong with them … we assume a malfunction.  The first place we really need to look is to our parenting.

This does not mean that our parenting guarantees any particular outcome with our children, it does not.  It is not that our parenting causes so many issues; it is that the lack of good parenting does not effectively equip our children to navigate and handle the struggles of life.

 To do this though, we have to understand that we will be operating “counter culture.”  The world around us does not support good parenting on most fronts.  Whether it is Disney who continues to elevate the entitled teenager with one series after another where parents are portrayed as irrelevant or just sources of funding; Technology which gives the notion that all things Apple or Xbox are great but fails to give warnings about how electronic intrusion into the home alienates family members and often kills work ethic in children; or even many in my own profession who value emotions over convictions and push the false goal of being “happy” over learning to accept that life will always have struggles and that how we learn to deal with those issues is much more important than how we feel about them.

We have to realize that not only are parents relevant, we are the most important steering mechanism in our children’s lives and we have to decide to take back that role.  Warning:  If you begin to equip your children they will no longer be protected from the normal pain and suffering of life.  You will be in conflict with many families in your own neighborhood who are still over concerned about whether their child is happy or not.  You will begin to see your child as normal, which includes all kinds of goofy and problematic behaviors I refer to as uniqueness.  Others will no longer use you as an example of …. “well, Jimmy’s parents let him do that” ….because you won’t.  All in all you will probably be seen as “old fashioned” or “mean” …. Excellent!

We are instructed to “train up” our children and we need to take it seriously because the culture does not.  We no longer need to focus on fixing our children or their problems; we need to equip them to handle life.

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