Book review: The collapse of Parenting

I finished this book last week and I like it so much that I am sending a copy to a friend in China. Although the book raised many controversial points, I agree with most of his points.

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The book first discuss each of the three challenges today’s parents face in the US
1. culture of disrespect. It is so common that kids don’t respect anyone but themselves or their peers. They value peers opinion over parents and that is wrong.
2. over medication when it’s lack of good parenting. Many of the misbehaviors are treated with medication when it is actually parents job to teach good behavior.
3. over scheduling. In a world of showing off accomplishment, over scheduling kids spare time is common and it deprives kids family and downtime which is extremely important.

Then the author discuss What matters for long-term outcomes in term of happiness, wealth and life satisfaction? Conscientiousness and Self-control.

How do you help an 8-year-old build self control? “no dessert until you eat your vegetables”
How do you help a teenager build self-control? “no TV until after you’ve done your homework.”

Your child’s self control is not hardwired. It is not determined by birth. It is something you can influence.

How you teach the virtue of hard work and empathy? You don’t teach by asking “how would you feel if you were in that situation? but rather by insisting that the adolescent spend a summer alongside someone from a different background, to learn the stories firsthand.
You don’t teach virtue by preaching virtue. You teach virtue by requiring virtuous behavior, so that virtuous behavior becomes a habit. Behaving virtuously leads people to become more virtuous.

Third section is about common Misconceptions

#1: Kids would behave in front of you but not when they’re by themselves.
His response (R): well-behaved kids are more likely to grow up to be well-behaved adults.
Just right parents communicate their love for their child, but they also enforce fules fairly and consistently. The rules may bend on occasion, but they don’t break.

#2: I want my child to be independent. So when she talks back to me or disrespectul, i try to see that in a positive light, as a sign that she is becoming more independent.
R: it’s never acceptable for your child to be disrepectful to you. she can disagree with you by saying “I don’t agree. I think you are making a mistake”. But it is never acceptable for her to say “shut up. You don’t know what the f*** you are talking about”.
How to cultivate independence without disrespect? by having conversations about topics that they are interested and respect their thoughts. Ask your kids to name their favorite movie and expalin why it is their favorite. Describe how and why your opinion differs. Show them that two people can disagree about preferences for one movie over another or about their taste in food without disrespecting or disliking one another. For teens, you might choose controversial topics from the news.

#3: I just want my son to be happy. What makes him happy is different from what makes me happy. I’m thinking I may just have to accept that.
R: the mom is confusing happiness with pleasure. This mother’s son derives pleasure from playing video games, but playing video games is unlikely to be a source of real fulfillmess. Pleasure is not the same thing as happiness. The gratification of desire yields pleasure, not lasting happiness. Hapiness comes from fulfillment, from living up to your potential.

#4: I’m worried that if I follow your advice, my child won’t love me anymore.
R: Read your job description. The job of a parent is to raise your child to be the best person she or he can be. Your reward comes from knowing that you have done your job well. As wonderful as it is to receive a loving hug or a spontanous and unasked for “i love being with you” from your child, such shows of affection can’t be your main objective.
If you are doing your job as parent, then sometimes you will have to do things that will upset your child. If you are concerned that your child won’t love you anymore, that concern may keep you from doing your job. Do your job. (BRILLIANT!!!)

Finally, the author talks about What to teach
1. teach humility because humility hs become the most un-american virtues. Because so many parents have confused virtue with success. The only sin, for many middle-income parents today, is failure. Humility means being as interested in other people as you are in yourself. It means that when you meet new people, you try to learn something about them before going off on how incredible your current project is. Humility means really listening when someone is talking, instead of just prepareing your own speachlet in your head before you’ve really heard what the other person is saying. humility means making a sustained effort to get other peoplel to share their views before trying to inundate them with yours. The opposite of humility is inflated self-esteem.
Many parents confuse self-esteem with courage, just as some tend to confuse humility with timidity and cowardice. To be courageous means that you recovnize the risks and your own limitations, but you find the resolve to move forward anyhow. The person with bloated self-esteen, unaware of her own deficiencies, is unlikely to do wel in job intereview. The right kind of humility helps you to recognize your own shortcomings. To be better prepared. To understand the risks. And to take those risks courageously, when necessary. The culture of humility leads to gratitude, appreciateion and contentment. The key to lasting happiness is contentment.

Some parents are happy to hire a housekeeper. They would rather have their child devote their time to schoolwork or extracurricular activities rather than household chores. They are making a mistake. By exempting your child from all chores, you are sending the messsage ” your time is too valuable to be spent on menial tasks”, which morphs into the unintended message “you are too important to do menial tasks”. By asking your kids to do chores, you are teaching them an important lesson. World doesn’t revolve around you. You are a member of this family with obligations to this family, and those obligations are paramount.

2. Enjoy the time you spend with you child
Find something you both enjoy doing. It is essential too. You have to plan for it. You have to insist on it. You must make time for it.
It means no devices at mealtime. When you are sitting at the table together, the focus should be on interaction. Listen to your child and talk with your child.
At dinner table, ask everyone’s favorite book, animal, food, etc.
Similarly, no headphone in the car. Take advantage of every moment you can. The time in the car should be a time for kids and parents to talk.

Over scheduling kids free time before family time and little time for reflection, with no quiet time for a relaxed parent-chid dinner, you are sending an intended message: what you do is more important than who you are.

3. The meaning of life
What is the purpose of life?
Meaningful work, a person to love, a cause to embrace.
Why should I work hard at school? You must have an answer bigger than getting admitted to Stanford or making a good living. you must offer a bigger picture. Some concept of what is all about. Some understanding that experience with people matter more than the acquisition of things. You mut have the authority to communicate that big picture to your child. To do that, you have to matter more in the life of your child than his or her peers.

You have to assert without apology the primacy of the parent-child relatipnship over relationships between same-age peers.
You have to teach that family comes first.
You must teach your child that every choice has inmediate, far-reaching, and unforeseen consequcnes.
You must help your child to find meaning in life that is not about their latest accopmlishments, or how they look, or how many friends they have, but about who your child is,t heir true self.
You must judge your success as a parent not by how many friends your child has, not by grades, not by an acceptance letter from a famour schoo, but by wheather your childis on the road to fullfilment, capable of governning his or her needs and desires instead of being governed by them.

Raising your child to know and care about virtue and character is not a special extra credit assignment reserved for the superior parent. It is mandatory for all parents. And when you are given a mandatory assignment, you must do your best, regardless of your own shortcomings. Regardless of whether your peers -other parents- are paying attention to the assignment or not.

There is no greater responsibility.


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