Modern parenting is criticized on many levels. Memes abound comparing the protectiveness of parents today to times when children roamed free, drank from hoses, and didn’t ride in car seats (especially not until they were four-years-old). The disparagement usually involves the
Modern parenting has been dubbed “intensive parenting”. Social scientist Sharon Hays describes it in her book The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood, as, “Child-centered, expert-guided, emotionally absorbing,
Time magazine describes if humorously:
The insanity crept up on us slowly; we just wanted what was best for our kids. We bought macrobiotic cupcakes and hypoallergenic socks, hired tutors to correct a 5-year-old’s “pencil-holding deficiency,” hooked up broadband connections in the treehouse but took down the swing set after the second skinned knee. We hovered over every school, playground and practice field — “helicopter parents,” teachers christened us, a phenomenon that spread to parents of all ages, racesThe Growing Backlash Against Overparenting
andregions. Stores began marketing stove-knob covers and “Kinderkords” (also known as leashes; they allow “three full feet of freedom for both you and your child”.
Some research has found the result of modern American parenting are children that “have more anxiety and less satisfaction with life”. 1 One such study published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found:
Parental involvement is related to many positive child outcomes, but if not developmentally appropriate, it can be associated with higher levels of child anxiety and depression. Few studies have examined the effects of over-controlling parenting, or “helicopter parenting,” in college students. Some studies have found that college students of over-controlling parents report feeling less satisfied with family life and have lower levels of psychological well-being. This study examined self-determination theory as the potential underlying mechanism explaining this relationship. College students (N = 297) completed measures of helicopter parenting, autonomy supportive parenting, depression, anxiety, satisfaction with life, and basic psychological needs satisfaction. Students who reported having over-controlling parents reported significantly higher levels of depression and less satisfaction with life. Furthermore, the negative effects of helicopter parenting on college students’ well-being were largely explained by the perceived violation of students’ basic psychological needs for autonomy and competence.Helping or Hovering? The Effects of Helicopter Parenting on College Students’ Well-Being
But could all the emphasis on lack of autonomy, responsibility, and competence miss what the actual problem of modern parenting is?
Furthermore, research has shown that children of overcritical mothers tend to be more anxious. 2 Criticism and helicopter or intensive parenting
With all of the good intentions of parents to ensure their children are safe, educated, and involved in many interests, what about the basic human need to feel love?
The following excerpt written by John Welwood makes one pause in reflection of our own childhoods and parenting sytles:
The basic human wound, which is prevalent in the modern world, forms around not feeling loved or intrinsically lovable as we are. Inadequate love or attunement is shocking and traumatic for a child’s developing and highly sensitive nervous system. And as we internalize how we were parented, our capacity to value ourselves, which is also the basis for valuing others, becomes damaged. I call this a “relational wound“ or the “wound of the heart.”
There is a whole body of study and research in Western psychology showing how close bonding and loving attunement— what is known as “secure attachment” — have powerful impacts on every aspect of human development. Secure attachment has a tremendous effect on many dimensions of our health, well-being, and capacity to function effectively in the world: how our brains form, how well our endocrine and immune systems function, how we handle emotions, how subject we are to depression, how our nervous system functions and handles stress, and how we relate to others.
In contrast to the indigenous cultures of traditional Asia, modern child-rearing leaves most people suffering from symptoms of insecure attachment: self-hatred, disembodiment, lack of grounding, chronic insecurity and anxiety, overactive minds, lack of basic trust, and a deep sense of inner deficiency. So most of us suffer from an extreme degree of alienation and disconnection that was unknown in earlier times— from society, community, family, older generations, nature, religion, tradition, our body, our feelings, and our humanity itself.
Being a good spiritual practitioner can become what I call a compensatory identity that covers up and defends against an underlying deficient identity, where we feel badly about ourselves, not good enough, or basically lacking.On Spiritual Bypassing and Relationship
There is not a single parent who’s intention is to create a deficient identity in their children.
Free range parenting and attachment parenting have sprung in response to a helicopter or intensive parenting style. Attachment parenting, in particular, focuses on creating a deep connection, but American values may still interfere.
“Cultural Approaches to Parenting” by Marc H. Bornstein explains:
For example, the United States and Japan are both child-centered modern societies with equivalently high standards of living and so forth, but U.S. American and Japanese parents value different childrearing goals which they express in different ways (Bornstein, 1989; Bornstein et al., 2012; Morelli & Rothbaum, 2007). American mothers try to promote autonomy, assertiveness, verbal competence, and self-actualization in their children, whereas Japanese mothers try to promote emotional maturity, self-control, social courtesy, and interdependence in theirs.Parenting: Science and Practice
The emphasis on individualism versus collectivism in western cultures may explain why modern parenting styles fail regardless of their form. Authoritarian styles, which is largely looked down upon in the US for being highly controlling and creating unhappy children, actually work in a collectivist society where the emphasis is interdependence. When one feels that deep connection to others, there is
“Parenting style in a collectivist culture of Malaysia” explains:
Individualism and collectivism refers to the manner in which individuals perceive themselves in relation to other members of the society (Kagitcibasi, 1996). By definition, in collectivist
culturesthere is a strong emphasis on interdependent relationships with others. In contrast, individualist cultures emphasize one’s independence from others (Triandis, 1994)…
In collectivist countries, parents promote values such as helpfulness, conformity, adherence to social conventions and interdependence with their in-groups such as family and nation in child socialization (Greenfield and Suzuki, 1998). One of the studies that have compared the personality traits amongst youths in collectivist and individualist cultures demonstrated that Malaysian youth revealed high agreeableness and low extraversion and openness in comparison to youths in individualist cultures (Mastor et al, 2000). The results of authoritarian parenting practices in the 69 collectivist groups show that individuals must suppress their own requirements and consider the needs of others in the in-group (Grusec et al, 1997). Therefore, according to the outcome valued in collectivist groups, authoritarian parenting may be more appropriate compared with other parenting styles.European Journal of Social Sciences
Authoritarian parenting does not work in an individualistic culture. Neither does helicopter or intensive parenting. The style of parenting really doesn’t matter if the child suffers from a “wound of the heart”.
Parenting styles come somewhat naturally to mothers and fathers based upon books they have read, how they were raised, and their community. No matter the style, we must focus on making sure our children know they are intrinsically loved. Their very worth is proved by their existence!