By Jay Madison
A quick search to the term “parent types” in Google results in a list of at least 20 different descriptions. A partial list of these parental types includes consultant, helicopter, drill sergeant, authoritative, permissive, uninvolved, instinctive, attachment, over-involved,
and hands off. This wide variety of types reflects the increasing number of thoughts on how to best raise a child. The cornucopia of approaches used by today’s parents is far more than I remember as a kid. From what little I recollect, kids saw parents on a sliding scale between lenient and strict. Our goal was to spend most of our time at the houses with lenient parents.
I had a stay-at-home mom. But generally, I only remember her in the background. Most of the experiences I remember of my early days are related to school, sports, or with friends obeying the dictum to stay outside until dinner. Although my mom remained in the background, she would magically reappear as the authoritative mom when I fought with my brother, or as a helicopter mom, after I had once again done something to earn a trip to the hospital for a few more stitches.
The role of the parent has changed dramatically since I was a kid. According to the Pew Research Center, in 1965 my mother (if she was an average woman of the time) spent 8 hours at work, 32 hours doing housework and 10 hours at child care each week. In contrast during that same week my dad spent 42 hours at work, 4 hours doing
housework, and 2.5 hours playing with the
kids. By 2011, moms were spending 21
hours at work, 18 cleaning house, and 14 with the kids. Dads spent 37 hours at work, 10 hours doing housework and 7 hours taking care of the kid. So while moms and dads are now spending more time with their kids, they are also spending more time working and taking care of the household.
While at face value this seems
good, simply being there doesn’t mean
energy is spent on positive parent child
interactions. For example, when I was
young my parents didn’t go to all my sporting events. Mostly, we car pooled with the parents of other kids
in the neighborhood. This meant each week only a couple pairs of parents had to watch my extremely poor attempts to play baseball. We also only had one practice a week compared to the three or four these days. This left kids home with their parent most weeknights for talks over the dinner table. Now, sometimes, I feel like I am my child’s private chauffer. I spend more time in the presence of my children than my dad, but much of this time isn’t adding much to their lives. My point here is it should be about the quality not quality of time one spends with their children.
Those parents who coach spend more time with their kids but the lessons they are teaching seem schizophrenic. We now give young kids awards for participation but seem more concerned about quality of play, bad refereeing, and winning, rather than improvement in our child’s play. In
my parent’s time there seemed to be a much simpler message; play to win, if you lose
get over it, and don’t blame it on somebody else. These lessons apply to all of life, not just sports, but seem lost in our hypercompetitive yet don’t-make-anybody-feel-bad sporting and educational events.
One obvious event where parents exemplify bad decisions was the recent measles outbreak in California. Given
the overwhelming evidence that measles vaccines are positive for the individual and society, only 91% of the children in US have had this shot. This puts us behind Canada (95%), the UK (95%), Germany (97%), and even Russia (98%). Add to this our most recent Utah Legislature that couldn’t pass a
bill to substantively improve our kids’ education even though there were considerable funds in the state’s coffer to do so. So, are these really the lessons we want our kids to learn if they spend more time around us?
It is great parents are spending more time with their kids, but it is not clear kids are benefiting from this extra time. Certainly this could be improved if more adults actually took actions that improved all children’s well-being. While this
might be a stretch we could certainly do the simple things around our own house; read books, spend time at the dinner table with extended family or friends talking about the day’s events, and go on long walks with no electronic devices in tow.