BREAKING: Parents, You’re Doing It Wrong

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I don’t really have a strong opinion either way of New York Times columnist Frank Bruni. But he sure does have a clear one of me. And by me I mean you and me. All of us parents.

In his Op-Ed piece from last Sunday’s NYT, Bruni mini-rants about modern parenting, how baffling it is, and how confounded he is by all the fretting and freaking out over “ushering kids into adulthood as if  it were some newfangled sorcery dependent on a slew of child-rearing books and a bevy of child-rearing blogs.”

He tells us we’re giving our children too much choice, too much say, too many chicken nuggets. He gives examples of how parents have lost their way and overall control. Requests have replaced rules and families have become democracies.

“Why all the choices — ‘What would you like to wear?’— and all the negotiating and the painstakingly calibrated diplomacy? They’re toddlers, not Pakistan. I understand that you want them to adore you. But having them fear you is surely the saner strategy, not just for you and for them but for the rest of us and the future of the republic.”

Basically, another You’re Doing It All Wrong screed. But — oh, wait! — Frank Bruni isn’t a parent. There’s also that. His take on all that wrong with parents “these days” is essentially based on his time spent with his 11 nieces and nephews. Aww, special.


Look, I’m not the type who thinks the childfree shouldn’t have a say in matters of parenthood. The opposite, actually. If you chose not to have children, but take a vested interest in the collective rearing of this nation/world’s children, come on with it, then. Bring your needed thoughts to the table. Let’s hear what you have to share.  But if you’re here just to hand out criticism? No thanks. Keep that platter down by your end of the table.

The thing about the Bruni piece that brought on the eye-roll from me wasn’t that he was a non-parent talking about parents. It was that he wasn’t saying a damn thing that we haven’t already heard before. Man, listen. There are entire shelves in the psychology/parenting book section that try to unpack this very real issue of  the imbalance of power in today’s family.

My other problem with the piece was addressed by the wise ones over at Slate’s XXfactor:

“Bruni spends 75 percent of his allotted column space telling parents they’re doing everything wrong and it’s ruining children, and turns around and spends the last quarter of his column completely contradicting himself. He tells parents what they do doesn’t matter anyway, because kids are going to turn out who they were meant to be whether you let them watch TV or not, whether you yell at them or overpraise.”

I get it, though. It’s a good message with which to end your rant-ish column, I suppose. Reassure parents that their kids will be fine in the end, so calm down. I just wish Bruni didn’t serve up all the vinegar first before offering a little jellybean at the very end.

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