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Pulling Up Your Pants Is Easy, Parenting Is Hard

Written by Dave Moss Feb 01, 2011

Parenting is very difficult and parents should be wary about anyone offering easy solutions to complex parenting problems. New York State Senator Eric Adams, frustrated with the fact that there are gun deaths and drug use amongst teens, is offering a simple solution to parents – search their rooms regularly.

If only parenting were this easy.

Senator Adams, while a parent, is not an expert in child development (he does, however, desperately want you to pull your pants up). Parenting is an extremely complicated venture and I cannot stress this enough. Anyone claiming that raising a child can be simple, or somehow made simpler is probably just trying to sell you something or get their name in the paper. In fact, author David H. Freedman who writes about sensationalist medical advances cautions parents about easy solutions in his article called, “6 Types of Parenting Advice You Shouldn’t Trust.” One of the types of parenting advice he warns about is any advice pushed by a popular, charismatic, authoritative-seeming expert.” Advice pushed by a charismatic spokesperson should be thoughtfully considered before being implemented sincethe best research comes from geeky scientists who toil away in the lab and wouldn’t dream of spending large chunks of time promoting their findings to the public.”

There are so many things to worry about when raising a child it’s difficult to know where to begin. The issue of drug use alone is so complicated that the National Institute of Drug Abuse (a division of the National Institutes of Health) lists no fewer than 16 principles for parents to follow. One of those principles, Principle 5, stresses that “Family bonding is the bedrock of the relationship between parents and children. Bonding can be strengthened through skills training on parent supportiveness of children, parent-child communication, and parental involvement.” Forcefully reminding your child that he or she has no rights is not supportive. Searching your child’s room without his knowledge is not communication. And acting like a warden is not constructive parental involvement.

A lot of parents find comfort in the idea that privacy, trust and their children’s rights should take a back seat to safety. That is a simple concept but fundamentally flawed. The reality behind this idea couldn’t be more complicated. A comprehensive study on adolescent brain development published in the journal “Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry” entitled “Relationship of parental bonding styles with gray matter volume of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in young adults” concluded that overprotective parenting can be harmful to a young person’s brain development. Or, in their words – “[parental overprotection] could lead to an increased risk of several psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and mood disorder.”

Adolescence is marked by an increased desire for independence and while I’m not saying that young people should be let loose to do as they please it is important to allow them to explore their newfound independence. And as always, that’s not just my opinion, it’s backed up by some experts named Simmons & Blyth who wrote in 1987 that the “research suggests that early adolescent development is characterized by increases in desire for autonomy and self-determination.” Attempting to suppress this desire can have negative consequences as noted by the gray matter study cited above and also more colloquially in this 1993 study which states that “excessive parental control is linked to lower intrinsic school motivation, to more negative changes in self-esteem following the junior high school transition, to more school misconduct, and to relatively greater investment in peer-social attachments.”

I am not a parent and I do not know everything there is to know about parenting. What I do know is that parenting is very difficult and that being a good parent is one of the most important things a person can do in their life time. In order to do that I believe it’s very important to get some advice from experts and to realize that there are no simple solutions when it comes to raising kids.

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