Why kids today are out of shape, disrespectful – and in charge

Dr. Leonard Sax has been a family physician and psychologist for 27 years, conducting workshops around the world for parents, teachers, social workers, counselors, school psychologists and juvenile justice professionals.

Source: Why kids today are out of shape, disrespectful – and in charge

The Associated Press: What exactly do you mean by a collapse of parenting?

Sax: I wrote about an office visit with a 10-year-old boy who is sitting and playing a game on his mobile phone, ignoring me and his mom as I’m talking with his mom about his stomachache. And his mom is describing his stomachache and the boy says, ‘Shut up, mom, you don’t know what you’re talking about.’ And he laughs.

That would have been very unusual in 1990 or 2000. It is now common: children, girls and boys, being disrespectful to parents, being disrespectful to one another, being disrespectful to themselves, verbally and otherwise. The mother did nothing, just looked a little embarrassed. The culture has changed in a profound way in a short period of time in ways that have really harmed kids.



Teaching and Modeling Respect

Using force, physical punishment, lectures, and tirades does not empower; it means you are stuck in the yang side of the yin/yang balance. Your children will then inherently try to balance you by either yielding too passively and losing their own power, or by resisting you to maintain their own power. The predominant style of our grandparents’ generation — “You had better . . . or else!” — is outmoded. It will not only block you from using this principle, it will disempower you, for eventually your children will laugh at you, knowing they were born with more internal power than you will probably ever have in your lifetime.


This is the secret to raising children in the new millennium: understanding that these kids are coming in with more innate knowledge, greater power, more intensity, and more ability to keep pace with the speed of the new age than you have. They will be dependent on you to walk your talk — to model, not just tell them, what to do. They depend on you to be honest, for they have even better radar for hypocrisy than we did when we were young. If and when you must take a stand, you must do so with great deliberation, grounding yourself in principles (using “sinking power”), so that the result is respect for you as an elder. As your relationship becomes more healthy, interdependent )able to need others and respond to others needing you, appropriately), and respectful, the need for you to motivate and/or discipline your child decreases.

Respect goes both ways. When I teach infant massage, one of the first things I teach parents, or help them to remember, is that infants are human beings and deserve respect. We have specific techniques we use to show babies that respect; we touch them respectfully and allow them the power to communicate what they want and don’t want so they see right away that they have power and are not just playthings with which their parents (or anyone) can do whatever they wish.

Discipline conducted with respect does not distemper or overpower. The concept of obedience tied to ultimatums is not empowerment. It may get short-term results, but will end in long-term losses. Making too many choices for your children leads to a loss of empowerment, too. They become overly dependent on others — authority figures — to tell them what to do, and why and when to do it. They lose the capacity to think deeply for themselves and to go against the norm when they need to.

The Right Use of Power

In Tai Chi, power is often thought of in terms of aggression versus non-aggression. But non-aggression does not mean passivity. It means you do not constantly oppose your children, their ideas, wants, or needs. You follow them, with “listening power,” listening closely to them and mirroring back what they say from their point of view. When you do this, they learn to think more deeply. You respect their ability to come to sound conclusions and learn from their mistakes, and you communicate that respect through your words and actions.

Abandoning your children to their own devices, their peers, and the world does not help them learn the right use of power. In fact, it pushes them into learning the wrong use of power, as we can see in the headlines every day. Many parents do not understand the difference between healthy separation and abandonment. Often parents are so disempowered themselves that when faced with a rebellious or challenging child they go into what I call the “Wizard of Oz Syndrome.” They act as if they are big, all-knowing, all-powerful, scary, and so on. This works temporarily. But eventually the child gets curious and pulls back the curtain to discover the parents’ show of power is all pulleys and levers, smoke and mirrors. Respect disappears, and you’ve lost your leverage with your child. So don’t even try it. Get yourself straight first in terms of dealing with your own childhood, and continually work on your own use of power as you go along, showing the sharing with your child how you work on it, so when he or she becomes a parent, they will know what to do and will not resort to techniques that don’t work.

Your Personal Power

To help your children learn how to use their own personal power, you must be able to access yours and use it on a daily basis. Principles One and Two, relaxing and slowing down, help you begin to get in touch with the infinite power available to you, power that comes through the earth and is in the prana or vital energy all around you. As my spiritual teacher said, “The Force that guides the stars guides you, too.” That’s a powerful force.

Showing your children the right use of power is simple. Set goals for yourself and take small steps toward them every day until you reach them. Share the process with your children — it makes great dinner-table conversation. During the writing of my books, for example, I always talked about the process with my kids. I didn’t lead them to believe it was effortless. I shared how sometimes sit was really hard just to make myself write a paragraph that day , and that sometimes I knew that paragraph would end up in the trash! I emphasized persistence, and said that sometimes we have go backward in order to go forward, or re-route around an obstacle in order to achieve what we want. It wasn’t easy to remain patient and self-motivated, but it was worth it to me for the long-term satisfaction of having completed a book that might help others. Sometimes I’d read small parts to them and ask what they thought, and that would open up a whole new area of conversation.

I tried to show my kids that, even though we often didn’t have a great deal of money, it was important to be contented and try to do the things we wanted to do. Going to India to see my spiritual teacher every couple years was important to me. So I would save and borrow to do whatever was necessary to achieve that goal. I explained to my kids that those trips fed my soul, and were therefore important to my long-term feelings of connectedness to the world, to God, and service to those in need (in India, service was part of what I did). When we were in financial crisis, my kids saw me take an extra job to bring in more money so they could continue going to a school that was important to them and to me, too. It was important for my own personal power and self-respect that I provided what I knew my children needed.

Many challenging things happened to me during their childhood — I had serious illnesses and surgeries, and spent almost two years in bed due to virulent forms of diseases I contracted in India. I lost my second-hand car (that I had saved up for a year to buy) the day after I bought it, when someone without insurance borrowed it and totaled it before I had insurance. I knew how I handled these things would be an important example for my kids in the future, when unforeseen crises may come into their lives. I didn’t always do a great job of responding powerfully, but I tried. When I didn’t — when I behaved in a powerless way — I would find some way to laugh at myself, and to point out to my kids what I’d done and discuss other, better ways I could have responded.

I fought my feelings of despair, anger, and helplessness, and tried to emphasize what I was learning: that things can be replaced, starting over is a part of life, and just because you are disabled you are not unworthy of love and life. These things were not always clear and obvious to them, but I do believe from talking to them now that they got these messages. I gradually got better and began to be able to meditate and do my yoga again. Eventually, I even found the car of my dreams.

My children were able to see that there is no one way to act powerfully. Sometimes power comes from a very quiet, compassionate, seemingly “weak” looking place. For some people, it looks like a big, muscular, fighting spirit. For others, it looks like a small, serene, compassionate, redemptive heart. Mother Teresa had tremendous power.

My kids are now adults with their own children. I have been able to observe them using and teaching the use of power. It gives me great joy to see them parenting in ways that are respectful, healthy, and empowering.

To find your own sense of power it is important to learn to listen to your inner voice and to follow it, regardless of what others tell you. You may seek out the input and advice of others with more experience, but ultimately the only way to increase your access to your own power is by relying on it and respecting it, eagles of how it looks in your life. When your power comes from the infinite source of power — the Tao or God or the Force — it is right, good, clean, and clear. Do whatever it takes to stay connected with this aspect of your being. You will need it over and over again, throughout your entire life.

© 2015 Vimala McClure

12 Steps to Gentle Parenting: A Year of Baby Steps to a Happier Family | Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources.

It’s been said that it takes twenty-one days to make or break a habit and that change comes easiest and lasts longest when it’s undertaken in small, bite-sized chunks.

Craft a Parenting Mission Statement — Part Two

Longer Version

To complete a more in-depth Parenting Mission Statement, you and/or your partner can set aside some time, perhaps a Sunday morning, when you can answer the following questions and then blend them into a mission statement that feels right to you. Nothing is carved in stone. You can add, delete, and modify your statement as time progresses. I personally take some time on January first each year to go over my mission statements and change them appropriately. When you finish, you will have a paragraph or phrase that represents your most deeply held principles.

Answer the questions as honestly as you can, and follow the directions to complete a Parenting Mission Statement that will guide you through the coming years.

1. Were there times in your childhood or adolescence when you thought, “I will never treat my children that way?” If so, write about these experiences. What aspects of your mother’s and/or father’s parenting style do you think were counterproductive?


My mother worked very hard as a nurse and a single mother of five children. Her day off was spent cleaning the house and doing laundry. She was always very grouchy that day, and she often yelled at me and sometimes hit me with a belt when I didn’t do what she told me to in the right way. I felt unfairly persecuted and vowed never to be like her. Now I understand how much stress she was dealing with, and why she sometimes “snapped.”

It was counterproductive for her to hold all that stress inside until it exploded on her children. Hitting may have relieved her immediate stress but ultimately it created deep resentment in me, and she must have felt guilty, which stressed her even more. It would have been more productive for her to sit down with me and tell me how she was feeling, why she needed my help, and request the kind of cooperation she needed. It also would have helped me feel more responsible and closer to her if she apologized after losing her temper instead of blaming me.


2. Think of the times you felt close to your parent(s), or when you felt admiration for them and write about these experiences.


I admired my mother for her sense of responsibility and her ability to sacrifice for her children. She always made sure that holidays were celebrated with all the magic she could muster, regardless of how little money we had. I felt close to her when she spent time one-on-one with me, during our annual shopping day for school clothes. She took me out to lunch at a fancy restaurant, and I felt very special. I also felt good when she gave me good feedback about myself, noticed when I did something well, and attended functions that were important to me.

Now try to distill these experiences into several words or phrases:




unconditional love


quality time one-on-one

3. Now sit with your list for a while. Is anything missing? Think of other people you admire as parents. What do you admire most about them? If, as a child, you had been able to have anything you wanted from your parents, what would that be? Write down your answers to these questions. If you come up with tangibles such as more physical affection or a room of your own or a pet, think about what these things represent to you (love, respect, trust).


I wish I’d had more one-on one time with my mother. I wish she had helped me more, especially when I was a teenager, to learn how to be an adult. For example, I wish she had helped learn how to balance a checkbook and take care of a car. I wish she had been more open about her own experiences growing up and that we could have had conversations about issues like sexuality and politics, rather than one-way lectures. I wish she had shown me more physical affection. I wish my mother had been able to request and elicit cooperation rather than demand obedience. The families I admire most talk a lot with each other, and they joke and tease a lot; there is laughter in the house and a feeling of warmth and welcome. My house growing up, because of our financial situation and other problems, was pretty tense. I wouldn’t want that for my children.

4. Go back to your list of words or phrases from questions 1 and 2 that represent your values and the qualities you want to have as parents. Add the concepts you came up with from question 3. If a word or phrase from question 3 is basically the same as one of the original words, or if you feel deeply about something, underline it.







help with learning how to be an adult



unconditional love

quality time

Another example:

Some people like to make an anagram from their list of positive attributes, such as SMILE:






5. Now write a statement in first-person present tense, incorporating the values you defined into a Parenting Mission Statement


I love my children unconditionally and I demonstrate that love to them every day in words and actions. I allow them to discover and learn by themselves and through play. I tell them I love them every day, and let them know I love them even when I am angry or disappointed or disagree with them. I respect my children and demonstrate respect in my words and actions. I allow them freedom of choice and respect their choices even when they are different from what I would choose. I am honest and open with my children, appropriately sharing with them my struggles and requesting their understanding and help when I need it. I continually seek out information about good parenting skills and improve myself as a parent every day. I admit my errors and make amends, and I allow my children to make mistakes and learn how to apologize and correct themselves. I find peaceable ways to discipline my children, never resorting to physical or verbal violence. I listen carefully to them and treat their concerns with the same respect I want for myself. I spend time with each child and encourage each child appropriately according to his or her needs. I take care of myself and my own needs so that I have positive energy to give to my children. I demonstrate the values I teach, knowing that my children learn primarily by my example and that the combination of my words and actions are what teaches them how to be a person of integrity. I create activities that help my children learn about positive sacrifice, serving their community and the world. As they grow into adulthood, I teach them the important skills required of an adult. I provide my children with deep roots in home and family, and wings to fly away into new experiences, knowing that love will always bring them home again.


The Value of a Mission Statement

A mission statement isn’t just a collection of idealistic phrases. It is a compass, a way to keep yourself on course as you handle all the variables of daily life. When you read your mission statement, it should make you smile and feel energized and inspired about the future.

Some people develop lengthy mission statements such as the previous example; others need only an anagram or a sentence or two. Take time with this project, if it catches your imagination, and dig as deeply as you can into your soul to find your true purpose as a parent. You may want to revise and rewrite portions of your mission statement as you learn more about parenting.

I wish you joy on this incredible journey. It began with an act of love. With consciousness and some deep internal work, you can create a beautiful family whose love continues in forever-expanding circles, touching our communities and even healing the world.

© 2014 Vimala McClure


» The Most Helpful Parenting Articles of 2014 Positive Parenting Connection.

A great bunch of articles to keep on hand.

Craft a Parenting Mission Statement — Part One

Clearly and Accurately Define Your Goal

Whether you are a new or expecting parent, or if you have older children, you can make a Parenting Mission Statement to guide you through the future. Before putting your deeply held principles to work, it is important to know what you are trying to achieve. In The Seven Habits of Highly EffectivePeople, Stephen Covey says,”Begin with the end in mind.” Everything we do begins in the mind. First we create a mental picture, then the physical manifestation follows. The more clearly we can define our goal, the more quickly and accurately we can reach it.

We are often caught up in the busy hustle of everyday life, reacting to everything that comes our way. We react automatically, based on what we have internalized — the “blueprint” of information we have from our life experiences. Parents are often surprised to hear themselves sounding exactly like their own parents. These internalized scripts are usually ineffective, sometimes outright destructive. Many people just go along reacting to everything in this way, not examining their blueprints and creating something new for themselves — and then they wonder why their children are disrespectful, sullen, and rebellious.

We Have the Power to Change the Scripts We Have Been Given

We all have the power to change the scripts we have been given, to alter them so they accurately reflect our values and the timeless principles we decide to consciously embrace. The operative word is consciously; it requires a deep desire and daily practice to change. We must examine our values with regard to our families, and engage with our principles as passionately as we can. Only then will we have the requisite spiritual fortitude to communicate those values appropriately to our children. Covey says, “If you want to raise responsible, self-disciplined children, you have to keep that end clearly in mind as you interact with your children on a daily basis. You can’t behave toward them in ways that undermine their self-discipline or self-esteem.”

Kids Know When You Respect Them

Children are experts at detecting hypocrisy. They know, even if on a subconscious level, when you are parroting sermons rather than communicating what you deeply feel and believe; in this way, they lose respect for you. They also know if you respect them. In over thirty-five years of working with babies and parents, it has become very clear to me that even infants know if their parents respect them or not. Babies invariably become fussy and irritable when their caregivers are doing the right things but their minds are a million miles away. Nobody likes to be treated like an object.

QUOTE 2RESPECTING BABIES_oThanks to Janet Lansbury http://www.janetlansbury.com

Consider Parenting as a Mission

Becoming aware of our deeply held principles and committing ourselves to living congruently with them is the means by which we realize our mission as parents. “Mission” may sound very big. But what is bigger than being a parent? What job or role is more important? What has a more direct and intimate affect on society, or creates a greater legacy for generations to come? When we think of parenting in terms of “mission,” we begin to give this part of our lives the respect it deserves.

Qualities to Model for Our Children

For good or ill, you learned most about being a parent from your own parents’ example. Bringing both the positive and negative sides of these childhood experiences out into the open can help you clarify what you want and what you do not want. Sometimes we need to start with what we do not want, and this will show us the way to what we want. Being congruent with what we deeply want is the best insurance for happiness and success. Being what we admire in others engenders high self-esteem, perseverance through hard times, and joy for living — all important qualities to model for our children.


Your Parenting Mission Statement

Completing the following short version can help you write a paragraph, a sentence, or even a few words that will express the values you feel are most important to you as a parent. Your Parenting Mission Statement is your compass that guides you through the beautiful, messy, amazing, turbulent, and — always — worthwhile waters of parenthood.

The following exercises can help you clarify which aspects of your mission as a parent are most important to you. Set aside some time to complete them and commit yourself to total honesty. I have included, with permission, the responses of a friend who completed the exercise for me.

Short Version

Imagine that your children are grown and they have become successful, happy, and famous. They are interviewed for television and asked, “How did your parents contribute to your success and happiness?” What do you want them to say?


 I want my children to say that their parents supported them in every way. I want them to say we taught them values of integrity and responsibility, that they were loved unconditionally, and that their parents’ values and sacrifices made it possible for them to succeed. I want them to smile when they think of us. I want to see their love and respect for us shining in their eyes.

Now distill this into a paragraph, a sentence, or a few words that reflect, in present tense, from your point of view, what you want to be as a parent.

Example Parenting Mission Statement:

I support my children in every way to find their dreams and achieve them. I teach them integrity and responsibility by modeling these values in my own life. I love them unconditionally, and I make sure they know that every day. I am willing to sacrifice, if necessary, so that my children may succeed. I earn my children’s respect by being a good role model for them to follow.

Next: Craft a Parenting Mission Statement — Longer Version

© 2014 Vimala McClure