Magazine article USA TODAY

Avoid Creating an "Upside-Down" Family

Magazine article USA TODAY

Avoid Creating an "Upside-Down" Family

Article excerpt

Mothers and fathers set the rules and their offspring obey, right? Wrong. in a growing number of American families, parents have given over the reins of command to their small children, unable and/or reluctant to assert their authority.

"Parents want to be nurturing and to make their child happy, but many have become confused about the best way to achieve this," explains Eric Dlugokinski, child psychologist and co-director of the Emotional Health Center at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. "Large numbers of parents are being tyrannized by their child, to the point that entire families end up organizing themselves around a small child's emotions."

The underlying problem is that many parents endeavor to be a friend to their offspring rather than a father or mother. "Parenting is not a popularity contest. To expect all of our decisions to meet with a child's approval is to misunderstand the parents' role. The duty of a parent is to nurture the child, but also to help him learn new responsibilities as he grows. By accepting this role and planning ways to enjoy it, the parents can make the most of the time they spend with their child."

Complicating the issue is the fact that challenging authority is a normal part of child development, and it is strongest between ages four and six. Enforcing firm limits on behavior teaches the youngster that he or she is equal in worth, but not in authority. "Then, the child feels secure and can go back to being a kid again. …

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