The following article was first published in The Conversation. At the time of publication, it was the second-most read article authored by a University of Queensland staff member. It has been published in print in The Melbourne Age and online at The Washington Post.
I need to start with a confession: I’m not a parent.
I am someone who investigates how science can help parents deal with the sleepless nights, the fussy eaters, the sibling rivalry, the intrusive in-laws, and a career that favours fulltime hours.
I certainly don’t know what it feels like to hold your own child in your arms and to see that same child grow to become an independent human being.
I haven’t experienced these things.
What I have experienced, though, is the growing and seemingly widespread view that parents these days aren’t doing a good job – that in fact they’re doing a “crap” job.
Parents are out of touch, we’re told, and too soft. They give in to their kids too easily. They’re over-involved helicopter parents, or under-involved don’t care parents. Or they could be bulldozer or lawn-mower parents, the ones who smooth the way for their child’s transition through life and make life difficult for everyone else in the process.
This is the old “kids these days” narrative but applied to parents.