When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

EL ESPECTADOR

Third Way For Parenting: Neither Patriarchy, Nor Kids In Charge

In many ways we've moved beyond outdated parenting models of the past. But the modern parent too often produces 'little tyrants' who wind up as dysfunctional adults.

Are children, and not parents, the ones who hold the reins?
Are children, and not parents, the ones who hold the reins?
Julián de Zubiría Samper

-Essay-

No Western social institution has changed more over the past 50 years than the family. Just a few years ago, families were profoundly authoritarian, patriarchal and sexist. For centuries, they produced traditional models and perpetuated conservative values. The father imposed his authority and the mother gave her affection. Children, both boys and girls, had to obey.

Everything began to change with the countercultural revolution in the 1960s, and the sexual liberation that came along. Before that, divorce was illegal and entailed social penalties. Those who divorced would face social ostracism. From the 1970s, couples began separating, divorcing and remarrying. Two-thirds of all couples have done it in the United States, and at least a third in Latin America. In Colombia, by 2015, a third of all women aged over 40 years told a poll they had already been married two or more times (DANE's 2015 Encuesta nacional de hogares or National Households Poll).

Today, women's role in society is no longer exclusively tied to procreation. In most European countries, women tend to have their first child after the age of 30 (32.1% in Spain, 31.9% in Italy, among others). Likewise, their entry into university and the labor force has become widespread. Worldwide, 60% of university graduates and 53% of the workforce are women. To this last figure must be added the immense unpaid work that our still patriarchal society has assigned them in the home.

The changes in the structure of families have generated a profound transformation in the exercise of authority.

In 1976, the psychiatrist David Cooper anticipated the death of the family. His prediction did not come true, but families have undoubtedly reinvented themselves. Families made up of a father, mother and children have become the exception. In Colombia, 70% of households have other structures, which is why we should speak of "families' in the plural.

There are elderly households; young people sharing flats; gay couples are increasingly visible and accepted and it is increasingly normal to see people living alone; and childless married couples or those living apart, among other options. In this country, the average number of people per household went from 9.4 in 1966 to 3.1 in 2019, and 38% of these are headed by a woman (DANE Households poll, 2020).

These changes in the structure of families have also generated a profound transformation in the exercise of authority and in children's upbringing. I want to talk about one specific change: the emergence of families where authority no longer centers on the parents and has been transferred to the children. Children have acquired full powers to judge, act and decide at all times and in all circumstances, and this entirely dilutes all limitations and authority at home. They take the important decisions on social meetings, what to wear and where to go, what to do and when they can come home or study, regardless of their age. It is a recent phenomenon and often involves middle or upper-middle class families. Curiously, these remain authoritarian families: only this time, it is the children, not the parents, who hold the reins of this power.

One of the keys to understanding permissive families is that parents' priority and meaning in life is no longer centered primarily on their children. Fathers and mothers have their own ideals that lead them to expand their studies and their own life projects. It is a society that is more oriented to work than to the family nucleus.

Permissive parents dedicate little time to their children and, to remedy this weakness, allow them to do whatever they want. They try to compensate for the lack of affection and communication with gifts, freedom of choice and absence of limits.

Ultimately, the permissive parent's goal is for their child "to be happy." They consider themselves to be friends of their children. But they do not realize that in winning a friend, their children are losing the mother or father they need. These children learn early on that their parents suffer when they throw a tantrum in public, and recognize this as an effective strategy to impose their will. With manipulation and tantrums, they get whatever they want.

Their parents seem to be unaware they are breeding little tyrants who bite, abuse and insult and impose their will through emotional blackmail. In time, they may come to reproach their parents for not abiding by their own "free" rules, and subject them to emotional abuse. It is very common for them to abandon or mistreat their parents psychologically and emotionally. In any case, the consequences of authoritarianism are reproduced, but now exercised from the children towards the parents.

Children of permissive parents are easily spotted at schools because these children tend to be rejected by their peers. They never learned to listen, to dialogue or to reach agreement. Their parents have not taught them about co-existence, about asking to speak, sharing toys or respecting rules. They are kings at home, where they are overvalued. They are often the only child, and, if not, they act as if they were.

Nor do such children — being needy, whimsical and disrespectful of norms — arouse much sympathy among their teachers. Hard work and perseverance are not their forte. Colombia's ICFES, a state body that evaluates schools, has found them to underperform in studies. It is not surprising, as education is a process that requires grit and hard work in grappling with ideas, both old and new.

Excessively authoritarian or permissive upbringings will not forge the citizens we need to live in a better society.

Authoritarian parents create melancholic children who are obedient and weak of character. Permissive parents produce overconfident children who are insensitive, and hard pushed to empathize with others. The former overvalue discipline and authority, and the latter underestimate the need for limits. There is too much control in authoritarian homes, while limits are absent in permissive ones. Both ignore Plato's recommendation to avoid two excesses in educating the young: too much severity, and overindulgence.

Democratic families do things together, talk among themselves and support members. Authority, however, necessarily rests with elder members. Similarly, democratic governments respect the independence of powers, promote participation and freedom of press and opinion, but it is clear that they have to make decisions that, with some frequency, do not satisfy everyone, although they always seek the benefit of the majority.

The conclusion is clear: Excessively authoritarian or permissive upbringings will not forge the citizens we need to live in a better society. Winston Churchill may have been right to see democracy as the worst form of government "except for all those other forms." I would add, the same may be said of families. Ultimately, the citizens of tomorrow will be formed in our own households.

Keep reading... Show less
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kharkiv. Villages that were occupied for two months are free once more — but utterly destroyed. And thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.

Kharkiv and the surrounding villages faced weeks of constant Russian shelling.

Alfred Hackensberger

TSYKRUNY — Andriy Kluchikov uses a walking stick, but is otherwise fairly sprightly for a 94-year-old. Under his black wool hat, Kluchikov seems fearless as he surveys his hometown in northeastern Ukraine. “The missiles don't scare me,” he says with a smile. “I have slept in my own bed every night and never went down into the basement.”

As for the two-meter-wide bomb crater that has appeared in his garden, between the vegetable patch and the greenhouse with its shattered plastic roof, Kluchikov almost seems proud. “No one can intimidate me,” he says. “Not even the Russians.”

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

In the early days of the war, in February, Russian artillery almost completely destroyed this village of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. Only a few houses, including his own, were left undamaged. Shortly afterwards, Russian troops marched into the village and occupied it for 72 days. It was not until early this week that the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Tsyrkuny and many other areas to the north of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

It is the Ukrainians’ most successful counter-offensive so far. They are thought to have pushed the invading troops back almost to the Russian border. “The offensive is gaining momentum,” according to the independent American thinktank Institute for the Study of War. “It has forced Russian troops on the defensive and has successfully alleviated artillery pressure on Kharkiv City.”

In the modern city of Kharkiv, home to around 1.5 million residents, the relief has been palpable over the last few days. Restaurants and cafes have reopened. People are walking and riding bikes in the parks, and couples are strolling hand in hand, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. You can still hear the artillery, but it is now many miles away.

Keep reading... Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch Video Show less
MOST READ