By: Mala Ashok

That wasn’t a question.” These were words I heard from my mother when I was growing up. She made it clear that what she said was a statement, not something I had a choice on, whether I should do or not. I could not question her authority. Today, parents don’t exert this kind of authority. When asked to do simple things like put on their shoes, children respond by saying “Oh, I haven’t finished playing yet.” This is the time to be firm and tell them they have no choice.

As a parent you need to make it clear that listening to you, the parent, is not optional. Telling not asking your children to do something may seem harsh today but the jarring reality is that many parents are letting their children walk all over them when it comes to parenting. Unfortunately this parenting style is doing more harm than good.

You must have seen parents address temper tantrums and disrespectful behaviours with coaxing negotiations, bribery and hugs. Such scenes make me wonder “who’s the boss here?”

Shouldn’t we as parents be taking a role of authority, and teaching our children right from wrong? We need to show the children appropriate behaviour, respect, humility and in general prepare them for adulthood.

Dr Leonard Sax, a child psychologist has written a controversial book, The collapse of parenting. In his book Dr Sax claims that “Parents are doing it all wrong,” that they are “completely incapable of speaking to their children in a sentence that ends in a period,” and in general asking for their children’s permission instead of telling them what to do.

Sax debunks the theory that children should be given options and parents should facilitate their wants and needs at all times. There is a clear power differential in the parent-child relationship and there are definite benefits in the hierarchy of the parent over the child.

Studies have found negative impacts on children resulting from a lack of parental authority. The book offers solutions including the need to make family meals a priority, teaching humility, and maintaining an alliance between the school and parents.

While in India, we may not need to go that far and say, “Parents are raising their kids all wrong,” it is true that children need more structure and guidance. The goal as we raise our little humans (not little emperors) is to make it understood that we as parents are the boss, but we also need to balance that respect with unconditional love and positive reinforcement.