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The Perils of Permissiveness

Is Sweden Raising a Generation of Brats?  That rhetorical question is the title of an article by Jens Hansegard in the WSJ. The problem in Sweden, though, is merely an exaggerated version of a problem pervading western societies.  It is of interest here because bad parenting is one of the primary real "root causes" of crime.

At the center of the discussion is David Eberhard, a Swedish psychiatrist and father of six who published a book titled "How Children Took Power" last year that sparked fierce debate.

Dr. Eberhard says Sweden's child-centric model has "gone too far" and his book suggests the over-sensitivity to children and a reluctance to discipline has bred a nation of ouppfostrade, which loosely translates to "badly raised children." "All this kowtowing to the kids actually causes kids and society more harm than good," Dr. Eberhard said in an interview. He suggests the trend could contribute to higher anxiety levels or depression at a later stage in life for these children.

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"The kids of today, who are the children of parents who did not experience much discipline themselves, become very obstinate and self-centered," says Ida-Maria Lindros, 31, a teacher outside of Stockholm. A typical scene at her school might go like this: "I ask a child to clean up after himself, and he replies 'No, you're not my boss, you cannot decide what I'm supposed to do,' " she says. "They're very anti-authoritarian."

The perils of permissiveness have been known for decades.  Way back in the 60s, Diana Baumrind of UC Berkeley identified three parenting styles, which she called authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive.  Authoritarian is just what you would think it is.  Permissive, in Baumrind's work, is the kind of parenting that Eberhard denounces in Sweden.  Authoritative is the kind we saw modeled on television from Father Knows Best to The Cosby Show.  The parents listen to their children and explain the reasons for their decisions, but at the end of the episode the parents are boss, they have standards, and the children must obey.  Baumrind's research showed authoritative parenting produced the best results.  Father really did know best.  That result has been duplicated, for the most part, many times since.

Later researchers identified two variations of permissiveness: permissive-indulgent and permissive-neglectful.  ("Don't bother me kid, I'm watchin' the game.  Go play in the street.")  Unfortunately, the permissive style has not received as much research attention as the others, with much more research being done on authoritative v. authoritarian.  This is in accordance with the standard corruption of academia by Political Correctness.  Given that authoritarian parenting is associated with a conservative worldview and permissive-indulgent with a liberal one, there is much more interest in denouncing the former than the latter.  This is unfortunate because, in the western world today, permissive parenting is far more prevalent and therefore a much greater danger.

Permissiveness spread beyond parenting into schools, especially with the rise of self-esteem fanaticism.  We mustn't chastise children, no matter what they do, because that might damage their fragile self-esteem, and low self-esteem is the cause of all the problems in the world.  What a crock, yet it quickly became unchallengeable dogma in many schools.

People are basically animals, a small step removed from the beasts from which we evolved.  To live in society we have to be trained.  We have to have prosocial values instilled.  Expecting them to blossom spontaneously is romantic nonsense.  Concepts of duty, integrity, responsibility, and respect for others have to be taught to children by growing up in families, schools, and organizations where rules are fair and make sense but must be obeyed.

Letting kids do whatever they want, making rules optional, and lavishing praise when nothing has been done to earn it is a recipe for raising profoundly maladjusted children.  This is culture rot.  If we want to get to the true root causes, this is the place to start.

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