The Collapse of Parenting?

 “Stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight.” ― Gordon B. Hinkley


Guest-blogger Kelli O’Dell joins iParent today:


Are you ambivalently drawnrepelled by parenting book titles like this: The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups?  

Me too. But I usually take the bait. Dr. Leonard Sax hooked me this time.

Sax is a triple-threat to slack parenting: doctor, psychologist and author. Been doing it for decades. He knows his stuff. He wrote some other books you may have heard of: Boys Adrift and Girls on the Edge. See what I mean? Irresistible, those titles.

But don’t let Sax fool you with those sensational titles of his, he actually advocates a real meat-and-potatoes parenting style.

Now I love me my meat and potatoes (medium well, mashed with excess butter) but some kids defy the old-school parenting logic Sax promotes. So I give him 3 outta 5 possible stars for Collapse; but only because I have Mowgli for a son.

But Sax easily gets a raving 5 outta 5 stars for this from his book: He thinks families should make fun times together a priority. A big priority. He says having fun together is powerful.


Dr. Sax asserts that kids will respect whatever authority (person or group) they attach to emotionally. He urges parents to apply this principle in two ways:

  • Think about restricting the amount of time your kids spend with peers. Question the automatic sleepovers and play dates, or at least the number of them.
  • Increase and invent family fun. Not just vacations, but habits and traditions of warmth and enjoyment.

In other words: do fun things with your kids and they might spend less time fighting your authority or going to their peers for advice.


Speaking of having fun, I like to throw randomly-themed parties every once in a while.

I’m usually inspired to do so somewhere around late February, when the “I’m so done with hibernation” crowd is in peak easy-to-please form.

One such party was what I called the “Wisdom Party” (owl decor was in raging and annoying vogue then). I asked my guests to bring three bits of practical wisdom. In exchange, they got food, drink and respite from an intolerably long winter.

What worked that night was that we shared wisdom…without sharing advice.

Stoking the Fire


Let’s re-boot the wisdom party, e-style. Still free and easy:

Read the following ways our family has experienced consistent fun and then share yours in the comment section below. You don’t have to do three, by the way. And I know you’ve got ’em, because I stole most of mine from someone else:

  1. One-on-one dates. We schedule weekly dates for one parent and one kid where it’s all about them. We budget a humble $10 for whatever they want to do or eat.
  2. “Dessert of the Week”. In a two-birds-with-one stone move, our kids feel empowered and special getting to choose their favorite sweet and mom reduces the sugar-induced hype to once a week.
  3. The “Manly-Pedi”. As a mother of all boys, the amount and ways of showing physical affection seems to narrow all the time. But the offer of: “Want a foot rub?” hasn’t been turned down yet.

Who in your life do you trust and respect more because they made time to have fun with you?

Up With Beards: On Trend and Scary Good

“I grew my beard out a little bit just to show that, indeed, I am a man.” –Johnny Weir


Guest-blogger Kelli O’Dell joins iParent today…


Larry Benaske was my dad’s friend. Nicknamed  “Nasty”, he was an iconic figure of my childhood.

He looked–and acted–like Mr. Edwards from Little House on the Prairie; hairy, jovial, and candy-bringing. Part Santa, part Harley rider, he was that manly blend of good and scary that makes life exciting.

A huge part of the scary-Larry-goodness was his trophy beard; emblematically male:

“There’s nothing manlier than facial hair. No matter how much we advance in the equality of the sexes, growing a thick beard or mustache is something that only men will be able to do (Okay, so some women can grow impressive facial hair, but they end up in sideshows).” –The Art of Manliness

We come to count on those external symbols of masculinity; they’re reassuring and even helpful cues for how to relate…


Conversely, it can be unsettling to interact with someone without  “gender symbols”.  Saturday Night Live’s “It’s Pat” sketch was funny, but only because Pat seemed impervious to the confusion his/her androgyny caused; no one got hurt.

Last week, thrifting at Goodwill (my home away from home) I was two feet away from an employee of the store whose gender was absolutely indiscernible.

I was compassionately drawn to this person who seemed to have taken great care to erase any clues of gender. My attempt at small talk was rebuffed. Robotically so.

This brief connection had a poignant impact on me. I don’t understand the underpinnings of androgyny. But I want to…

Before we get back to the beard-love, you might want to take some time to read the soul-window of a blog post I found valuable here regarding androgyny; in church.

Back To Beards

A quick Internet search reveals women to be surprisingly hirsute-friendly…initially. Note how quickly girlfriend here starts offering to rule and subdue the wild look that first drew her:

Of course some exceptions exist:

  • Some women prefer their man clean-shaven and some men don’t want or can’t grow facial hair
  • Focusing exclusively on physical attractiveness can be a slippery slope. Case in point: “Lumbersexuality” 
  • Masculinity is not ultimately or exclusively defined by externals


Living as the only female among six males (one husband, four sons and a very-hairy dog named Charlie), I am privy (most days) to a spectrum of admirable maleness.

Uniquely expressed, but seemingly dude-linked, I enjoy these recurring blessings from the men in my life:

  • Forgiveness. Quick and complete when I screw up (they rarely if ever bring up past offenses)
  • Easy to please (i.e.: give ’em food and respect and I’m instantly Queen of Everything)
  • Bravery. Killing bugs and bats and that sort of thing. They relish both my terror and the rescuing me from it

And there you have it. We’re back to the hairy-Larry place we started: scary goodness.

Do you think we do more good or bad to focus on gender-specific traits?