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?

Dangers of the “Don’t-Use” Parenting Strategy

“Don’t-use” parenting works well on two of the three concerns that all parents share. It keeps our kids from self-destructive behavior and offers us a measure of peace.

It goes something like this:

  1. Your brother got a BB gun when he was 14
  2. He proceded to shoot out every piece of glass in your barn
  3. You’re not getting one. End of discussion

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Ahhh, but this can be short-sighted. The third concern we share is the future, when our children become “adults” with full freedom and responsibility for their discernment….or lack thereof.

My dad – a normally long-sighted parent – walked into the family room one evening and apparently my middle brother (it’s always the middle kid right?) was watching something dad disagreed with. Dad calmly walked to the TV, picked it up and walked onto the back deck, yanking the cord out of the socket as he went. Four steps and he was to the back railing where he dumped it overboard, a crash landing on the yard below. It sat there all winter.

The three of us boys are now in our 50’s. But we’ll fully admit that the problem of discernment didn’t get fixed that day. Merely a delay. In fact, a delay on steroids.

There’s the problem. You don’t just add “Discernment 201” at the local university for $500 per credit hour. That window is shut and the opportunity to learn within the loving/firm tension of good parenting is gone. The clock is expired. Game over.

Parenting within tension creates 1) an opportunity to “use” and 2) an opportunity to “abuse.” But what we’re after is 3) “discernment” (the joining of knowledge and experience). And this of course brings us to our current technological challenge.

Oh…..for the days of black ‘n white TV and the short-sighted option of dropping it off the back deck. Speaking of TV’s, maybe it’s time to review iParent.TV and choose your next “discernment experiment.”



How to Create a Family Technology Plan, Part II

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” -Mark Twain


Guest blogger Kelli O’Dell joins us again today:

If We Can Do It, Anyone Can

Does drafting a family tech plan sound like fun to you? Me neither.

If you’re like me, you don’t even have a plan for tonight’s dinner, much less an all-encompassing family technology plan.

But I promised in an earlier post that I would do it. And provide “full-disclosure”. So I will; tactical steps first, colorful responses last…

Three Starter Steps

  1. Make an appointment. Ours: “Monday night at 7pm”.
  2. Pick a plan. We discovered blogger Ryan Smith at and read his  “Tech Plan Starters”, a list of suggested items to include on our plan, together. For other plan options, check out this site.
  3. Make it specific to your family’s unique needs. We filled in the blanks on one of Smith’s free, downloadable and editable templates.

That’s right. Did it, done. With the planning part…

Simple. Not easy.


As we all know, having a plan is not the same as doing a plan.

It took us approximately 40 minutes to hammer out our plan. Two parents, two teenage boys and 6 devices between us later:

“Touchy subject. It’s like our devices are places we store our friendships, and it feels like you’re messing with my friendships, but this was good because I think we worked through wrong assumptions on both sides.” -son, age 14

“It was just super boring. And at an inconvenient time. I want to go play soccer and now we’re almost out of daylight. I don’t care if you have my pass code. I already deleted SnapChat and if you just  start following me on Instagram you’ll see everything.” -son, age 13

Progress Not Perfection

Well, we did it. Was it pretty or fun? No. And we expect a bumpy ride and a fall now and then, but at least we have a saddle on the horse. And if you aren’t a fan of metaphor, the horse is technology and the saddle is the family technology plan.

Does your family have a technology plan? What successes or challenges have you experienced?