Stressed Parents Can Blame Freud and Spock and Trust Guts

21st century parents may be the most anxious and guilt-ridden parents of any generation. Prior to the 20th century parents viewed children as resilient and that the stresses of life would strengthen them. Today’s parents view children as fragile and believe that only a very careful, closely supervised act of parenting will imbue children with sufficient confidence and self-esteem to succeed.

The 20th century created huge erosion in parental confidence. This was due to multiple factors, some of the most significant were Freud’s claims that all adult neuroses could be traced to parenting mistakes. The behaviorist Watson aided and abetted this view by stating that parents could cause any child to become any kind of person simply by following his behavioral strategies.

Dr. Spock, who was read by millions and frequently changed his views, also supported the notion that parents were the most significant agents in how children turned out. The notion that parents could significantly damage their children through “incorrect” methods of parenting remains a very popular view despite contradictory professional opinions about what children need.

While parent are hugely important, we now know that children are also strongly affected by siblings, peer group, neighborhood, genetics, and socioeconomic level. Changes in the economy have meant that young adults who graduate from college since the early 1970’s have fewer opportunities to become financially independent than did those during prior decades.

Parents worry that children who don’t get into college or into a good college may be closed out of the decreasing opportunities that are available. The likelihood of divorce also contributed to parental anxiety and insecurity. Parents worry that any conflict with their child or between the parents may damage their children or their long-term relationships with them.

Because of divorce, many believe that their relationship with their child may be the one long-term relationship that they can count on. This, along with fewer children, has meant that parents now more strongly value their children and their relationships with them.

In addition, while parents of prior generations spent time with friends and neighbors, today’s parents spend all of their time with their children at the expense of a social life, and often, the well being of the marriage. Speaking with a parenting coach may reduce worry and guilt and, if so, that can be worthwhile. In addition, some children present behavioral challenges and raise questions that do require expert intervention and guidance.

However, many parents need to learn to trust their own instincts. My experience is that parents, more often than not, know the right action, they just feel too worried about it contradicting something that they read on a website or heard on a talk show. When looking for a parenting coach parents should know that there is no uniformly correct way to parent children. Beware any “expert” who states that there is.

Alvaro Castillo has been writing about health and specializing pregnancy along with how to deal with the first year of their baby’s life for 10 years, helping women with positive results. For more information check out his website at or visit his blog to share your opinion
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