Does Your Child "Bully" You? The New Parent/Child Dynamic

May 22,2014
Erin Dower( )

Have today's kids become "bullies" toward their parents -- spoiled little manipulators who are mean (or violent) unless they get their way? "Bully" is a pretty loaded word these days, and it seems odd to apply it to a preschooler or young child, but we all know some kids who basically fit the definition: constant ruffians (toward Mom and Dad) who have seized all the power in a relationship.

That's why this new TIME article called "How Children Have Become Their Parents' Bullies" caught my eye. We've all seen it: The kid who has mastered the art of the weekly Veruca Salt meltdown in the Target toy aisle. The preschooler scaling the magazine stand in the checkout aisle like it's a rock-climbing gym so he can grab a few packs of gum. And the parent who embarrassingly submits (or worse: unabashedly indulges) because s/he knows that otherwise, the child will "make a scene." Well, here's some news: Kids have been making scenes for decades; it's the parenting styles that have changed.

This quote (and the rest of the TIME article) hits the nail on the head: "It used to be that kids were scared of their parents and now parents seem scared of their kids. The pendulum has swung from children being seen and not heard to being heard and perpetually indulged. Parents seem so uncomfortable with setting limits and taking their rightful position as captain of the family ship. Their hearts are in the right place; they want to be more attentive to their kids’ needs than their parents had been to theirs. But we have over corrected, turning into a generation of 'parent pleasers,' rarely saying no for fear of hurting our children’s feelings. And as a result, putting a child to bed or leaving a toy store becomes an ordeal."

The author, Robin Berman, M.D. (a clinical psychiatrist), goes on to say that this major shift in the parent/child dynamic is actually unsafe and unhealthy for kids. Children who don't learn to listen to and respect their parents might ignore warnings of danger during scary situations, and they will likely end up with anxiety and other issues as an adult in the real world, where toys don't quell breakdowns and hissy-fits get you nowhere (or fired).

If you're nodding your head at all of this (about your parent/child relationship or just 'kids these days -- argh!'), you might want to pick up Dr. Berman's new book Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child with Love and Limits. Reviewers are calling it a "game changer" and "the new parent bible." Maybe it will help re-set the collective parent/kid dynamic and save the next generation of moms and dads from being lifelong hostages to their kids in the toy aisle of life.

Also, check out these other parenting resources to help strike a good balance of love, life skills, manners, and discipline: