Reasons for the collapse of parental authority in our society

Scenes of children who ignore their parents, disobey their rules or disregard their advice are repeated frequently. Adolescence is used to justify this rebellious character, although this behavior begins every time before. Young children already impose their preferences at the table or choose the television channel they want to watch while parents obey without resistance. This disappearance of the family hierarchy is what the psychiatrist Leonard Sax raises in his book The collapse of authority. How not to abdicate before the dictatorship of networks and social pressure

His experience in dealing with children, adolescents and families helps Sax to make a portrait of American youth, although many characteristics and behaviors are similar in other countries. However, the most important of all and the origin of the other problems is the lack of parental authority.


The parents of the 21st century invest in education more than in any other stage. Everyone is clear that they want the best school for their children, with the aim of one day going to college and get a recognized and well-paid job. Thus, they do not forget language training and extracurricular activities of any discipline, whether artistic or sports, or both if possible. However, from doors to inside, and also in public, something fails.

Sax recognizes in The collapse of authority that parents have transferred power to their children and they no longer value their opinions or their experience and are guided by what their peers dictate. This lack of authority from their superiors not only generates despair in the elderly but causes problems in the child.


Lack of authority and problems in children

For Leonard Sax, the lack of authority is reflected in the relationship of children with food, activity and sleep, with its consequent impact on their day to day and their future.

- Obese children: The "little dictators" no longer want to eat vegetables. Now their menu is made up of fried foods, batters, prefabricated food, industrial pastries and sugary drinks. A diet loaded with fats, dyes and sugar tolerated by parents. Sax explains that parents have gone from ordering their children to eat what is on the plate, because it is the only option, to ask for it as a favor in exchange for something they like. In addition, hyperconnectivity has made children forget street games and opt for any activity that does not require leaving home, so that physical activity is reduced. Nor should we forget the lack of hours of sleep, as a result of sleepless nights in front of the mobile, the computer or any other device.


- Medicated children: For Sax, the increase in children taking medication to control their character or cope with their problems is due to parents seeking a quick solution. In his opinion, many times these alterations would be solved through the teaching of self-control. Self-control when eating, self-control when interacting with others or self-control in the hours of play and rest. According to the author of The collapse of authority, parents expect a medical diagnosis that can be solved by pills and chemical treatments, because they prefer to think that their children have a disease to recognize their part of guilt in the education they are given. Sax gives two tips to parents to reduce their children's medication or even withdraw it: give them orders and dine with them, with the express prohibition of mobiles at the table.

- Children left behind at school: At this point, the psychiatrist focuses more on the cultural problems of the United States and qualifies that in each country there are different cultural conditions that influence. In the case of the United States, the delay of children in school is the result of overinvestment in technology, excessive sports and lack of selection in the faculties of teaching.

- Fragile children: This fragility of which Sax speaks is not that of his physique, but that of his self-esteem. The weakness of the relationship between parents and children due to the lack of authority is due to the breakdown of the bond between them and the construction of relationships between equals. These, far from helping development, undermine their security, while family relationships are what bring confidence and determination, according to Sax.

These scenarios saturate parents, who do not know how to react and wonder if their children will have a remedy. Sax's answer in The collapse of authority Yes, there is a solution, but it goes through the teaching of self-control and diligence.

"Self-control in childhood predicts success in adulthood," says Sax, adding that a "consistent imposition of the rules" must be carried out. Also, remind parents that diligence is not innate, but you have to "teach by example".

Solutions to recover authority

- Teach in humility: This quality is the key to avoiding frustration when something is not achieved. For this, it is necessary to teach the children to be satisfied with what they have, because "the culture of humility leads to gratitude, appreciation and satisfaction." The first step to cultivating humility is to start with small assignments.

- Teach to enjoy: It is not just that children enjoy each other or with activities for them, but to enjoy as a family, all together of the same leisure time. Sometimes, these plans arise spontaneously, but Sax recommends planning them, so that they do not fall in the last place on the parents' agendas.

- Teach the meaning of life: Teaching the meaning of life is nothing other than teaching the sense of effort and what it entails. The effort sometimes gets a reward, but sometimes not, and it is important that children know it from childhood. Sax speaks in the collapse of the authority of the "metaphor Flashdance", in allusion to the movie of the 80s and the continuous struggle to achieve dreams, because the opposite would be failure. In the opinion of Sax, this is a dangerous vision and prefers to focus the meaning of life on effort, gratitude, humility and diligence.

Noelia Fernández Aceituno

More information in the book The collapse of authority, by Leonard Sax. Editorial Word.

Video: Why Marriage and the Family in America Is in Decline: Analysis (1998)


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