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PARENTS: MENTORS NOT FRIENDS

The “Just Say No” debate continues with two eminent child psychologists separately warning parents not to try to be their children’s best friends.

Psychologist Aric Sigman, interviewed by Blake Morrison in The Guardian, talks of his impatience with political correctness, loathing words like ‘empowerment’ and ‘quality time’. When he hears celebrities saying: “My kids are my best friends” he wants to scream. “They can’t be. It’s simply biologically impossible.” Or, when a parent with a badly behaved child shrugs and says: “What can you do,” he wants to tell them to pull their finger out and take charge.

Children are programmed to be demanding but they have to learn they can’t have everything


Children, he explains: “are programmed to be demanding but they have to learn they can’t have everything. It’s about saying no and being prepared to face the unpleasantness that goes with it. Many parents these days are afraid their children won’t like them unless they acquiesce to them.”

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Australia’s eminent psychologist, is saying much the same thing. Lecturing to child care professionals in the UK this year, he also dispelled the myth that being your child’s best friend was beneficial. His message was clear: “If you don’t upset your teenage son or daughter at least three times a month by saying no, you are not doing a good job as a parent.”

However, the two experts differ in their opinions on the benefits and dangers of Information Technology. Whereas Carr-Gregg works with parents to ensure that they protect their children whilst embracing the benefits of the Information Technology revolution, Sigman only allows his children to use communal computers “for 10-20 minutes every couple of weeks.” He believes that “programmes such as Teletubbies hinder children’s language acquisition … and their addiction to the internet, Facebook, Playstations etc are wrecking their moral development.”

If you don’t upset your teenage son or daughter at least three times a month by saying no, you are not doing a good job as a parent


Carr-Gregg instead urges parents to: “venture into the online world inhabited by their children and get in touch with their day-to-day lives.” He warns that few parents would let their children wander the streets at all hours or meet with strangers but many allow their children to do similar and more on the internet without even leaving their bedrooms.

What is evident is that there is a growing desire to return to providing children with a secure childhood where “parents act as guides and mentors, not friends.”

Useful links: The Spoilt Generation, Aric Sigman, published by Piatkus
Real Wired Child, Michael Carr-Gregg, ISBN-13 9780 143004653
See also our articles on Information Technology in our Featur Ed and In The Loop sections