The Collapse of Parenting

The Collapse of ParentingThe Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax 

Review by Yongsoo Park

The bleak picture Leonard Sax, an Exton-based physician and child expert, paints of contemporary American middle-class parenting in The Collapse of Parenting will seem all-too-familiar to anyone who’s been around kids lately. It’s a picture filled with permissive parents and disrespectful inactive kids who are glued to screens and eating whatever junk food they feel like. Sax places the blame for this firmly on parents who, he insists, are allowing children to be raised by a default culture, which Sax calls “a culture of disrespect” that is propagated by the media and children’s peers.

Sax’s message will resonate with many. For others, it will seem to be no more than the grumblings of an old man pining wistfully for how things used to be. For me, the main weakness of the book is that by focusing its critique so intensely and squarely on parents, Sax seems to let the bigger social and economic forces that shape kids’ lives off the hook.

For instance, Sax isn’t nearly as critical of the food industry that markets processed foods and sugar directly to kids as he is with the parents who give such foods to their kids. But then, if parents are to blame for giving kids sugar-laden processed foods, does it also mean that the processed food industry is without blame? To use a bad pun, it’s all food for thought. As a parent, I know that our decisions as parents are our own, but they are also not entirely our own.

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About the reviewer: Yongsoo Park is a father of two children who love books and the Tredyffrin Public Library. He is also the author of the novels Boy Genius (2001) and Las Cucarachas (2003).