Is "power imbalance" between parents and children an issue?

I guess if he had said, “we were really unsure, but he wants to…” then fine, but it was more like, “my wife thinks it’s a bad idea, but he wants to…” which just felt like giving the child too much autonomy in health-related decisions.

They try to process their parents’ harmful actions in their childhood, their lack of boundaries, and their narcissistic or intrusive behaviors.

[M]any [parents] rejected their own parents’ authoritarian style and followed a parenting approach that at least appeared to prioritize the children’s needs.

I think these 2 lines led me to believe the author was suggesting that the adult children were reacting to actions their parents had taken when the adult children were minors.

A few different experiences have made me wonder about recent trends regarding perceptions of parenting:

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve found being the parent of adult children came with its own challenges. At one time or another each of our kids have told us something we had done as parents which our kids had pretty negative feelings about. We were quite surprised that as relatively successful and independent young adults that they would have sorta strong opinions over what we thought pretty innocuous events.

When our first grandkid was born, our daughter told us how much parenting had changed since we had young kids. So she proceeded to do a bunch of things we thought pretty silly - such as saying her kid ought not ever hear the word “No.” But we kept our mouths shut and now they are wondering if their parenting choices might have played a role in their 1st grader’s behavior issues. Often we see parents getting into debates with their very young kids over mundane things like what to wear, which sink to wash their hands in…

And I’ve heard many instances of contemporaries whose adult children attended counseling, and subsequently informed their parents that the adult kids’ problems are a result of their parents’ bad actions/choices. My parents were far from perfect, but by the time I got out of school, I pretty much figured I bore the majority of responsibility for my happiness/success or unhappiness/failure.

No, I do not want to get into debates over my personal parenting choices and my relationships with my children (which are not perfect, but pretty good.). Instead, I’m just pointing to a few examples of behavior I have perceived as changing over the past couple of decades. And my perception likely colored how I read the article.

Thanks for the discussion.

I’ve taken the position that parents should explain their reasoning to young children, but do not have to convince them. Because ultimately, the parents are the ones who are responsible for cleaning up the messes (literal & figurative) when a child makes a terrible decision, so yes, at times the parent has end the debate.
I used to use a phrase that I got from this board (I think from WhyNot) - “I’ve given you my reasoning, I’m not discussing it any further.” More gentle than “Because I said so”, but still ends the debate.

If you were unfortunate enough to have 2 lawyers for parents (as our kids were), you would have heard, “Asked and answered” and the ever popular, “Nonresponsive. Motion to strike”! :smiley:

I think as we get older, most of us come to have a better understanding of our parents as adults and figure out why they parented the way they did. I know my mother grew up in an environment where her father was emotionally abusive, referring to his children as “lunkheads,” and he shouted at them a lot which shaped her parenting style and quite frankly her personality as well. I see a lot of grandpa in my mother at times. However, she never referred to my sister or I as lunkheads, belittled our intelligence, or made us feel useless or unwanted. At no point in my life did I believe either of my parents didn’t love me or wouldn’t be there if I needed them. They didn’t do everything right, but I have a better understanding of why they did the things they did.

I think it is worth pointing out that the article isn’t advocating “the power imbalance between parents and children is an issue.” It is accusing others of holding that position, and so does a miserable job defending it.

It is easy to come up with scenarios where the child is obviously wrong and needs the adult to put their foot down (ice cream for dinner, etc), but it is similarly easy to come up with scenarios where the child is right, and the parent is wrong (kids getting kicked out for being LGBT, teens whose doors get taken away as punishment, etc). The power imbalances does cause problems in a lot of cases. I don’t see a way to avoid the situation, but that doesn’t mean the situation doesn’t have downsides.

I don’t know about really bad, just maybe not age-appropriate.

I mean, I’d argue that a teenager 15 or older ought to be given that choice, even if you’re strongly pro or anti-vaccination. But it can come with consequences- if you don’t get vaccinated, you have to wear a mask at home, or some other reasonable consequence of their choice.

A younger kid, say between 5-14 needs to have it explained, but it’s not their choice at that age. They may very well just choose to opt out because the doctor’s office smells funny, or they don’t like the toys in the waiting room, or because they just don’t like shots (absent some sort of psychological issue). It’s somewhat of a “teachable moment” in that you can explain WHY you feel that getting vaccinated is a good thing, and why they’re going to have to have it, etc… in hopes that the logic sticks with them in the future about other vaccines.

Still younger children don’t really need to be consulted- they have no frame of reference or agency about that kind of thing anyway. Explaining vaccinations to them isn’t going to be comprehended well, if they even remember it at all in a few years.

In a ludicrous but sorta related mater, within the last year, the same paper ran an article about - IIRC - a speech therapist or something, who had created a touch pad that allowed her dog to say a number of things like, “I’m hungry”, “Let’s play.” As I recall it, the person was motivated - in part - to what she perceived as a power imbalance between pets and their owners, in which the owners were the only ones to issue orders, and the pets were just expected to follow them.

At the time, my reaction was, “The day that dog starts buying his own food and picking up his own shit, I’ll consider allowing him some input!” :wink:

My wife, somewhat more reasonably, observed that a dog owner should be providing sufficient food w/o the dog needing to say they are hungry, and the owner ought to understand how dogs convey info through their body language and such.

And here’s one anecdote. We know some young parents whose baby was born with a cleft lip. Purely cosmetic, but it would have been easy/cheap to correct when the child was an infant. Instead, the parents said the child should have agency over their body, and should be the one to decide whether to undergo plastic surgery at some later date. Yeah - there can be a discussion of such things as gender assignment surgery. But not fixing a cleft lip we thought an odd choice.

Exactly. All this talk about “but two-year-olds shouldn’t have the same decision-making power as their parents” completely misses the point. That’s not what she’s talking about.

I have read the linked article several times. There is nothing there, not a single sentence, in which the author suggests that minor children should have the same “power” as their parents. I don’t at all understand where people are getting that impression.

I think the problem some families experience lies in the difficulty of forming a new relationship between children and parents when the children become responsible adults.

When children are young, the parents have to exercise authority over them. But at some point that necessary authority disappears. Both the children and the parents have to learn how to relate to each other as co-equal adults. Some families can’t handle forming this new relationship. And because the old hierarchical relationship no longer works, the families end up abandoning all relationships.

While that is in the article, it’s not the point of the thing; she doesn’t advocate equalizing power between minor children and their parents. The point of the article is that adult children should work out their conflicts with their parents rather than rushing into no-contact. That’s what she’s seeing in her practice, not children. But adults who have cut off their parents and are still having issues because removing their parents from their lives isn’t giving them the results they want, and in her opinion working out the problems would.

This is not about children or even teenagers.

Or, what Ann_Hedonia said.

Sure, you don’t need to know that a dog is hungry to provide enough food, and you can try to understand your dog through body language. But, if you could communicate more directly, why wouldn’t you want to? Plus there are a lot of other things pets like to do.

I’ve actually taken to watching a YouTube channel about a cat who has these communication buttons, and it definitely seems a lot nicer than the guesswork I have to do with my dog. Her cat will not only tell her exactly what she wants–which toy she wants to play with, whether she wants attention, pets, or scritches, etc—but also tell you how she’s feeling in some ways, like when she says she hears a dog and wants it to shut up. (dog bye-bye in cat speak).

I honestly think this trend is fascinating. If it wasn’t so much work to teach, I’d try it with my dog.

Original dog her owner got the idea from:

John Rosemond. And I fully expect to see this article jeered at on his blog sometime in the next few weeks.

Actually, from what I understand, a cleft palate is more than just a cosmetic problem. So these parents could be really screwing that poor kid, depending on how severe it is. :worried:

From the Mayo Clinic:


Children with cleft lip with or without cleft palate face a variety of challenges, depending on the type and severity of the cleft.

  • Difficulty feeding. One of the most immediate concerns after birth is feeding. While most babies with cleft lip can breast-feed, a cleft palate may make sucking difficult.
  • Ear infections and hearing loss. Babies with cleft palate are especially at risk of developing middle ear fluid and hearing loss.
  • Dental problems. If the cleft extends through the upper gum, tooth development may be affected.
  • Speech difficulties. Because the palate is used in forming sounds, the development of normal speech can be affected by a cleft palate. Speech may sound too nasal.
  • Challenges of coping with a medical condition. Children with clefts may face social, emotional and behavioral problems due to differences in appearance and the stress of intensive medical care.

I remember when I was 14-15 I asked my mother if I could go do something with a friend. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but it was something rather innocuous like hanging out and not at all out of the ordinary. She said no. I was taken aback by the answer, asked why, and the answer I received was essentially “Because I said no.” If I had received some sort of plausible answer, even something along the lines that I had been out enough that day already, I would have been unhappy but I would have just let it go. But since I didn’t have some sort of rationale I decided to push back and I started to press her to provide me a reason, and though I could tell she grew angrier each time I demanded and answer, I didn’t stop until she grounded me for the weekend. And I deliberately pushed her in that direction in part because I felt I had no autonomy. If she was going to make me miserable I would make her miserable.

The funny thing is, the last time I talked to my mother about this she didn’t remember it. And here I am almost 30 years later and it’s something I remember quite vividly.

It does seem as though younger people are encouraged to cut anyone toxic out of their life. But toxic doesn’t always mean someone who has been psychologically of physically abusive, but maybe have different political opinions or points of views. I’ve seen that kind of behavior encouraged online. (And I’m not taking a dig at younger people. I think we’re still figuring out how to navigate social media and I doubt my generation would have been any better at it.)

This is my takeaway also. These are adults living away from their parents, not kids still at home. I know next to nothing about this stuff, but I wish they would provide some actual cases that show just what the damage to the offspring is, rather than saying things like traumatic. Traumatic how? Give me some specific things that are common conditions or symptoms of an adult that cuts off their family. Are they physical things? Psychological things that are life changing and effect raising their own children?

Again, this is something I would like to see broken down to the actual problems. How does the difficult hard and disempowering manifest itself? How about rejection and abandonment? Are these a long term problem or short term. Are there actual signs of this that someone could pick up on, or would you have to tell a psychologist straight out that you feel you abandoned even tho you did the abandoning?

I agree with this, but conflict resolution takes two sides to agree, and people seem to be unwilling to admit to mistakes that make them look bad. I wonder what success marriage counseling has and that only involves two people. Increase that into family counseling and you add more players to the bunch.

Basically, I think it was a poorly written and/or edited article. But for someone like me to understand the problem, I need more detail rather than just over broad terms that could mean a variety of things.

Like feeling abandoned. Does that mean you think of your parents missing out on seeing their grandkids on x-mas or does that mean it dominates your thoughts every day? Lot’s of room between the two.

This piece was full of concern trolling conservative dog-whistles. If I may dial down the pitch a bit for human ears: “Kids these days! Amiright? I mean, not actual minors, but 30-something snot-nosed punks who can’t even afford their student debt and a million-dollar starter home and have the nerve to “OK Boomer” their parents! I mean, you know, they’re really hurting themselves, cutting off these perfectly decent people who, by the way, used to be totally with it until these kids changed what “it” was, just because a bunch of SJWs on the twitterbookspace said it was empowering not to even call your mother!? On Christmas?!? Who gave birth to you!?!?! Just because of one or 50 things she keeps harping on after you’ve begged her to stop?”

OK, being a bit hyperbolic for effect. But I really don’t see how anyone could interpret the article as saying 5-year-olds should get to do whatever they want. Whatever the author is trying to say, it’s about relationships between adult children–millennials, specifically–and their boomer parents.

I do think that there is a huge problem with parents never letting kids develop intrinsic motivation. Lots of kids live in these just intensely transactional worlds: everything they do is done to earn a good consequence (like, chores for money) or avoid a bad one (losing their phone, grounding). And schools are basically intrinsic motivation destroying machines. Kids think of assignments and tests as arbitrary games to produce grades. A
Which is not incorrect.

Basically, if you never give kids power to chose, they never develop any desire to do anything. I see this all the time. So much better to encourage them to set goals and then help keep them on the track they want.