Why is parenting so bad

When I was working day care I used to wonder why the level of parenting was so poor. If I could control 10 kids, why couldn't two parents control one or two? Plus the price of bad parenting falls almost exclusively on the parents at the age I was dealing with and good parenting is not much more difficult than bad parenting. Now that I am a mediocre parent instead of a good day care provider, I think I have some answers.
In parenting all of the cost is in the present and all of the benefits are in the future. For example, say your kid is throwing a tantrum over not getting a candy bar at the store. If you buy the candy bar you have bought peace for the moment at the cost of future tantrums. If you hold firm you have embarrassment now but less tantrums in the future. In daycare this is not true since if you give in to one tantrum the other kids see and you soon have ten tantrums instead of one. Also the amount of tantrums a parent will have to suffer through before the kid understands that they are not working is unknown. What most parents end up doing is rewarding some tantrums and ignoring others depending on their mood. Unfortunately random interval reinforcement is the schedule that results in the longest time for the behavior to stop. Inadequate coordination between parents also exacerbates this problem.
Parenting seems to be worse today than it used to be. However, this may seem just to be nostalgia, similar to the complaint that popular music is never as good as it was when a person was in high school. To whatever extent parenting quality has declined there are a few explanations for it.
People waiting longer to have kids and increasing economic prosperity means that people have more money to use to spoil kids. It is easier to refuse to spend money you do not have on your kids than money you do have. Also waiting to have kids means having fewer of them. Thus more money is available for each kid and it is easier to put up with one brat than three or four. Sex roles have changed, making it harder to pretend that the father is the scary authority figure. Previously, a mother could threaten a child with punishment when the father came home. Like a teacher threatening to send a kid to the principal's office. More egalitarian sex roles make women reluctant to do that.

Share this