5 Reasons Modern-Day Parenting is in Crisis – According to a British Mother

A few days ago the HuffPost posted this article: 5 Reasons Modern-Day Parenting is in Crisis – According to a British Nanny and social media has been awash with horrified responses ever since.

I must admit the article made me feel a little sick too, my personal opinion is that it is precisely because of experts like the author of the Huff Post article that modern-day parenting is in crisis.

I do however agree with the author, modern day parenting is in trouble. Like the author I too have worked with thousands and parents and their children across two decades and what I see worries me, what worries me more however is the advice these parents are given and trustingly follow.


Here are the five greatest problems facing modern day parents in my opinion:








1. A Fear of Listening to our Children.

The vast majority of today’s parents blindly trust the advice of childless parenting experts and famous nannies whose advice is almost always ‘parent centric’. That is, the experts almost always side with the parents and not with the children, warning parents that if they let their children get their own way that they will raise little dictators. Parents are warned to “be strong” and “don’t let him get his own way”. If the child protests they are warned “she is just trying to manipulate you, don’t listen to her cries”. Parents are taught that their toddler’s opinions don’t matter, especially if the child gets upset over something as trivial as the colour of their sippy cup.

Toddlers are not perceived as ‘real people’, therefore their opinions don’t matter and as parents we should belittle them by ignoring them. If a child grows up believing that their opinions do not matter, especially to their parents they will be far less likely to confide in their parents in the years to come when they really need to, perhaps when they are bullied as a teenager. Or as the famous quote goes “If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” 

I should add here, I’m not advocating permissive parenting, far from it. Boundaries and limits are vitally important in parenting – read my article here on WHY GENTLE PARENTING IS NOT PERMISSIVE PARENTING.



2. A Ridiculously High Bar

How many parenting experts today truly know what a child, particularly a young one, is capable of? Not many I don’t think. Should a two year old be expected to sit perfectly still, elbows off the table, throughout an hour long meal in an adult focused restaurant? Of course not! Should a three year old be expected to share their favourite play thing or apologise earnestly if they push another out of the way at playgroup? Should a four year old be expected to keep their room tidy?

As much as we wish our children would behave like the Von Trapps this sort of behaviour firmly belongs in the movies. Expectations that are incompatable with the psychological development of children can only lead to one thing – stress, for both parents and children. If society expected children to act like children and not mini adults the world would be a much happier – and calmer – place.



3. The Loss of the Village 

Once upon a time we lived in close knit communities. Mothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, friends would gather together to exchange stories of womanhood, femininity and parenting wisdom. New mothers would be supported by a wise army of other women, throughout their pregnancy and birth and especially during their transition from woman to mother.

As new mothers negotiated the rocky, winding path of motherhood they always had a feminine hand to hold and the gentle wisdom of the sisterhood to support them. Their meals were cooked, their houses tidied and their babies held when they needed a break. Parenting was a shared social activity. Now we traverse it alone, walking a lonely path peppered with guilt, confusion, exhaustion and anxiety. The loss of ‘the village’ is one of the greatest problems parents today face. I am bemused therefore that the Huff Post author would choose discuss the loss of the village in terms of discipline from others, this is the last of what we need in terms of support.



4. Too Many Shortcuts – The Curse of McParenting Manuals

Forget electronic babysitters (that’s a whole other post), perhaps the biggest curse of today’s parents is the “McParenting Manual”.

X+Y x 3 minutes = Z (in 7 days)

where X = naughty step

Y = controlled crying

Z = perfect child

How many TV shows and bestselling books focus on getting results in 3, 5 or 7 days? Parents today want results and they want them quick, which is great news for the media savvy parenting experts who know that to get the best ratings for a 30 minutes show they need to get dramatic results quickly.

The general public love quick fixes, meals in 30 minutes, house makeovers in 60 minutes and new children in a week, the less effort involved the better. Quick fixes however always come at a cost. Focusing only short term when it comes to parenting almost always means we are at odds with our long term parenting goals. The sad fact is there are no shortcuts or quick fixes, not if we want a long term positive change. There are no magic answers to getting a child to sleep through or not tantrum in public quickly that don’t risk our relationship with them in years to come. McParenting is almost the most damaging of modern day parenting trends.


5. Parents Putting Their Own Needs Ahead of Their Children.

Let’s face it – parenting is not all about us, it’s about our children. Parenting requires us to become less selfish and more patient. Parenting requires a great deal of sacrifice. For some this is an incredibly tough transition, some just aren’t willing to make the sacrifices required, some are just too selfish and immature. Parenting requires us to give up parts of our lives that are not compatible with children, albeit temporarily. I’m always amazed at those who bemoan the loss of their old lives and how their babies interfere, why did they choose to have children in the first place if they didn’t want their lives to change?

I’m not saying good parents are martyrs – they’re not. They need to look after themselves. Far too many mothers run themselves into the ground in order to meet their child’s needs. All parents need to take time to nurture themselves, recharge their batteries – in both body and soul (I refer you to my ‘village’ point above). All parents need oxygen, in the metaphorical sense. Part of the problem of modern day parenting is not just the selfish unyielding parents, but those who are in dire need of support and a break too. I sadly see more of the selfish type though.


I worry that if we do not change and stop repeating these same 5 parenting mistakes over and over that we will raise a generation of emotionally constipated, insular, unempathic children who will go on to perpetuate this cycle of uninformed, damaging parenting behaviour. If this happens it won’t be their fault, it will be ours – and our parents before us and the experts who informed us all.

Does the world need more successful people? Do we need to raise children hardened up to live in the real world? I don’t think so – as the Dalai Lama famously said “The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, …”.

I vote we raise peacemakers who want to change the world to a more empathic compassionate place, not successful people happy to live in this hardened, selfish world. Don’t you?


p.s:  Did you like this post? Want to read more similar content and receive weekly top tips, reader Q&As, hear my take on current parenting research and enter the odd competition? Then why not sign up to my new FREE WEEKLY NEWSLETTER and get the latest in gentle parenting delivered straight to your inbox. I promise I will never share your email with anybody else and if you don’t like what I send you can unsubcribe straight away!

Sign up to my FREE weekly newsletter

About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
This entry was posted in Mothering, Preschoolers, Toddlers, Tweens and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to 5 Reasons Modern-Day Parenting is in Crisis – According to a British Mother

  1. Emma Tappenden says:

    Thank you Sarah for writing a wonderful response to that awful article. It was needed!

  2. emilyfackrell says:

    WOW Sarah. Powerful and perfect!

  3. Kitty says:

    Thank you Sarah! You are awesome! Kx

  4. babyhoodfilm says:

    Thank you Sarah again for clarifying so well what we lack and what we should be striving for!

  5. Flora Borealis says:

    You clearly have not yet raised children to adulthood. Good luck with that. You’re in for a ride. You’ve taken the advice of the former article and warped it beyond belief. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve made your share of good points too. But the way you’ve slaughtered the advice of the other says you really don’t get it.

  6. K says:

    Don’t you get it? The other Author’s article is written as a direct response to your way of thinking, not the other way around, although I can see if one feels the way you do that it could get turned around. We deal much to much on the feelings of children these days. Should their feelings matter? Absolutely, on important matters in life…..not a blue vs pink sippy cup. It is a parents job to teach a child what a want vs a need is, and what is important vs waht’s wanted/desired in the moment. The majority of my generation is getting this so worng…….

    • Louise says:

      If you knew anything about child development (or children for that matter!) you would know that you can not teach a toddler to differentiate need verses want. It simply isn’t age appropriate. To a toddler having some control over their world (blue vs pink sippy cup) is incredibly important. Denying them the opportunity to decide isn’t going to result in anything positive. It won’t “teach” them anything at all, because it can’t. You can scare a child into not disagreeing with you – but why on earth would that be a positive? If you want to teach a young child something, you have to do it by example, not by telling them what to do. Listening and being respectful is a good example to set. Why on earth would you care what colour cup they have? Why would you not listen to their opinion when it comes to that kind of thing? If I was going to give advice to the parent criticised in the original article for swapping the drink to a different colour cup, it wouldn’t be that they shouldn’t give in to their child’s demands. My advice would be – get the child to pick the cup in the first place, and then get them to pour their own drink and take it to the table. You may spill some milk, but you won’t have a breakfast time battle on your hands. Just a competent, helpful toddler.

  7. HardWorkingMama says:

    I enjoyed the other article thoroughly. Yours not so much. I feel like some of your points are extremely valid, but others make no sense. The children that are being raised today are not peacemakers, empathetic or compassionate. They are selfish, entitled and disrespectful and I intend to raise my children different than that. I believe a combination of both articles will do me well. No, I am not an expert, but I have seen the way coddling our children teaches them to feel like the world owes them something and everything should be easy. I disagree with that type of parenting completely. Oh and I listen to my daughter, but I am not going to change her sippy cup it is has already been poured. Not doing so doesn’t mean she isn’t heard. It just means that she should have asked before I poured the milk.

  8. Mollie says:

    Thank you for this post.
    I was lucky enough to be raised within a “village”; my mother’s friends were my “aunties” (as is the norm in Filipino culture). My husband also came from a tight knit expat community where everyone worked in the same area, attended the same parish and sent their kids to the parish school. By the time we became parents, our village had scattered. The difference is amazing.

  9. Don Wooldridge says:

    K and HardworkingMama got it right! The ones above these last two… not so much! IT’d be really interesting to bring the two groups together and assess the significant differences between the two. Hmmm…

  10. Isabella Mayfair says:

    Great post. I hadn’t read the ‘original’ until just now. The sippy cup thing really stayed in my mind. My advice to parents who find themselves swapping drinks over is to ask the child to choose the cup in the first place. Better still, have a choice of brightly coloured child sized cups within the child’s reach, get them to pour their own milk and take it to the table themselves. More control in the child’s hands is the key, not less. Toddlers and children learn by example more than anything else. It is not the parents who put their kids first who are teaching selfishness!

  11. SWalter says:

    The author of this article has missed the point of the Huff Post article. Of course children should be allowed choice, be listened to and nurtured, but they also need to learn patience, respect and that they will not always get what they want. Spoilt children who rule the roost become spoilt difficult adults. The huff post article is not saying we should dictate to our children or not empathise with them, I think it is just trying to explain that spoiling your children and letting them always get their own way is actually more damaging to your child in the long run and that we need to restrike the balance between an adult centred society and child centred. I think many parents have seen the huff post article as a criticism of the way they raise their children, but instead I think it is trying to help parents raise children in a way that gives both parent and child healthy boundaries and respect.

  12. Joanna Kiggell says:

    Sarah – as a parent and teacher I found that the previous article did not in anyway advocate unkindness or a lack of gentleness or even allowing the children space. It did advocate the allowing of parents to lay down boundaries – and I read here that you don’t disregard that but at no point does your “Gentling” help us in the classroom. The littlies have enough to learn in group situations without going back to the pink and blue cups. So often I have to be the one to explain this to a small person who simply is generally consulted on everything. Put this into a group situation and then there are 5 or 10 or in our schools 25 children (because lots of children need to be educated) and suddenly everyone is clamoring for their opinion because as you said we all have a right. Sometimes saying No IS the kinder option because as much as I try in my classroom I am not able to develop each and every child individually. Current parenting is in my experience (and no I am not that old) not necessarily helping our children in the long run!

  13. Paul B Pritchard, III says:

    ME-ME-ME-ME-MEEEEEEE! Yep, that’s a fair characterization of far too many current parents. After they fail parenting 101, they will emerge as aggrieved helicopter parents, misdirecting blame toward teachers, law enforcement officers, or whomever else has the misfortune to encounter their brats. Well dig this, permissive parents: prepare to welcome your darlings back into your home after they fail at school, at work, and at marriage. Sorriness begets sorriness. Ultimately, you will be forced to lie in your poorly made bed.

  14. unschooled52 says:

    What a lovely response to that Nannies post which I found offensive. What we believe in this family is that we can only change the world for the better by Parenting peacefully we call it Parenting for social change.

Comments are closed.