If You Don't Get No Respect

Mike Riera: parenting
To many adults, it seems kids are more out of control than they used to be: cursing, throwing fits in the supermarket, disrespecting parents and teachers.

But is permissive parenting partly to blame? And how does it affect children if adults are not clearly in charge?

Family counselor Mike Riera drops by The Saturday Early Show to offer insight on those questions, as well as suggestions to help parents regain control.

Kids used to have a healthy respect for adults. It seemed as though parents could keep their children in line just by raising an eyebrow. What happened?

Mike: In earlier generations, some kids were just plain scared of their parents. Remember, it wasn't until 1974 that the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act was passed. This really brought into focus that physical abuse was not a tool of solid parenting, and this forced parents to have to discover and rely on their own authority without force.

Have parents become too permissive?

Mike: In many ways, this is true. But in others, it's an expected swing. Many of the current generation of parents have moved too far away from the typical authoritative parent of the past. In essence, many want to be friends with their kids more than they want to be parents, or at least they go along with their kids to avoid hurt feelings and tantrums.

Is there anything wrong with being your child's friend?

Mike: No, as long as you are their parent first. Friendship is second. If kids respect you as a parent over time, a friendship can grow, but not at the expense of the parent-child roles. When parents sacrifice their roles as moms and dads, kids lack the direction and responsibility they need to be successful in childhood and adolescence.

Do kids really want to be in charge? If the parent isn't clearly in control, how does that feel to the child?

Mike: Absolutely not! Sure, they may act like they want to run the show, but down deep, they want and need their parents to be in charge. Of course, as kids get older, they need their parents to slowly give them more responsibilities. I call this shift in parent-child roles (moving from childhood to adolescence) moving from manager to consultant. That is, the parent gives the teenager more responsibility without abandoning them and without trying to control their teenager's every move.