Dr. Spock didn’t originate the idea, but he sure put it into the mainstream: There’s a right way and a wrong way to parent a child and, if you’re a parent, you’re doing it wrong. What? You followed Dr. Spock to the letter? You were still doing it wrong because a couple of generations of post-Spock parenting experts say so.
If you don’t believe me, go ask somebody who doesn’t have kids. How about the guy who has a sour look on his face because you’re “negotiating” with your child about leaving a play area rather than making him leave, or asking your child to put something down in a grocery store rather than making it happen. Or the guy who has a sour look on his face when you don’t negotiate with your child and end up carrying a screaming child out of the play area, or have to deal with your toddler’s grocery store tantrum because you yanked the item she wanted out of her hands. Because as that guy can tell you (and yes, it’s the same guy) there are words and actions that you can use that will make your child do exactly what you want, without fuss, on every occasion. Does he know what they are? Of course not. But you don’t either, so obviously you’re doing it wrong.
You should read the latest newspaper and magazine articles about helicopter parenting, or snowplow parenting, or bulldozer parenting. See? On at least one occasion you did something that your child could have done without your help, so you’re doing it wrong. But if you didn’t, neglectful or indifferent parenting is “doing it wrong”, and authoritarian parenting is “doing it wrong”, so by not helping you did it wrong.
Many parenting experts will tell you that once your child is old enough to contribute to decision-making you should strive for an authoritative (but not authoritarian) parenting style, which would seem to be “doing it right”, but then you’ll read somebody who tells you that helicopter parenting is a form of authoritative parenting, so you’re probably still doing it wrong even if it works out in the end.
If you have a child, there’s a simple test to see if you’re on the right track – if you instruct your child to perform an unpleasant and time-consuming but meaningless task, does your child express a willingness to immediately comply? With no suggestion in their voice of anything but their eagerness to please you and to obey your commands? Followed by prompt compliance and perfect performance? If so, congratulations on a good start. Now do the same thing while teaching your child to question authority and to challenge arbitrary commands, and you’re probably 90% of the way to parental perfection.
Easy, right? You’re welcome.