A few years ago, author Rebecca Hagelin appeared on Fox News' “O'Reilly Factor” to promote her first parenting book, “Home Invasion.” During the interview, an incredulous Mr. O'Reilly challenged Mrs. Hagelin, asking how she reacts to teens who rebel against standards in the home about media.
Mrs. Hagelin calmly explained that when children and teens understand their parents' standards and values, they tend not to rebel much - or at least, that's been her experience. Mr. O'Reilly summarized, “Well, then, you're just lucky, that's all.”
I've no doubt that Mrs. Hagelin is lucky, in the way that we all feel blessed with the embarrassment of riches that parenthood brings. But it wasn't luck that created a household in which she and her husband could expect that their children follow guidelines about media consumption; it was skill.
Parenting skills seem to have gone the way of the hula hoop. Perhaps it's the result of our increasingly transient society, where families move from state to state for jobs, better weather and quality of life, leaving behind networks of extended family from whom to learn the tricks of the trade.
Or maybe it's the growing sense of defensiveness about parenting decisions that makes it socially taboo to question or comment on the choices of another mom or dad - choices that may affect our own children in the process.
In a world where the back fence is a faded '50s memory and what passes for a coffee klatch is the time spent waiting in line at Starbucks, parents don't share their concerns much anymore in an environment that invites suggestions, encouragement or constructive advice. That is, unless you're so at your wits' end that you hire a professional parenting coach to tell you what to do.
But so-called parenting experts may be part of the problem. Pick up any parenting magazine while waiting for your kid's name to be called in the pediatrician's office and discover just how confusing it is to raise a child these days. You can easily learn how to make “green parenting” choices and serve organic snacks after school, but the advice on asserting authority in the home while forging close family ties tends to defy common sense.