New Book Advises Parents Not to Be "Wimpy;" Tells How to Avoid Raising A "Brat"

By Mary Beth Spina

Release Date: June 26, 1998 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The progressive, child-centered parenting movement, popular during the past two decades, has given rise to a national epidemic of families in which children are "running" the show, according to child psychologist and family therapist Kenneth N. Condrell, Ph.D.

Condrell, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University at Buffalo, is co-author with Linda Lee Small of a new book, "Wimpy Parents From Toddler to Teen: How NOT to Raise a Brat," published this month by Warner Books.

He notes that parents have been encouraged by the "self-esteem movement" to not be strict or bossy with their offspring.

Instead of being strong family leaders, he adds, they have become "wimpy" parents, raising kids who are selfish, demanding and disrespectful.

The theory followed by these parents proposes that by promoting youngsters' self-esteem and turning the family into a democracy with each member being ''equal," children will grow up to be confident, competent, successful adults.

"The theory looked good on paper, but in reality, it was awful," says Condrell, who founded and directs a large group practice specializing in family therapy.

Now he and other clinical psychologists find themselves spending more time putting these misguided, tired, loving parents back in charge of their children, their families and their lives.

"Wimpy Parents From Toddler to Teen: How NOT to Raise a Brat" provides parents with examples and anecdotes on how to be loving and successful parents, and enjoy their children during infancy, toddler and teen years, and into adulthood.

The goal of parents should be to teach their children a strong sense of responsibility, worth and values, which prepares them for the challenges ahead in an often changing, demanding, stressful world, says Condrell.

Otherwise, they will not grow up prepared for the "real" world, where self-centered, insensitive, irresponsible behavior leads to unhappy relationships, as well as serious and often grave, life-threatening consequences.

"Wimpy parents find it difficult to be in charge." Condrell emphasizes. "They are too loving, too patient, take too much abuse and are wishy-washy where discipline and enforcing house rules are concerned because they want to save their children from unhappiness, inconvenience and failure."

The results: children who often are inconsiderate, unpleasant, demanding and unhappy.

Although the rules and relationships invariably change between parent and child through the stages that lead to adulthood, Condrell says underlying goals should not.

"Early on, it's vital youngsters learn to respect authority, the rights of others and the consequences of their actions," he emphasizes.

Even the very young can learn the meaning of the word "no" and that misbehavior, lying, cheating, bullying, whining, obstinance and tantrums lead to age-appropriate punishment.

Loss of privileges, toys, television, trips or games for a pre-determined time carries the message when applied consistently, he notes.

Condrell stresses that it's also important to compliment and reward good behavior so a child gets in the habit of behaving at home and elsewhere.

Bratty behavior, if not altered at some point, returns again and again, once the children become adults.

"They are usually the adults who will later inconsiderately drop off their children with grandma and grandpa with little or no warning to baby-sit or even raise, borrow money when they find themselves in preventable financial predicaments or expect to routinely be bailed out of self-created messes," Condrell observes.

Parents, he says, need to teach their children moral values and responsibility through discipline and example, and be firm and loving in doing so.

"If they don't learn these lessons when they're growing up, they'll learn them later from the real world, which won't be as loving, forgiving or supportive," he adds.

Condrell has appeared on national television programs including CNN and NBC-TV's Today show. He and Small also have co-authored "Be a Great Divorced Dad" (St. Martin's Griffin Press, 1998).