As our society moved gradually into the information age, we carried the industrial values forward into an outward-looking, information-based social trends parenting system. This system creates serious stress in our children's lives.
The Anxiety of External Success Goals
We're conditioned to create families whose standard of success is how a child will function as a competitor at the highest level of the competitive hier¬archy. In the shadow of this stressor, we hyperprepare children from prebirth for entrance into "the best" college or highest-paying job even though we know that (1) most children will not achieve this top-end acquisition, nor need to in order to be successful and happy; and (2) that we and all other adults end up most successful and happy by living and growing in sync with who we really are, not by making huge amounts of money or fitting a rigid mold.
The disconnect between our individual natures as growing human beings and the monolithic expectations of society causes both children and parents to become anxious. Parents become anxious not only to make sure their kids are recognized as super-smart achievers who conform to "perfect" standards of financial success, interpersonal relationships, and self-esteem but also to define the "perfect" child by whatever latest definition has come down the pike.
When we feel we have failed as parents in our society, it is often because our children don't do well on a kindergarten entrance exam, or get what they think is enough ice time on the Pee Wee youth hockey team. These "small slights" come to hurt immeasurably; further, the information that creates the sense of failure is impossible to keep up with.
A prime example is the issue of breast-feeding. It was "out" for over a decade. Now it's back. Another example: sleeping with your child is out now, but once was encouraged. Lately the huge growth of the Baby Einstein–type tapes has swept the country, creating new anxiety among parents who want to buy more and more of them to make sure their kid grows up smart. But stay tuned, because recent studies show that some of the claims for these tapes are unrealistic; perhaps next year this fad will become obsolete also. High-stress consumerism has also infiltrated every aspect of our society. The constant push to buy, buy, buy the next best thing for your baby/toddler/child fuels and feeds on the social trends parenting system.
Aren't we constantly deluged with the latest trends in parenting and relational development? One day we read that parents don't matter--it's only friends who influence our impressionistic young kids; the next day we hear that constant emotion talk or giving kids their space or tough-love intervention is the only and best way to parent, or that if we don't play Mozart in the nursery, our kids will fall behind. We see the morning TV shows, and every year dozens of new books are published, add¬ing to the burden and stress, piling on more pressure and anxiety. Many of these books contain wonderful insights, but they add up to a kind of "nervous wreck" atmosphere and to off-center parenting. We are constantly being told how to be perfect parents and have perfect winner kids, and meanwhile we are exhausted.