Whom Should We Blame for the Unparenting Epidemic?

It's time parents start parenting again.

A few months ago, I was at the grocery store with two of my daughters. It was late afternoon, so a few families were also there with their children.

Two of these families made this a trip to the store we’ll never forget.

The entire time we were there, their children were running through the store, screaming, fighting, and getting after the items on the shelves, while their parents completely ignored them. I want to clarify that these two families were not together- at least not that I know of- as they didn’t acknowledge each other in any sort of way. Nonetheless, the other shoppers all had to continuously dart out of the way, unless they wanted to become casualties of this rowdy group of kids. 

I’ll admit that I was shocked more at the behavior of the parents than the kids. These adults just nonchalantly continued shopping, pretending that nothing was happening.

I’m seeing this more and more in our society today. It’s not uncommon for kids in our neighborhood to roam the streets all day long without a single family member checking on their whereabouts- children as young as 6 or 7 years old. I realize that this was normal decades ago, but I think most of us recognize that the world has changed and isn’t as safe as it used to be.

Where are the parents?

More and more today, it seems like people are relinquishing their responsibilities as parents and are letting their kids “rule the roost”.

What’s causing this?

Like everyone else, I can only guess at the answer to that, but I have come up with some ideas of what may have driven us down this road.

Compulsory Schooling

I know some of you are sighing as you read this, but hear me out. Since kids are often with their teachers more than they are with their parents, I honestly believe that some people just don’t know how to be with their own kids anymore. Look at all the back-to-school comments we hear:

“Thank God school is starting. I can’t handle my kids for another day.”

“I’m giddy with excitement because my kids are going back to school.”

“School’s starting! Good. Let their teachers deal with them.”

These are all variations of the sorts of things many parents say when they send their kids back to school after the summer. I’m not being haughty about this. I said the same things when my kids were in school because I didn’t know how to manage my own kids. How can you appreciate being with your kids when they’re with someone else throughout the year? How can you learn to “deal with them” if you’re constantly expecting someone else to?

Before compulsory schooling, family was central to everything. Now, at least for school-age kids, school is central.

What’s wrong with this picture?


Look outside your window and watch the people walking or standing by your house. Chances are, their faces are buried in their phones. People are forgetting how to connect with others in real life because the internet has made it “so much easier”.

We’ve taken what could be a wonderful thing and literally become obsessed with it. If people can’t even walk down the street without staring at a screen, imagine how they are at home. Again, I’ve been there. I had to delete my personal Facebook page because I was spending hours and hours a day on it- time that I should have been spending with my family.

Parenting “Experts”

It has become fairly common for parenting experts to give their opinion on things you should and shouldn’t say to your kids. Some of these tips are useful, but others are completely ridiculous. One magazine recommends you don’t say any of these things to your kids:

“Don’t do that.”– Umm, if my kids are doing something wrong and potentially harmful, you can bet I’m going to say that.

“You make me so mad.”– Apparently,this writer believes that children should always be able to express their feelings, but parents should always have to keep them inside. While I don’t believe this is a phrase that should be used often, I think it’s important to have authenticity in our relationships with our kids. Expressing this to them with a follow-up conversation as to why is an excellent way to teach kids that their actions do affect other people. Pretending that nothing bothers us is not a helpful way for kids to view adults.

“Hurry up and get ready.”– Evidently, this one is a no-no because it can cause stress. Good Lord. Now we know where the notion of “safe spaces” came from.

It’s plain to see that anyone who takes this stuff seriously is going to have a hard time disciplining their children because exercising any sort of authority has become taboo. You’d think people would correlate these parenting philosophies with the rise in juvenile delinquency, but, somehow, this is overlooked.

Women’s Lib

I know I am going to make so many people mad here, but it has to be said. I don’t have a problem with women working outside the home. I used to be one of those women. The problem that I have with this former movement is the fact that it completely undermined the importance of motherhood and how crucial it is for children to be raised by their own parents. Being a stay-at-home mom is just as respectable as it is to be a working mom. Why does it have to be either/or? Women who followed the women’s lib movement left their homes in droves in an effort to “make something of themselves”, and their families were left by the wayside. Sure, this was a great boon for the day care business, but, as with school, why should it be a stranger’s responsibility to raise our children for us?

Again, I know that some women have to work to support their families. I understand that. But, day care is certainly overused by some. One of my family members works at one, and she is always astounded by the amount of people who drop their kids off on days they don’t even work. Their reasoning is always that they might as well since it’s already paid for.

What kind of message is that?


Making the decision to have children is one of the biggest we will ever make.

It is imperative that we accept all that comes with parenting and give our children the attention and, yes, guidelines they so desperately need. It’s time we realize it should not be up to others to fulfill our obligations. Our kids need us.

Let’s be there for them.



Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

50 thoughts on “Whom Should We Blame for the Unparenting Epidemic?”

  1. “You make me so mad” I agree with the writer on this. My kids are not responsible for my emotions. I refuse to create an environment where my kids have to walk on eggshells in fear of making their parents angry. We should try parenting by the example God sets for us: respect, yes; fear, no; love, boundless and unconditional.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see your point. While I don’t think it’s something that should be said regularly, I think it’s important that we be honest with our children about our feelings. I don’t think it’s helpful if they don’t realize that even parents can be affected by things.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. My husband and I definitely show our emotions, but we also acknowledge what’s really going on-that the child’s behavior has pushed our buttons and we lost control of our emotions. As Kirk Martin from Celebrate Calm (or maybe it’s Calm Parenting now? I think they’ve changed their name over the years) says, when a child pushes our buttons and we react out of anger and frustration we lose control of the situation. It’s our trigger that makes us angry, not the child.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. That’s a very good insight. I don’t think that telling a child that you’re angry is necessarily a reaction out of anger. Spanking in anger or setting outlandish punishments (and other similar things) are more of a reaction. In fact, I think vocalizing it- not screaming it, mind you- but stating it matter-of-factly can, in fact, be a deterrent to overreacting. What a fascinating conversation!

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I definitely agree with you there. I firmly believe we should model appropriate way of handling those emotions. Happy isn’t the only acceptable emotion for parents or children. Telling a child we’re angry isn’t the same as telling a child that he/she is *making us* angry. There are co-dependency issues in my extended family that has taught me a lot about the need for emotional boundaries and being able to recognize what I am/am not responsible for. Someone saying, “you make/made me..” raises a huge red flag whether it’s “you make me happy” or “you make me angry”. It’s an emotional boundary I don’t let people cross more than once and I try teach my kids to take responsibility for their own feelings/actions and no one else’s. But they definitely need to learn how to handle those big feelings and modeling it for them is one of the best ways to do it.

            Liked by 1 person

      2. That has a simple solution: admit being angry, without making it the child’s fault. Just delete the “you make me” and insert “I feel so” and it’s now an admission and expression without an accusation.


  2. I beg to differ in this observation. I’ve seen MANY parents throughout the years become ‘hands off’ in their parenting. Is it bad parenting? Well it’s different parenting. As a product of a teen mom and dad household, I remember there being a network of family, friends, neighbors and adults in general that pitched in, helped out, redirected. Nowadays, not only are parents not as engaged, society isn’t either. Also, kids don’t come with a guidebook. Parenting isn’t easy. But it REALLY easy to ‘judge’ a person’s parenting or lack of from the outside looking in. I try not to do that anymore because I know if I was to ask my kids when they grow up, if there were areas in parenting I needed to improve – they’d have a long list in their head (whether they stated it out load or not, lol!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you are certainly right in that there are a lot of families with extended family members helping out. I think, though, that there is a difference between that and not being there for their kids at all. The boys in my neighborhood that I spoke of used to spend all day long throwing rocks at buildings and cars, coming into our yard and being abusive and breaking my kids’ toys, and they truly were not checked on all day by anyone. Countless times I fed these boys lunch, snacks, and dinners. So, I think even when it comes to hands-off parenting, kids need boundaries and they do need supervision. They are too precious to do otherwise.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel ya on this. I hear a lot of parents in my region lauding the hands- off, “1970’s summer” or “free-range parenting” approach and I just can’t help but wince. Contrary to seemingly popular belief these kiddos aren’t going to raise themselves!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re absolutely right. I don’t know what makes people think that children are automatically born with the maturity to make wise decisions on their own. In this day and age, that attitude can be downright dangerous.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with you, Shelly. I’ve seen all these examples myself. When I worked in a daycare, I felt sorry for the young children there. I saw them more than their parents did. I heard their first words, saw their first steps, etc. That made me all the more determined to raise my own children and be a hands-on mom. Plus, my mother was a working mom out of necessity, but unfortunately she got caught up in her work, always brought it home with her and prioritized it over her role as a mother. I never wanted my kids to take second place, except to God and my marriage. Also, I’m sick of parenting experts telling us what we should or should not say to our children. If we love our children and are natural with them and apologize when we make the inevitable mistakes, our kids will know they are loved unconditionally. That’s what counts!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love it when I stumble on a hard-truth article like this one. You are so right, and it needs to be said more often. I’m sharing this one. Found you at Hip Homeschool Moms link-up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve seen articles that support both sides of the argument, but considering that school students in my district have to go through metal detectors before entering the building and the fact that this is becoming more and more common, I’d have to disagree with the idea that the world is safer.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is apparently very commonplace to believe that kids today can’t go outside to play because things are supposedly so much more dangerous now. In war-torn areas of the world, or in a neighborhood plagued by gang violence and bullets spraying, that may be true, But somehow, regardless of lower rates of violent crime now than in the past few decades, possibly in part due to modern news reporting every bad thing that happens anywhere to anyone, all the time, many people believe earnestly that our kids are in so much more danger these days. They hear it from others, and it certainly seems so from the news, so it becomes enshrined in conventional wisdom and no longer investigated for veracity. But if they are in so much danger, where is it supposedly lurking?
        Predatory adults are the usual bogeyman parents fear, even though predators usually operate behind closed doors, under the cover of trust, either within a profession that grants them access to children, or within their own families, extended families, and circles of friends.
        Strangely, the disproportional fear of the most sensational (yet unlikely) risks, doesn’t extend to activities that are actually more risky, yet are not perceived as such. For instance, riding in motor vehicles. Modern cars may be safer than cars once were, but they still pose a greater risk to our kids, than the things we typically imagine and fear.
        I’m glad that in my area, kids are out, riding bikes, walking, heading to the library on a summer day on foot or bikes, because it makes everyone realize just how safe that normal and healthy way of life is, in practice, and further encourages others. The fact that so many kids do it, and nothing terrible happens, shows that while not guaranteed risk-free, it’s about as safe as life generally gets.
        We can’t weatherproof ourselves or our kids against any and all possible or imagined risks, without sentencing them and ourselves to life in a prison of our own making, but we can take a look at our attitudes and fears, and try to find out why we hold the opinions that we do, and whether it’s time for an update.
        As for maturity and decisionmaking, people in other countries must wonder what is wrong with American children, that they cannot cut their own meat at the table, or walk to school on their own, but the simple answer is that the children in those other countries wouldn’t be able to do any of that, either, if their parents and their society never expected or even allowed it.


  6. We approach parenting in a free-range kind of way, yet there are limits and boundaries. When in stores, they are expected to stay relatively close, not go knocking things off shelves, screaming like a banshee, etc. When in restaurants, similar applies – stay at our table, stay in your seat, eat your food, no yelling. I also work on my parenting when it comes to yelling and expressing myself appropriately, so as to model for them these behaviors. I’m sure I say things some would definitely disagree with, yet it works for me.

    Personally, I have an opinion about children that are even 10 (or so) years older than my littles, because I think there was a shift then related to parenting. I believe that many of those children were given in to, which created another issue and one which just may be manifesting itself in some of the children you mention here. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So many parents are not ready to be parents when they become parents. Children need guidance and discipline as well as love and kindness from their parents. Many families these days seem to have both parents working just to make ends meet and then there are single parents who struggle without a partner’s help. I don’t know what the solution is but it is so sad to me at times that I could just cry. Visiting from No Rules Weekend Blog Party #200.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Children can’t know what they have not been taught! Manners and respect for others and their property should start very early on. I don’t know what I would do if my neighbor’s kids were throwing rocks at cars, I might lose it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One day the boys in question were swimming in our kids’ wading pool, and one of them was cursing and being nasty, so I told him he had to leave. About 5 minutes later, his grandmother came outside yelling at me because I had let his brother stay (even though his brother didn’t do anything wrong). She said it wasn’t fair and made his brother come home, too. Such a sad situation.


  9. My kids are 1 and 3, I say hurry up all the time and tell them when they make me upset. I believe I am teaching them to voice their emotions 🙂 I couldn’t imagine letting kids run wild like that and expecting other people to negotiate around them. I have little ones and they walk slow, I do expect people to slow down and not run them over, but if my kids were doing the running over??? In the car they go! They loose their walking privileges!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I noticed when I was raising my son that some parents seem to find poor behaviour choices ‘adorable’, stating that their child or children were ‘so cute’ while behaving in a manner that affects others, a manner I had always understood we don’t want children or adults to act. It confused me and still does, Dropped by from #FridayFrivolity and glad I did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s very true. My sister-in-law works at a daycare, and she was telling me how people stand there while their children are banging on the windows and playing with the office phone, and the parents just laugh and say how funny their kids are. Amazing.


  11. Yes, there certainly is an unparenting epidemic for sure, it’s actually very sad. Although your example of kids running through grocery store isles made me wince, because that’s been my kids before unfortunately. I am also guilty of spending much too much time on my phone. However, I see kids running down the isles during church service and I look at the parents in amazement at their lack of concern. Also, the day care thing. Once, I was asked to watch someone’s child because the parents were sick, I was absolutely astounded by that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My kids have also run the aisles in the store at times. The difference is when a parent attempts to correct them. The people I spoke of acted completely oblivious to the whole thing, which lasted their entire shopping trip. Their kids weren’t even in the aisle with them most of the time. They were everywhere else in the store, bumping into people and knocking things over. Don’t feel bad- we all go through kids not listening at times. 🙂


  12. The idea for un-parenting originated with good intentions—to give children back a childhood that included time to play using little more than their imaginations, time to relax and enjoy life’s simple pleasures, and even a little bit of time to get a little bored. Yes, bored, because boredom allows and requires a child to discover their passions, their talents, and their ingenuity. But like good intentions have a way of doing, the un-parenting concept ballooned out of proportion to the point of being nothing short of neglect and poor parenting.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ll admit I never say “you make me mad” to anyone. That could be because in dealing with an abuser or a narcissist, it’s always someone else’s fault they feel how they feel. Gyahhh I got so sick of hearing that. Anyway, that’s my only comment on that phrase other than I say “that makes me mad,” choosing to blame the behavior.

    “Hurry up” is a problem in my house for real. My kids have anxiety disorders and my goodness can I trigger a complete mental breakdown if I rush them. This one’s hard because I am a timely person. As well, I’m not a dawdler in any sense. When I say I’m walking out the door, I mean 5 minutes ago. They’re teaching me to slow down, but I need them to speed up. 😀
    BTW, that doesn’t happen if I make them have mental meltdowns.

    Still, I agree with you. These people today. ;;sigh::

    Liked by 2 people

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