Dear Doctor,

I have just finished a book that has caused me to ask some questions. The author says the word “parenting” is not a good idea and that science has taught new ways to be a mother or father. The idea, as I understand it, is for parents to allow children to have a level of freedom and not to try to make them into adult versions of themselves. As a young mother, it isn’t making a lot of sense. Can you help?


Dear Confused,

These are two different things. The word “parenting” is one I have grown to dislike, even though I have used it through the years.

It bespeaks a kind of technology such as “plumbing” or “wiring.” Children are individuals and a one-size-fits-all approach to “parenting” is wrong.

The so-called scientific notion is also, to use a technical word, balderdash. The book may have been espousing a kind of free-range notion of being a parent. Let the kids roam and experience. It does not work.

If you want to rear a spoiled brat without civility and boundaries, go for it. A parent is a teacher and a guide. Children do not arrive on the planet with charity in their hearts and boundaries in their minds. They must be taught or otherwise they will be lousy adults.

It begins with having a home with some order, teaching responses such as “please” and “thank you,” along with many boundaries. The parent is transmitting the elegance of our culture and how to be a positive person within it. A parent reinforces the behaviors that are of benefit to the child on life’s journey.

Traits are important and positive ones should be reinforced. Learning things is the currency of shaping one’s life. “Experts,” including yours truly, are a dime a dozen. Use common sense. Allow some failures and resist being a helicopter mom.

If you are asking these questions, you have it within you to be a fine parent.

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, email him at


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