Parents Long on Love, Short on Leadership

PULLMAN, Wash. — Do you feel like you’ve lost control of your kids, your family, your time? Are your family rituals on their death bed? Is a death knell tolling for your family values?

If so, William J. Doherty, family scientist, author and educator, has the antidote and he will share it in a free public meeting at 7 p.m., Monday, May 7, in the Shadle Park High School Auditorium.

ForeWard Magazine recently gave its Parenting Book of the Year Award to “Take Back Your Kids.”

“Today’s parents are the most sensitive and nurturing generation, and they are also the most insecure about whether they are doing enough. The result is lots of love, but not enough leadership from parents, and children are raised too much by the peer group and the consumer culture,” Doherty says.

He is director of the marriage and family therapy program in the University of Minnesota department of family and social science. He has written several books and many articles, including “The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties” and “Take Back Your Kids: Confident Parenting in Turbulent Times.”

Doherty urges parents to reclaim family life from over-scheduled family hyperactivity and the consumer culture.

The family scientist says today’s parents are more accepting of different types of families and have a better understanding of children’s developmental needs than parents a generation or two ago.

But, children today are over scheduled and their families are under connected, he says. “Parents are more sensitive, but more afraid to exercise authority. And children are overwhelmed with consumerism.”

Doherty says, “A new pressure is busyness, with adults working more hours and kids living lives of scheduled hyperactivity–involved in too many activities, getting too little sleep, and having too little family time.”

How can parents transfer family ideals to their children?

“By practicing their family rituals, having a vision of their family ideals, and talking (not preaching) about these ideals with their children,” Doherty says.

“Dinner stands out,” Doherty says. “There is lots of research on its value. It’s the one time in the day when the family can come together in conversation and nourishment. Kids are adrift without it, unless another ritual replaces it.”

Doherty believes young children need routine bed times and bedtime rituals.

“I think bedtime rituals are also important for young children. When kids are connected to their families, society benefits.

“Young children need structured bed times, they need bedtime talks, and parents need down time,” he said.

A calm period after young children are in bed is an important time when parents have time for themselves and for each other.

The author’s appearance is sponsored by the Spokane Public Schools, in conjunction with Washington State University’s 7th annual Northwest Regional Parenting Conference, which will be at the WestCoast Grand Hotel at the Park, Spokane on May 8-9.

Doherty will keynote the first day of the conference, which is for educators and social service professionals who work with families. The conference theme is “Strengthening Families in Changing Times.”

For more information about the public meeting, or about the conference, contact Chris Koehler, WSU Spokane County Cooperative Extension. You may reach her by e-mail at, or by telephone at (509) 477-2169.

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EDITORS: Doherty may be reached at (612) 625-4752 or by e-mail at