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Psychologist's view: Families stuck in 'parenting void'

"Because many parents today had parents who wouldn't have been sensitive to their needs or experienced a situation where they weren't listened to sensitively or at all, parents today dread doing the same thing to their child," says adolescent psychologist Dr Patrick Ryan.

"They fear it will damage its self-esteem and the child will end up psychologically distressed. They compensate for this by putting the child first always in terms of everything.

"This is highly indulgent parenting with low demands for socially appropriate behaviour."

Such a child might never learn to empathise with the needs of others, he warns, because the parents don't teach it how to place its needs in the 'queue' of life.

These people are "terrified of being seen as bad parents".

There is a lack of rules in many households, says Ryan, as parents fail to find a reasonable mid-point between the traditional authoritarian approach and the more modern, child-centred approach. The result is those families who are existing in a kind of parenting void.

"Some children are left without adequate guidance and without clearcut boundaries. They're unsure what is and is not acceptable in terms of feelings, thinking and behaviour," says Ryan.

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