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New Study Examines Challenges Facing Parents

Some say parenting is the hardest job one will ever do, and a new study by Public Agenda took a closer look at the reasons why.

The study, “A Lot Easier Said Than Done: Parents Talk About Raising Children in Today’s America,” revealed some serious concerns by parents.

According to the study, parents are somewhat fearful of “the world outside” and wonder about how to shield their children from negative influences.

Fifty-five percent of parents said they worry “a lot” about protecting their child from drugs and alcohol. Fifty percent worried about someone harming or kidnapping their child, while 47 percent worried about the negative influence of other children on their own child.

Parents are also worried about public education (41 percent) and negative media messages (39 percent).

“Even in a rocky economy, nearly half (47%) of parents say they worry more about protecting their child from negative social influences than about paying the bills (23%) or finding family time together (27%),” according to the study. “And by a 49% to 23% margin, parents say they worry more about raising a child who is well behaved and has good values than about providing for their child’s physical needs, although 25% say they worry about both equally.”

Seventy-six percent of adults said raising a child today is harder than it was when they were growing up.

Parenting may be difficult, but 96 percent of adults said it was “wonderful” and they “wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

When it comes to the television, many parents are at a loss for how to handle their children’s viewing. But nearly half said their children had a television in their bedroom.

Seventy-three percent of parents of 5- to 9-year-olds said an adult was always present when their children were watching television. The older the children got, the less supervision parents said they gave over their television viewing.

Ninety-three percent of adults said television was fine if their child was watching the “right” shows and in moderation, while 90 percent said they felt that when it came to bad language and adult themes, television was getting progressively worse.

Nearly half of all parents (48 percent) said they felt their children watched too much television.

When it comes to teaching their children lasting values, 91 percent of parents said being “honest and truthful” was essential. However, only 55 percent said they felt like they had succeeded in teaching their children the value of honesty.

Being courteous and polite, being self-controlled and self-disciplined, being good students, being independent and doing for oneself, and saving money and spending it carefully also topped the list of things parents hoped their children learned.

Approaches to parenting are as varied as those doing the parenting, but some universal truths prevail.

Eighty percent of parents “strongly agreed” that children do best “when parents set limits and enforce them.” Sixty-eight percent said sometimes children need to be allowed to make mistakes and deal with the consequences on their own.

The majority of parents also felt strongly that they should pick their battles, that being too strict can often backfire, and that it is harder to “do a good job” raising kids with both parents working.

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.

Click here to read the full study results.