Personal Narrative Essay about Parenting Struggles

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Actress Bette Davis once said, “If you have never been hated by your child, you have never been a parent” (Forbes). Davis recognized that as a parent there are situations where you must enforce the rules and Cathy Gulli acknowledges this in the essay “The Collapse of Parenting”. She describes how authoritative parenting has declined over recent years and the consequences of this deterioration. The essay was published in Maclean’s magazine, a slightly left-leaning publication that is known to use factual information and trustworthy sources. Gulli tries to get parents and parent hopefuls to re-evaluate the way they approach the development of children. She explains how the collapse of parenting has led to many detrimental consequences and how parents can make a difference by changing their behavior.

Throughout the essay, Gulli is insistent that alpha parenting is far more effective than having a democratic household. She expresses her frustration with parents who fail to realize this; furthermore, how children end up being negatively impacted by the choices of the parents. Gulli’s critique of the current style of parenting effectively convinces the audience that parents need to be the alpha in the family; as such, her proposal to rethink how we parent resonates with a readership that most likely has or is in the process of having a child. She does this using a vast amount of evidence, rhetorical devices, a deductive organizational structure, and motifs.

Despite the essay being effective, there is a logical fallacy that appears in one of the main arguments. Gulli employs the slippery slope fallacy to persuade the audience that one action will culminate in a significantly negative outcome. While describing the detriments that have come with recent parenting struggles, Gulli suggests that bad parenting has led to “chronic fatigue” which “mimics ADHD almost perfectly” and has resulted in a “rise … in prescription drug use among children” (The collapse of parenting). The presentation of evidence is done in a way that links bad parenting to a rise in prescription drug use through a chain of events. This logical fallacy may be effective against an unaware reader who does not consciously look for these flaws in logic. However, when this is presented to a serious reader, it may take away some of the credibility of the author because it makes it seem like Gulli has little evidence to support her argument. While the fallacy may take away some of the author’s credibility, but it does not take away from the piece as a whole.

Right at the start of the essay, Gulli portrays a situation that many parents have experienced or heard about to hook the audience in. She talks about how a father asked his daughter, “Could you please just try one bite of your green peas?” and how eating green peas is considered a “favor” (The collapse of parenting). Many parents have experienced a similar situation, so the use of this example helps the target audience connect with the points the author is making. After the example, Gulli suggests that parents are accommodating their kids because they do not want to “threaten [their] autonomy” or “create[] a scene” (The Collapse of Parenting). Using these examples, she draws the reader’s attention to the fact that many parents are ceding authority to their children; effectively establishing a theme before she delivers the thesis.

After telling the “green pea story”, Gulli makes a comparison between it and parenting in general. She suggests that this is a “prime example of how all too often parents defer to their kids because they have relinquished parental authority” (The Collapse of Parenting). By doing this, it reinforces the lack of parental authority theme while bringing the reader’s attention to similar situations in other facets of life. Gulli indicates that “for trivial choices … this approach is fine” but, for more important issues like food which “symbolizes nurturance”, parents must take a stand (The collapse of parenting). By doing this, the author dispels the idea of a complete authoritarian household. It also makes the solution the author is suggesting more appealing by suggesting to still give the kids some freedom. All ideas support the author’s argument that there needs to be more parental control in households.

After presenting the initial argument, Gulli then utilizes a counter-argument against her point. She says that parents have become uncomfortable in the “alpha position” but, “that discomfort comes from a loving place” (The Collapse of Parenting). She also states that “Many parents strive to raise their kids differently from how they grew up” (The Collapse of Parenting). Including this argument shows that Gulli recognizes that there is some apprehension when taking over the alpha role in the family, mostly due to the parent’s own experience. By doing this, she increases the credibility of her argument by showing that she acknowledges the opposing argument and the reasons why some people may not support her point. This will help to persuade readers who may have had traumatic experiences as a child, that being the boss in the family is not always a bad thing.

Following the counter-argument, Gulli then breaks the argument apart saying that: “[M]any kids are overpowering their parents” (The collapse of parenting). The word overpowering means “to overcome by superior force” (Merriam-Webster). By using this diction, Gulli puts the spotlight on the seriousness of the issue. The diction also helps the reader imagine what might happen during an altercation between a kid and a parent. Subsequently, Gulli quotes a psychologist who says, “You need a strong alpha presentation to inspire a child to trust you and depend on you” (The Collapse of Parenting). After the argument, the author includes evidence from a credible psychologist to increase the plausibility of her point. This evidence also reinforces her solution, the idea that it is beneficial for parents to become the alpha in the family. By proving the counter-argument wrong, the author silences some arguments against her while strengthening the integrity of her argument.

As Gulli continues, she uses evidence to support that democratic parenting can lead to bad eating habits in children. She suggests that “parents can’t convince their kids to eat well” and that “junk food is sometimes a reward” stating that many children think that “healthy food is for losers” (The Collapse of Parenting). With this point, Gulli establishes a connection between bad eating habits and democratic parenting. She also indicates how parents are bribing or coercing their kids to get something done rather than telling them to do something. After that, the author includes a piece of anecdotal evidence, a mom that “does not] want [her kids] to get hypoglycemic” so, she brings a “cooler of snacks” for a “30-minute drive” (The Collapse of Parenting). This use of anecdotal evidence is an exaggeration of the situation, but it brings the reader's attention to how much parents are giving in to their children. Overall, this point is effective because it establishes a negative connotation with parents who let their kids do whatever they want.

Continuing, Gulli uses more evidence to explain the effects of giving kids too much freedom. She uses alliteration saying that kids have been experiencing a “dramatic decline in fitness” (The collapse of parenting). This helps emphasize the seriousness of the drop in fitness levels. She then provides more evidence saying, “[I]t has landed kids as young as 11 or 12 in the cardiologist's office” (The collapse of parenting). This piece of evidence she uses is very effective because it is a paradox. The first thing many people associate with heart problems is age but, in this case, young people are having problems that are traditionally found in elderly people. She follows up with, “Some hospitals in the U.S. have opened pediatric preventative cardiology clinics” (The Collapse of Parenting). All these things demonstrate the importance of child fitness and how the decline in parenting has put kids at risk of serious ailments like heart conditions.

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Finishing up the evidence section, Gulli goes into detail about sleep deprivation and how it has led to prescription drug use. According to her “children do not … get enough rest” and “chronic fatigue” has been misdiagnosed as ADHD because “sleep deprivation mimics ADHD almost perfectly” (The Collapse of Parenting). This passage is effective at establishing background knowledge about why prescription drugs are being prescribed and setting up her next point that links the collapse of parenting to these things. She then concludes, quoting a professor in psychiatry who says, “A medical diagnosis might negate parental shortcomings or a child’s misbehavior” (The Collapse of Parenting). Due to the serious nature of prescription medications, this point will persuade parents to believe in her argument because of how dangerous unnecessary prescription drug use can be. As stated before, although Gulli has a slippery slope fallacy in her logic, this piece of evidence is effective for those who do not recognize the somewhat weak correlation between these ideas.

Next, Gulli suggests that schools have begun to focus less on socialization and more on academic achievement. She says that “the primary objective of educators has become literacy and numeracy” and that this has hindered the development of social skills in children (The Collapse of Parenting). This passage is an effective supporting argument because it shows how society has focused less on human interaction and how it has compounded with a “collapse” in parenting to increase child misbehavior. Gulli uses a great simile to show how kids are being treated: “We’re treating [the children] like little flash drives” (The collapse of parenting). This simile is a perfect way to get readers to imagine the way kids are being force-fed information. We store massive amounts of data on hard drives and expecting kids to have the same capability as a hard drive is absurd. According to Gulli, “[K]ids have become less attached to and influenced by parents” (The collapse of parenting). This point helps support the argument by showing the disconnect between adults and children and as a result, how children have become increasingly influenced by same-aged peers.

Gulli goes on to explain why parenting is so important, citing the negative effects that have happened due to a collapse in parenting. She says that children are “not born knowing right from wrong” and that young children “are not rational beings” (The Collapse of Parenting). The passage is effective because it illustrates the helplessness of young children when growing up and how parents are hurting their children by allowing them to do anything that they want. Gulli then follows up with evidence, saying that “children who are left to discover right and wrong” are more likely to be “anxious, depressed, [unemployed], less … healthy, [and] addicted to drugs or alcohol” (The collapse of parenting). The evidence is used as a scare tactic to convey the seriousness of parenting and how bad the outcome may be in some cases. This passage is effective because it reinforces the thesis while providing some specific evidence as to why the author’s stance on this argument is right.

An increasing trend for parents is to wait until they have a “secure job, a good home, and a dependable partner” before they have children says Gulli (The collapse of parenting). This helps reinforce the point child has become the focus of the family; therefore, some parents are not authoritative enough with their children. Parents are “second guess[ing] the way the way they speak to their kids, what they feed them, how they discipline them and what activities they permit” (The collapse of parenting). This evidence shows the trepidation that parents have when interacting with their kids and that they do not know “How to respect their child but also be the ‘decider’ of the family” (The Collapse of Parenting). This section does a great job of connecting with the target audience, as many parents have had similar thoughts about parenting. It also shows how many parents are overthinking the process of having a child.

While trying to create the perfect childhood for their kids, many parents compare the development of their child to other children or society’s image of how a child should develop. Gulli says that parents are “tracking how quickly their child is growing, how much their child is achieving” (The Collapse of Parenting). While tracking their children, parents are “checking in with the virtual wise man Google” and Gulli provides an example where a mom “feel[s] guilty because [parents] are carrying their babies everywhere, doing all these things, having this connection” (The collapse of parenting). This evidence helps support the author’s point that parents are not providing what children need, since they are too focused on what is going on outside of their household. It also helps the author connect to the audience, as many readers may have experienced some thoughts of parental inadequacy.

Gulli finishes off the essay by increasing her credibility with the audience. She quotes a psychotherapist who says, “Nobody knows what to do when they leave a hospital with an infant” and that “[p]arenting is an awfully frustrating and often a lonely place” (The collapse of parenting). By appearing empathic to what many parents experience when they have a kid, the author establishes herself in a position of credibility. Also, Gulli mentions that “Every parent learns by trial and error” (The Collapse of Parenting). This helps to reinforce the theme that many parents are clueless; so, we need to learn by doing, not by looking at what other parents are doing. This section also makes the writing relatable to many parents who have been in similar situations.

Throughout the entire essay, the words “alpha”, “grown-up” and “decider” are used to establish a motif (The collapse of parenting). These terms are always incorporated in a positive connotation to reinforce the main theme of the essay. For example, Gulli states that “You need a strong alpha presentation to inspire a child to trust you and depend upon you” and that “[Parents] become … the grown-ups their children need” (The Collapse of Parenting). She uses the words “inspire” and “need” to make the connection between positivity and the alpha persona (The Collapse of Parenting). These statements throughout the text build up the theme that parents need to be more dominant in the household; doing so is not adverse to the growth of their children. By reinforcing this theme with the motif, the author can subtly persuade the reader that it is true throughout the entire essay.

The author organizes the essay deductively, with the thesis located in the second paragraph of the essay, followed by the evidence and conclusions. This is effective because establishes the argument while leaving no room for the misinterpretation of the essay. The writing relates to the thesis, supporting the idea that there is a collapse in parenting due to the lack of authority in many households. The deductive organization also caters to readers who do not read the whole article. The thesis is at the beginning, so the readers can get a basic understanding of the essay that will convey most of the author’s message.

A significant portion of Gulli’s essay is dedicated to the negative consequences that occur if there is no alpha in the family. She uses examples such as eating habits, sleep deprivation, and a rise in prescription drug use to provide evidence to support her argument. Gulli also uses rhetorical devices including similes and alliteration, a deductive organizational structure, and an alpha motif to further convey her message. The use of these devices is effective, and they contribute to Gulli’s masterful criticism of current parenting styles and a need for a dominant presence in the household.

Childhood is one of the most important facets of any human’s life. Experiences as a kid shape us forever but, there lack of awareness about how parenting affects children. Gulli raises an important argument with “The collapse of parenting” spreading awareness about problems with current parenting styles. This essay provides a different perspective about parenting and it provokes more thought about the issue in general. Parents should take the time to read this article reflect on their style of parenting and adjust as necessary. Returning what Bette Davis said, to be a parent your child must hate you at least once. Parenting is difficult, and the best way to learn is through experiencing it. Sometimes what is best for a child is not what they want.

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Personal Narrative Essay about Parenting Struggles. (2024, February 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
“Personal Narrative Essay about Parenting Struggles.” Edubirdie, 09 Feb. 2024,
Personal Narrative Essay about Parenting Struggles. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Apr. 2024].
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