Parental Authority: Dr. Leonard Sax on Our Role

In the past twenty years, research suggests that parents are worrying more about their children and spending more to provide them with comforts. In spite of such worry and wealth, the past twenty years have also seen an increase in these same American-born children from well-to-do families being diagnosed with various psychiatric disorders. Meanwhile, parents tend to swing from overly strict to overly lenient. Balancing love, both tender and tough, is a difficult art.

To help us dive deeper into this parental task, we welcome Dr. Leonard Sax to HeightsCast. In the episode, Dr. Sax discusses his book, The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups. Drawing both from the wisdom of the ancients and the insights of modern science, Dr. Sax explains the importance of parental authority in raising children. Besides discussing parenting authority, he also offers thoughts on the importance of culture and schools, urging parents to consider carefully and choose prudently the school to which they will send their children.

As Dr. Sax reminds us, authentic freedom is not mere license, and if children are to be free in the end, they must, at the start, have the right amount of parental guidance. To give too much freedom too soon may end in the very loss of the freedom which one would have hoped to give.


  • 2:50 Introduction
  • 4:35 What is parental authority?
  • 13:20 Parental worries
  • 21:25 Some statistics on psychiatric diagnoses in America
  • 23:50 Parents and the transmission of culture
  • 25:55 The middle class myth
  • 30:12 “Elon Musk” schools vs. “Mother Theresa” schools
  • 34:40 Shifts in American culture from 1967-2017
  • 37:00 Approaching difficult grades as a parent
  • 40:45 Too hard, too soft, or just right: should parents negotiate?
  • 48:10 Advice for single parents
  • 51:30 Fake it until you make it
  • 56:05 The importance of intergenerational bonds

Recommended Resources

Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Dr. Leonard Sax

Why Gender Matters, Second Edition: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences by Dr. Leonard Sax

Also on the Forum

Discipline in the Classroom: The Art of Order with Colin Gleason

Carpool: Making Commute Time Good Time with Kyle Blackmer

Friendship for Fathers: Living and Teaching the Art with Prof. John Cuddeback

Leonard Sax

About the guest:

Leonard Sax

Dr. Leonard Sax MD PhD attended public schools in Shaker Heights Ohio from kindergarten through grade 12. He enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge Massachusetts in the fall of 1977; he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from MIT in January 1980, at the age of 19. He then went on to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned both a PhD in psychology, and an MD. He did a three-year residency in family medicine in Lancaster Pennsylvania. Dr. Sax has been continuously certified by the American Board of Family Medicine since 1989.

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