Collapse of Parenting
Leonard Sax

Book cover image

Narrated By: Malcolm Hillgartner

Duration: 5 hours and 46 minutes

What to expect

In The Collapse of Parenting, Leonard Sax, an acclaimed expert on parenting and childhood development, identifies a key problem plaguing American children, especially relative to other countries: the dramatic decline in young people’s achievement and psychological health. The root of this problem, Sax contends, lies in the transfer of authority from parents to their children, a shift that has been occurring over the last fifty years and is now impossible to ignore. Sax pinpoints the effects of this shift, arguing that the rising levels of obesity, depression, and anxiety among young people—as well as their parents’ widespread dependence on psychiatric medications to fix such problems—can all be traced back to a corresponding decline in adult authority.

Sax argues that a general decline in respect for elders has had particularly severe consequences for the relationship between parents and their children. The result is parents are afraid of seeming too dictatorial and end up abdicating their authority entirely rather than taking a stand with their own children. If kids refuse to eat anything green and demand pizza instead, parents give in, inadvertently raising children who expect to eat sweets and junk food and are thus more likely to become obese. If children demand and receive the latest smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets, and are then allowed to spend the bulk of their waking hours texting with friends and accessing any website they want, they become increasingly reliant on peers and the media for guidance on how to live, rather than their parents. And if they won’t sit still in class or listen to adults—parents or teachers—they’re often prescribed medication, a quick fix that doesn’t help them learn self-control. In short, according to Sax, parents have failed to teach their children good habits, leaving children with no clear sense of the distinction between right and wrong.

But Sax insists there is hope. To start with, parents need to regain a central place in the lives of their young children, displacing same-age peers who can’t provide the same kind of guidance and stability. Parents also need to learn that they can’t be a best friend and a parent at the same time. They’ll make their children’s lives easier if they focus not on pleasing their kids, but instead on giving them the tools they need to lead happy, healthy lives.

Drawing on over twenty-five years of experience as a family psychologist and hundreds of interviews with children, parents, and teachers in the United States and throughout the world, Sax makes a convincing case that if we are to help our children avoid the pitfalls of an increasingly complicated world, we must reassert authority as parents.


Child, developmental and lifespan psychology, Age groups: children, Parenting: advice and issues, Relationships and families: advice and issues, Parenting: advice and issues, Relationships and families: advice and issues, Parenting: advice and issues, Parenting: advice and issues

Listen to a sample

“If you’re going to read one book on parenting this year, make it The Collapse of Parenting by Leonard Sax. What makes a good nonfiction instructional book is an author who has extensive real world experience in the subject matter and who has the ability to write clearly. Leonard Sax has both… This is quite simply a good book that is easily read and will provide sound advice for giving our children the best chance to succeed in life.”

New York Journal of Books

“[Sax is] sounding some alarms that we’d do well to heed, and for our kids’ sakes, I think sooner is better than later.”

Chicago Tribune

The Collapse of Parenting may sound like a lone voice in the world of American parenting these days, but it’s a desperately needed one…If you’re going to read a single parenting book this year, please make it this one.”

“With years of experience and research working directly with parents and children, Dr. Leonard Sax provides an important glimpse into parenting in modern times, where it’s gone wrong, and how to fix it. Being a parent has never been more important and Dr. Sax explains how to avoid parenting pitfalls and raise your children well.”

Bill Bennett, former Secretary of Education

“[Sax’s] guidelines are clear and well-supported.”


“One of the premier experts on parenting, Dr. Leonard Sax brilliantly articulates the problems parents experience with their children, then gives solutions. The Collapse of Parenting is academic but practical, simple but deep. If you have time to read only one book this year, read this one.”

Meg Meeker, MD, bestselling author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters and Strong Mothers, Strong Sons

“Should be required reading for all parents when they enroll their child in preschool…an accessible guide to help [parents] regain their rightful roles.”

Nancy Kehoe, author of Wrestling with Our Inner Angels

“Dr. Leonard Sax has issued both a warning and an encouragement for parents to take up their proper roles in leading their children to a truly mature adulthood. His book is a highly readable and well-informed challenge for us.”

Dr. Timothy Wright, headmaster, Shore School, Sydney, Australia

“I certainly will be recommending this book to the parents of my school. It does not preach; it cajoles, encourages, guides, and helps. It allows one to stand back and step back on one of the most important aspects of life—looking after our youngsters.”

Andrew Hunter, headmaster of Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh, Scotland

“After thoroughly analyzing where parents have gone wrong in the past thirty-plus years, Sax provides a series of easy-to-follow solutions that help bring parents and children back to the same page, working toward a healthier, more respectful, and conscientious attitude…With the author’s solid advice, parents have a good shot at achieving these goals.”