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Monday, October 19, 2009

This generation's parenting

I found this New Yorker article really interesting. It caught my attention because within the first couple paragraphs it has managed to eerily describe many of the phrases I and my mommy friends use to deal with difficult toddler moments.

I took this to heart. I think it is funny that each generation tries to improve upon the last by changing the words they use, or the punishment, or the psychology. And yet, we still have terrible twos and kids that won't eat, and tears and fights. So I found myself examining my own choices and laughing at myself a bit.

One of the things I have found extremely useful, as you may have noticed by my posts, is teaching Fay sign language to augment her verbal skills. She loves the accomplishment she feels when she signs a new word. And I love being able to understand her because the gesture clarifies the mispronounced word.

I haven't turned to picture books to help me teach Fay certain lessons, though I know some of my friends have. I've seen books mostly on tantrums and bad behavior (throwing, hitting, yelling), where the main character exhibits these behaviors and is then taught a lesson or given a time-out.

This article criticises a TON of children's books for depicting bad behavior, and then not punishing the child enough. The writer seems to think these books are condoning bad behavior, or simply writing about the current state of the child-parent relationship: one in which the parent looses all control.

I found myself becoming increasingly irritated with the criticism of these books for a couple of reasons.

  1. These books are not school curriculum, they are not primary tools that parents use to rear their children. They are books. Some are meant to help create empathy in children, some are used for entertainment. Some are subtle, some are not. We cannot expect them to be more than they are -- entertainment with some teaching mixed in.
  2. I found myself asking in my head "Does this person have kids?" Every child is different. And every day brings a different challenge for parents. If you ever see a parent give their kid a cupcake after the kid has had enough, or too soon after bad behavior, you may not know the full story. Just yesterday, my husband was questioning the fact that I gave Fay a second meal after she refused to eat her delectable pizza dinner. I told him that I thought it was justified because she had had pizza the day before and was perhaps bored with the choice.

Every parenting decision is based on many inputs and circumstances. When there are quite a few books out there about how to behave correctly and how to give time outs and say your sorry, I think it is perfectly acceptable to see a couple books tell children that it can be fun to misbehave and show some spirit. How a parent chooses to interpret those books and explain them to their children is up to them.

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