Tag Archive | kids

Parenting Styles

Not exactly the best parenting technique in the world, but I’ve never been one to be able to contain my sense of humor…and it’s very difficult to give a stern lecture or punishment when you’re giggling or outright laughing at something your children have done or said. Worse yet, when it involves the very kind of sarcasm that so often falls out of your very own mouth and so you “get it.” Even worse yet is when you hear said sarcasm repeated to you via an authority figure such as a principal or teacher or other parent during a meeting to discuss the troublemaker (aka your intelligently witty impertinent child) and you have to suck it up and be a “responsible parent” until you can get to the car where you can finally, and with relief, let out the laughter or have that vehement shaking of the head moment (not at the child mind you, but at whomever the sarcasm had been directed to) that has been bubbling to the surface the entire time.

Parenting is tough.  Ugh.

golden rule

 

 

Christmas Spirit Showdown

The release of the movie Krampus was a couple of weeks ago. Of course I went to see it because a horror Christmas comedy starring Adam Scott…DUH. It’s like the movie studio had me in mind when they were sitting around drinking copious amounts of egg nog trying to come up with fresh ideas. Great movie. If you’re into that sort of thing, you should definitely go see it.

However, it’s brought to the forefront of my mind the general gift-giving tradition of the holiday season, what it means to parents of temper tantrum throwing children everywhere, and I’m left wondering about the whole Santa vs Krampus thing once again. 

So the movie comes out. It’s all about the an ancient demon that arrives around Christmas time to kidnap and eat all the nasty little kids (or in the case of the movie, people in general, not just kids) out there that made the world a worse place. “The shadow of Santa Claus” he’s called in the movie. His origins are Eastern European (because of course) and I couldn’t help but think that these downtrodden Slavic parents maybe sort of had the right idea.

I mean, think about it. It’s easy to wave off being forced into good behavior. A kid, or an adult for that matter, could play off not wanting a particular toy (hey, adults want toys too!) after he’s caught throwing rocks and knowing that his top-of-the-list item won’t be under the tree this year. “Pssssh, I didn’t want it that bad anyway. I’m glad I threw that rock.” Simple.

Or just blow off being good one day knowing they’ll just make some grand gesture a few days later to make up for it…most likely accompanied by that doe-eyed look that no-one can possibly resist. As if Santa has a selective memory and only the most recent stuff sticks. Make sure the last memorable thing was a positive one and that iPad is as good as got. Which when you look at it realistically, works. Kids have that game figured out.

The point being that from a Santa perspective, the consequences aren’t very dire so the kids, and people in general, aren’t that set on being “good,” at least not for the long game.

But with Krampus, well boy howdy, there you have some serious repercussions if you mess up. It’s not just, “You’re not going to get that Lionel train set.” It’s more, “I’m going to stuff you in a burlap sack, drag you to my hellish lair, and then eat you alive.” I don’t know about you but my rock throwing days would noticeably diminish (at least in the winter months) if I thought Krampus might be watching.

Free to Good Home

While I understand the importance of Mom & Pop stores and relish the experience of finding a hidden gem in the aisles of an old, cramped market with squeaky wooden floors, I must admit that I am often very grateful that shopping can be so easy thanks to the Internet. It’s such a vast and comprehensive shopping resource these days that it’s possible to find just about anything you can think up. Gold-plated staplers. A singing salmon in the likeness of Sammy Davis, Jr. A box of 10,000 fish oil pills. Just type in whatever your mind can think up and sure enough somebody, somewhere out there has got one to sell to you.

When I say “whatever,” I used to put in automatic caveats. There’s certain things you simply can’t browse for online. No, I’m not talking about illegal stuff like drugs and guns. I have heard about the so-called “Dark Web” and although I have no clue how to find it (nor do I even want to) I am not naïve enough to think that dangerous goods can’t also be found with just a few easy clicks of the mouse.

I used to think that people, aka human beings, were one of those resources that the Internet would stay away from out of some sort of moral stance. Then online dating began. Then Russian Brides became a thing. Then Asian Brides Online. Then Oksana Love. The list of buy-a-bride sites goes on and on and covers virtually every country.

OK, I thought, so you can purchase a spouse online. Surely that’s as far as even the Internet dares to go. Children have to be off-limits. Oh, how wrong I was. Check out this link.

Yes, this is a real Facebook group where pictures of children up for adoption are posted (often with the word AVAILABLE in all caps at the start of the post). These are not just children up for a “regular” adoption mind you. These are children who have been adopted and their current parents want to re-home them because they are no longer wanted for whatever reason. Yes. You read that right.  Re-homing children.

Have we really turned into such a disposable society? It’s bad enough that animals are euthanized by the millions in shelters, but now we have kids being plastered up on Facebook walls like products that are on sale at your local Best Buy.  Or more like Craigslist. The really sad part is that this group is NOT an uncommon thing.  It’s just one of many public forums that act the same as shelter sites advertising dogs and cats. The only difference is that instead of checking out a 9 month old beagle/poodle mix that was saved from a drug den, you’re perusing pictures of a human child up for sale to see if he or she piques your interest.

You may think I’m exaggerating if you don’t go to the site and look for yourself. I assure you, I’m not. The wording in these ads is strikingly familiar to those you’d find on a dog rescue site, and hit just as close to home for anyone with a caring heart. Loves to play, gets along well with others, no behavioral problems, affectionate, listens. And the implied, or outright declared, reasons excuses for re-homing were no better.  I know I sure got a sense of déjà vu from the excuses running rampant throughout the site.

One boy’s ad states: “We would especially hope that the new family will have one stay at home parent to help him get bonded to your family, although this is not required. His current adoptive parents both work.” This child has apparently been with his family for over a year. He’s four. FOUR. I can only imagine parenting took more of their time than they expected.

Another claims a ten-year old child who has been in his home for over five years “needs more one-on-one attention than is available in his home. He loves sports however his family is not a sports-type family, and his parents are a bit older. So it is believed that a younger, more active home would work better.”  Right.

It breaks my heart that this is the new normal. This is the way our society works if it wants to move a product. Toaster? Car? Six year old girl from a broken home? Put ’em up online. Someone will bite.

Kids certainly are hard work. Trust me, I’ve had two! But that’s why mental health specialists, doctors, and therapists exist if there are behavioral problems.  Which might not even be the case with the kids on this one particular Facebook page…they all seem GREAT given their descriptions…maybe the parents just got overwhelmed with parenting and decided it simply wasn’t for them. Who knows? But to me posting an ad up on freakin’ Facebook to re-home your goddamned kid is a failure on the part of the parent no matter how you look at it, not the child.

I wonder if these kids know they’re being offered up on social media the same way a puppy is. Do they have to go thru visits with prospective families and show off their wares and hope that the next one “sticks?”  A part of me hopes they’re in “ignorance is bliss” camp because otherwise, how utterly devastating for a child this must be.

Being a Kid is Tough Work

It’s not easy being green…or a kid.

Lots of adults – too many adults – think that childhood is an easy time.  They think that kids are carefree and have nothing to worry about.  Well, childhood should be an easy time, with no cares or worries, and in a perfect world it would be, but we do not live in a perfect world.

Kids face stressors of all kinds and always have. They have to go to school – and if they are not good students that’s one type of stress, and if they are good students, that’s another kind of stress, and if they have to deal with bullies that’s another type of stress, and if they are shy and have difficulty making friends – even if they aren’t subjected to bullying – that’s another type of stress, or if they’re popular and have to maintain a certain circle of friends even if they don’t want to because “it’s expected,” that’s another type of stress.  Well, you get the picture. Stress.

Nowadays there’s more than ever for kids to be worried about. Take for instance, the chat my daughter’s teacher had with her class last school year about possible shooters in the school and how they’re basically all screwed anyway.  And then there’s the fact that my daughter went to a college conference in Baltimore recently – one of her concerns included whether or not the convention center would be shot up…given Baltimore’s latest activities in that regard. Many kids face this fear in this day and age and truly, that’s just a sad testament to our society as a whole.

Then there’s home life, which can be more complicated now than ever before, considering the proliferation of different family units – single parents, same-sex parents, step-parents and step-siblings, and so on. Which can be just fine and dandy inside the home or it can be incredibly complicated depending on how the family meshes – but the external stressors that kids in these situations sometime face can be overwhelming.

And then there’s the parents. Regardless of the type of family unit, most parents are loving and treat their kids well…but there are always the exceptions. And while the percentage of “bad parents” may be low, that still means there are hundreds of thousands of parents who have no idea how to treat kids, and shouldn’t be parents in the first place, frankly.

And all that brings me to the real subject of this blog entry, which is how frustrating it is for teenagers to be lumped into a single mass.

“All teenagers are sullen.”

“All teenagers are moody and antagonistic.”

“All teenagers have teenage angst.”

I disagree with all of these statements but none more than the existence of “teenage angst.” Not all teenagers have teenage angst! And what the hell is teenage angst anyway? There’s no “adult angst” and believe me, I’ve seen plenty of adults that ought to have it.

Oh, and just because a teenager doesn’t want to be social or outgoing, even among family, does not mean they are sullen or moody or antagonistic. Perhaps they’re introverted. Perhaps they’re shy. Perhaps they have a lot going on in their mind and life and they’re distracted. Perhaps they just don’t like you. They should be allowed to do their own thing so long as they’re not being outwardly disrespectful. Speaking of which, I’m a firm believer of “respect is a two-way street.”  There is no minimum age for deserving respect. All too often adults think that kids, simply by virtue of being kids, do not deserve even a modicum of respect, thereby completely invalidating their feelings, and this is just wrong.

But how should we treat teenagers who do have angst? (Note the intentional lack of “teenage” preceding the word angst.)

Are they to blame for giving into their feelings – when adults certainly never hesitate to give in to theirs?

Kids have a lot to be anxious about. For some, it’s worse than the norm.

Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends but hating socializing. It’s wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It’s caring about everything then caring about nothing. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzing numb.”

That’s a quote to think about, and to remember.

All of the stresses that affect kids are magnified a hundred fold if they do suffer from anxiety and/or depression.  First off, anxiety and depression are medical conditions. That’s what a lot of adults don’t seem to understand. Oh, they might “get it” regarding themselves or other adults.  They just don’t seem to understand that kids can suffer from these same conditions.  I mean, why would they?  They’re kids, in the prime of their carefree days for goodness sake.

Second, a lot of this angst is caused by external forces.

Take girls, for example. It’s well documented that boys and girls do equally well in school until they get into their teens, when the scores for girls (speaking overall here – there are always exceptions) go way down in certain subjects. Like math and science. Why? Because even today – even today! – girls are not expected to be good at math or science! And they are treated accordingly. No wonder their scores go down.

Then there’s the fact that once girls become teenagers, they “blossom” as the saying goes, and all of a sudden they’ve got to deal with the “opposite sex” coming onto them (or not). Not to mention ridiculous dress codes that make it abundantly clear that their education is much less important than a boy’s and instead they should focus on not distracting the male students from their studies.

Of course boys have a similar and equal kind of stress when they hit puberty, as there’s a blinding rush to turn them into adults and no innocence seems left to any kids anywhere!

Bad parents also cause their kids a lot of stress and anxiety. Some parents emotionally abuse kids, even if they don’t physically abuse them, threatening to withdraw their love if the kid fails a test, for example…or irrationally and insistently pushing the kid into sports when he or she would rather be on the stage let’s say, just so they can relive their old high school quarterback days.

Something else to think about: When parents have a bad day, who are the first ones they take it out on?  Their spouse, sure, but who’s next? The kids. Right. (I’m not talking abuse here – that’s a whole other issue – I’m talking about being in a bad mood, snapping at the family, being curt or short in your tone, and having no patience for anyone.) When kids have a bad day?  Who can they take it out on?  No-one. Why? Because they get punished. For belligerence. For having a bad attitude. If they go to their room and try to stay to themselves because they’ve had a bad day? They get punished. Why? For being sullen.  For being anti-social with the family. For ignoring their parents. For bringing the mood of the family down. Kids are expected to be on perfect behavior at all times or face the consequences.  Who can live sanely under those kinds of expectations!? Yet many adults expect them to do it.

My point in all this rambling?  Simple. Let’s cut our kids some slack, shall we? Kids have feelings and personalities all their own just as adults do. They shouldn’t be dismissed just because they’re kids.

 

having a good kid meme

Cartoon Role Models, Or Not

As all of you know, I love cartoons!

I’m not talking about animated TV shows like King of the Hill or The Simpsons, or even that stuff on Adult Swim. Those are shows intended for adults. I don’t like to adult.

When I was a kid, more years ago than I care to count, the only cartoons available were on Saturday. In fact, “Saturday morning cartoons” were quite the tradition. It’s a tradition that has died out – now that we have cable and satellite, there are channels every day that show classic cartoons – the Disney Channel, the Cartoon Channel, and so on.

So, regardless of when kids watch cartoons, they watch them a lot, and so of course a lot of how they behave can be affected by what they watch.

I have to admit that when I’m watching my cartoons (I’m a Looney Tunes kinda gal), I’m always curious to see how male and female characters are presented in other cartoons.

And I’m thinking of the female characters in cartoons aimed at pre-schoolers. The “educational” cartoons. Just what are they teaching young boys and girls about male and female roles?

Well, watch the opening sequence to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse some time.  Each of the characters introduces themselves. The male characters wave or smile, the female characters (Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse) thrust out a hip and raise a hand in a “come-hither” gesture.  It can’t just be me.

If you watch these shows, you’ll quickly see that Daisy is a flirt, who uses her “feminine wiles” – i.e. sex appeal – to get Donald to do what she wants. What is this teaching little girls about how they should interact with boys to get what they want?

Ever notice the stereotypical girl characters in these educations shows? For example in Rugrats, the girl Angelica is “spoiled and selfish” – and of course, bossy. (When a boy tells his friends what to do, he’s just “a leader,” but let a girl do it, and she’s just a bossy know-it-all.)

Ever notice in those shows with young male protagonists…the protagonist is usually a genius, while their sister is, if not a bossy-know-it-all, then an airhead? In fact, I can’t think of a pre-school cartoon where there is a girl genius.

Of course it’s not all bad news. Sheriff Callie’s Wild West presents an excellent female protagonist. Then there’s Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins.

But take a look at the other female characters in Doc McStuffins. While they’ve had episodes featuring a Bessie Coleman doll (the first African-American female licensed pilot) and a female rescue helicopter named Rhonda, many of the female characters are stereotypical with voices that just grate on my nerves.

There’s Dress Up Daisy, who speaks in a high falsetto and changes her outfit every few minutes. There’s Gloria Gorilla who loves to hug and who also uses a high falsetto voice. Spritzi Mitzi, the same thing.

It’s interesting to see how female characters have changed, but also in many ways remained the same, over the years.

What do you think of today’s cartoons for kids? Which are your favorites, and why?