“Disney teaches bad morals.” “Barbie makes girls anorexic.” “Grand Theft Auto turns boys into rapists.”
Now before we get started, no, I do not have children so no, in my adult life I have not yet had to struggle with the balancing act of maintaining my own life and minding that of a tiny human being. However, I have been a child, who has been (in my own humble opinion anyway) very well raised, with consequences to my actions and a drive to always ask more questions. I have a baby brother who was born when I was 10, and I watched and helped (a little) my parents to raise him. I am currently in the process of considering my own future and planning for when I would like to be a mother and so these are all questions I spend hours researching, discussing with friends and family (many of whom are parents already). If you don’t find me qualified to air these opinions, that’s fine. Just please be advised that these aren’t just about how people act as parents but how people act as people and I feel the need to put my thoughts on this out there, whether you like it or not. OK? ok…
I am sick an tired of this blame game and I wish to express this once and for all… it’s not Disney who is turning our children into spoiled brats, it’s not Barbie who is making our daughters feel fat and no, GTA will not turn our sons into criminals.
It’s a hell of a lot more likely that the parents will.
Don’t believe me?
Contrary to popular belief, most children can very well tell the difference between fantasy and reality, and sure children dream of being pirates, heroes, princesses, kings, wizards and fairies but they also know that it’s make believe. They know when reality kicks in, but for some reason adults seem to permanently forget that children have this ability.
Let’s look at some common examples shall we?
Barbie let’s girls pretend they’re any number of careers, have a beautiful house and drive a fun car… the sorts of things that they see their parents wishing for …. but Barbie doesn’t make them feel fat. Watching their Mothers pinch their own bellies, force themselves into too tight clothes and say things like “oh I couldn’t possibly leave the house without my make up”… that’s a lot more damaging than Barbie could ever be. Watching Mum and Dad argue, over how they look – too fat, too skinny, not showered, too childish or too seriously dressed…engrossed in the question: “Are you really going to go out like that?”
Little girls and boys love their mothers and fathers; think that they’re beautiful and strong – the human embodiment of protection, love and care . So when they feel that this gentle woman and that strong man (who to them are absolute perfection) hate themselves; want to change themselves, shun themselves and each other … that’s when they start looking into the mirror and wonder what might be wrong with them too. What could they do, to be prettier? More handsome? More acceptable? Mommy won’t go out without make up, better remember that one, little princess… and Daddy said that a man who cries is not a man, better hide those tears little soldier.
Did Barbie or GI Joe teach them those things? No, their parents did.
Disney: I have already spent some time dissecting the crude “anti-feminist” messages people like to see in Disney movies, but why do we treat our children like they don’t understand? Rather than cowering in fear over the fact that Cinderella’s dream wedding might make our children have deluded ideas about marriage, why not use the movie to spark a conversation? Let’s talk to the children about mean people, like the stepmother who abused Cinderella and use this as a tool to teach them how to stick up for themselves and others. If the marriage still concerns you that much, ok… I get it, but just talk to your child; for example about your own wedding (or why you didn’t have one). Explain in simple terms what a marriage is; two people who really love each other make a promise when they marry to stay together. They laugh together when they’re happy, they cry together when they’re sad. They have to help each other earn money, clean the house and cook the dinners, protect each other and care for each other even when things are hard. That’s a real marriage boiled down to its simplest form, and even a toddler can get that, never mind a 10 year old. ( If your child hasn’t met a same sex couple yet, then maybe this would also be a great place to explain to them that there are all kinds of couples out there, and that men and women can love anyone they want, whether of the same of different gender…. )
Trust me, children aren’t stupid. If we don’t want Hollywood being their only source material, then we just don’t let it be. We need to enjoy the movies together and then have fun talks about it. Disney doesn’t set children up for romantic failure by telling fairytales, parents do that, by not taking the time to be real parents and teach their children about relationships and what they mean.
Video-games will not make your child violent. Cops and robbers didn’t make us violent, and we actually hit each other! If a child as much as “threatens” another child with a magic ring they get suspended for crying out loud. This one goes two ways.
One: It’s the 21st century and your child WILL want to play video games. The best way to make sure they play the games your comfortable with? Play them yourself! Become a parent gamer. Pick up a console and try some games for yourself. Lego and Mickey are usually fine for kids – War simulators, well not as much. But its not my job (or anyone else’s job) to tell you that; it’s YOUR responsibility to know what they’re playing and it’s YOUR responsibility to monitor their behaviour thereafter. If your child is very mature, then maybe you’d be fine letting them play a shooter game where they shoot at monsters, zombies and aliens at an earlier age and just restrict the real war simulators until later. But maybe you know that your child gets nightmares from the “Nightmare before Christmas”, meaning maybe a Zombie game isn’t the best way to go. Know your child and know the game. It’s up to you. Not the industry, not the government and not the schools. Your responsibility. (Please please please don’t be one of those idiot parents who went to the cinema and took their 10 year olds into “Magic Mike” because that sounded like a kids movie… do your damn research, please.)
Two: Stop coddling your kids! It’s okay for them to fall and scrape their knees, knuckles and egos. They need to learn that getting hit hurts so that they’ll avoid getting hit in the future and more importantly won’t ever want to hit anyone else. It’s okay for them to call each other names, just to then realize that there are consequences… forcing them to go across the road and apologize to the other children for being rude, and having the other children’s parents bring their children over to your house to apologize to your kid if they were hurt – and this is the important part. Be an ACTIVE parent! Don’t blame others and don’t just sit idly by; don’t let your child get bullied or worse yet be a bully and do nothing about it. You need to get off your ass and go and do something about what’s happening in your child’s world. Avoiding the stress by just stopping your kid from playing with the boy who punched him will only foster fear and hatred, breeding intolerance and anger rather than teaching them how to make up and apologize.
Video-games and wrestling in the park won’t make our children violent, lazy or antisocial. Parent’s who refuse to put in the effort to teach them diplomacy, consequences and peacefulness are the one’s who set a bad example.
Health: Neither Santa Clause nor McDonald’s has made our children fat. Our inability to chase them out of the house and let them play in the park with other kids coupled with our own poor cooking and eating habits have done that. Why do books like “trick your kids to eat veggies” even exist? YOU ARE THE PARENT! You feed them veggies from the day they can eat mush and you just never take “I don’t want it” as an answer – it actually is that simple! It’s what my Mum did, and my husband’s Mum too… With the exception of genuine food allergies, there is no excuse. Period.
Also, it’s become way too simple to reward achievement with junk food rather than a trip to the pool, or amusement park. Why don’t I see more parents rewarding good report cards with a “family picnic” or a movie night with friends? Why is it always chocolate or money? And I know what I am talking about here… I’ve done it to my own brother. Rather than take him out or play a game, I decided to just buy him a slushy or chips or chocolate when he did something good and called it a day. Now, thanks to my parents, he actually eats pretty darn well for a teenager but I can’t help but feel like some of his poorer habits, such as rewarding himself with food (the way I do) is my fault! My laziness! And parents and families are doing this everywhere…
Oh and, finally, while we’re at rewards… what about punishment??? Why are there so many children who get to skip out on detention because their parents payed for hockey/ballet or what ever? Why are so many children being taught to blame their teachers for their bad grades, rather than their own failures? In the world I grew up in, if you got detention for something your parents expected you to take your punishment, and if that meant you missed practise – so be it. If your behaviour was so bad that meant you missed practise three times, then obviously you didn’t deserve to be enjoying what ever you were doing and it got cancelled. No more hockey. No more ballet. No more anything extra curricular that your parents had to pay for until your grades were up and your attitude was level… for crying out loud, are we all too blind to see that?
We’re the problem! We’re spoiling the kids rotten, making them think that everything is always someone else’s fault and never teaching them how to apologize or accept consequences. I even catch myself saying “they’re just children”… that’s not how they’re going to learn and it’s sure as hell not how I was brought up.
Again, I am sorry if you don’t find me qualified to write on these matters, I know I am not technically, which is why this was not an eloquently worded thought piece, but rather just an angry rant about the world around me and my deep rooted fears of ever becoming “one of them”.
I have so many hopes, dreams and expectations of how I can be a strong, firm and strict yet fair, fun and loving mother some day in the future, that I become frustrated and terrified when I see how other people’s children are turning out. How they treat each other, their parents and teachers; throwing tantrums and always a getting getting getting never giving.
It’s just really scary, and I am going to have to somehow prepare myself for this… I just hope this made sense to some people anyway.
Thanks for reading, take care. xoxo