I heard this story on the radio show This American Life, and it made me think. Most parents are trying to give their kids a “better life.” The dad in the story is maybe an extreme version of a particular behavior that I think all people share. The main story is a bit crazy to think about, but the underlying story between the dad and the two daughters is interesting and I think enlightening about human nature in general.
The dad had a rough childhood, and we don’t get the full story of what he went through but apparently it involved verbal and physical abuse. For him, he knew that was not good parenting and he wanted to do better with his own children. Although he did better than his parents, it was still not good enough to earn the respect of his two daughters and the girls have now cut off contact with him. Surprisingly, some of the behavior he hated in his own parents, he repeated toward his own family. It’s hard to know how conscious his re-enactment of the bad behaviors, because during the interview he denies that part of the story.
If the story is true, we can imagine how the dad developed coping mechanisms to distort reality, just to deal with the abuse he suffered as a kid. In a way, although he knew this behavior was not normal, it was normal to him. And therefor, the definition of being a good parent was altered to believe that being better than his parents was enough. I believe, that in a way, his entire parenting process was an attempt to hide the difficulties of his own childhood. However, having not dealt with his difficult childhood, he wasn’t prepared to be a supportive and non-abusive father.
The same discussion happens in the end of this Radiolab story. The initial story is wildly unusual. But it circles around to another difficult childhood and lifelong consequences as a person and a parent.
Raise your hand if you have been bullied at some point in your life. If you can read this, I expect you are raising your hand. It doesn’t matter what age, gender, skin color, native language, etc. It’s a natural reaction when we are not taught to behave otherwise. Typically bullying is a reaction to stress (www.bullying.org). And who is not stressed at some point in their life?
The number of groups and news reports about bullying gives me hope that we will soon have the tools to stop the bullying behavior. Dateline even did an episode secretly watching kids to see if they will participate in bullying. Ways people are stopping Bullying behavior:
What if your child is the bully?
Thanks to RaisingAwareness for your post and reminding me to complete this post.
We’ve all seen the movies and TV shows where children of the 1950’s era may steel a little candy from the store, and their parents make them return the item (if possible) or at least go back and pay for it with a hefty apology. And we hear more stories today of parents “interfering” with their children’s lives, even when their children are legal adults. The parents might talk to the school administrations of the university, or worse, call into their children’s employer to remedy a situation for their child. It’s unbelievable to me that a parent would interfere to that degree.
We recently had a co-op employee, similar to an intern but this student acquires university credit for the work experience, anyway, her parents called in to the office and arranged to hang posters with her picture in the office for a birthday celebration. I would be mortified if my parents thought of treating me that way. Although I believe it was completely by accident and lack of awareness by my parents, their hands off approach has made me extremely independent.
So why do parents think that this kind of interference is good for the kids. I was listening to a memoir of sorts (book on CD), Between Good and Evil by Roger L. Depue and he describes the time period in high school where he became very disobedient as a kid. This is common for kids and teenagers as they try to test boundaries, and learn to gain their independence before adulthood. Luckily in his case, for every action, there was an imposed consequence. After punching a kid in school a few days before graduation, his parents did negotiate for him to clean every window in the school instead of suspension which would prevent him from graduating. And it struck me the importance for parents to show their children that there are consequences for every action. We should be fostering the development of independence in children, so they learn how to deal with life situations.
We all see parents today try to rationalize with their kids, even as young as 2 or 3 years old when they are not of a mental development to have a rationalized conversation. I think the conversation is good, and is important when the kids do reach that mental development. But first the parent has to be in charge!
NPR had a good story about parents trying to deal with the outbursts of their teenagers. Kim Abraham, a therapist in private practice in Michigan, specializes in helping teens and parents cope with anger. I’m now adding to my reading list: The Secrets of Happy Families, by Bruce Feiler
This website has a lot of ideas for family activities. Check it out if you live or visit:
- New Jersey
- Long Island
INDOOR WINTER BOREDOM BUSTERS for Kids
- make paper snowflakes
- clean out the toy box
- go camping in the livingroom
- make a mobile out of found objects (acorns, rocks, branches)
- write up some New Year’s Resolutions
- create a simple Family Tree
- play basketball with a wadded up piece of paper and a wastebasket
- play card/board games
- design your own game
- make homemade play dough
- play with play dough
- play hide-and-seek
- send virtual greeting cards
- make a craft
- choose photos for a family calendar
- arrange photo albums
- draw, color, paint
- copy your favorite book illustration
- write letters to a relative, friend or pen pal
- write stories
- write a play, act out a play
- invent indoor circus acts
- perform an indoor circus
- brush the pet
- read a book/magazine/newspaper
- read a story to a younger child
- listen to a story or book on tape
- make up a story
- make up a story by drawing pictures
- cut pictures from old magazines and write a story
- make a collage using pictures cut from old magazines
- write newspaper articles for a pretend newspaper
- draw a cartoon strip
- write in your journal
- plan an imaginary trip to the moon
- plan an imaginary trip around the world, where would you want to go
- write reviews of movies or plays or TV shows or concerts you see during the break from school
- write a science-fiction story
- find a new pen pal
- put together a family newsletter
- have a read-a-thon with a friend or sibling
- make up a play using old clothes as costumes
- play dress-up
- play Cowboys
- produce a talent show
- memorize a poem and for your family
- make a tent/fort/teepee out of blankets
- do a jigsaw puzzle
- play on the Geosafari
- do research project
- do brain teasers (ie: crosswords, word searches, hidden pictures, mazes, etc.)
- cook, prepare lunch, dessert, dinner
- try a new recipe
- have an indoor picnic
- bake and decorate cut-out cookies
- surprise a neighbor with a good deed, do a secret service for a neighbor
- play store
- make food sculptures (from pretzels, gumdrops, string licorice, raisins, cream cheese, peanuts, peanut butter, etc.) and then eat it
- make sandwiches and cut them out with large cookie cutters
- prepare a “restaurant” lunch with menus
- hold a tea party
- have a Teddy bear picnic on the floor in the livingroom
- learn magic tricks
- put on a magic show
- make sock puppets, put on a puppet show
- crochet or knit
- make doll clothes
- sew buttons in designs on old shirts
- organize a dresser drawer
- clean under the bed
- vacuum or dust window blinds
- write these ideas on pieces of paper and pick out one or two to do
- practice musical instruments, perform a family concert
- teach yourself to play musical instrument (recorder, harmonica, guitar)
- create a symphony with bottles and pans and rubber bands
- make up a song
- build with blocks or Legos
- create a design box (copper wire, string, odds-and-ends of things destined for the garbage, pom-poms, thread, yarn, etc.)
- have a marble tournament on the livingroom carpet
- give your pet a party
- check out a science book and try some experiments
- play jacks
- play charades
- make a map of your bedroom, house or neighborhood
- call a friend
- plan a treasure hunt
- make a treasure map
- plan a special activity for your family
- search your house for items made in other countries and then learn about those countries from the encyclopedia or online
- learn the flags of different countries
- have a Spelling Bee
- make up a game for practicing spelling
- make paper airplanes, race them
- learn origami
- make friendship bracelets for your friends
- make a wind chime out of things headed for the garbage
- paint your face
- braid hair
I love Act 3 of this episode of This American Life. Although parenting techniques vary according to the child, I do think it’s essential for kids to fear their parents (parents are tools for instruction no friends). In this last Act, Dan Savage talks about being a parents and describes children as “sociopaths, until you beat it out of them, metaphorically…”
Also interesting for people who follow Alec Baldwin’s personal life.
compared to when I was a kid, today’s youngsters have much less freedom to go out and play. When in middle school, I used to ride my bike around town and go to friends houses without an escort. When my parents were young, they used to go out in the neighborhood and all the kids would play together. Now there is more concern for kids safety and more control, kids no longer have the freedom to get out and experience life in a meaningful, educational way. Nowadays, adults control nearly every aspect of their life, they are shuttled between playdates, sports events, and camps.
How are these kids suppose to learn how to organize events, interact with their peers, resolve problems, and accomplish their goals? These lessons used to come from the natural experience of going out to play in the neighborhood. Now it’s additional work for parents to provide these lessons for their children. As if the role of parenting has not been complicated enough with our modern lifestyle (are we to blame for wanting more?). For my ideas on goals for parenting.
Another blogger posted a list of 50 Things to do with Kids in December that I though was interesting.