How much is the media and how much is parenting?

Recently I started questioning both my blogging abilities and my parenting. So much so, that it put me in a creative funk. I even avoided my computer this week.

I’ve only written a few blog posts for the Detroit News MichMoms Blog, but they were not well received. (If you are curious, you can read the comments here.) So far I have been called a “discipline Nazi”, a “helicopter mom”, a “psycho mom”, and a “control freak”. It was painful to read. What is most bazaar to me though, is this: In the last year and a half, I have written 340 blog posts on My Pajama Days, plus a handful of articles for other bloggers and publications like The Livingston Parent Journal, Blissfully Domestic, and BlogHer. I have received well over 2500 comments and none have been so hurtful as the ones posted at MichMoms. Of course, not every person who has made comments has agreed with my approach or viewpoints on a subject, but everyone who commented did so with respect and professionalism. So, apparently, I just need to grow a thicker skin, or quit writing about parenting experiences.

Ironically, just as I started to question my parenting abilities, two things  happened.

  1. I was complemented on how I parent my youngest child.
  2. I viewed an eye-opening trailer for a documentary that is airing next week about how media is effecting our children.

Last week I had lunch with The Hare. The lack of respect and amount of general rudeness I witnessed from some of her classmates was overwhelming. They were flippant in their responses when asked questions, talked back to the lunch ladies, purposely left garbage on the tables, and even refused to move out of the way when I was trying to get through the door. When lunch was over, I stopped the lunch lady and said, “Thank you for all of your hard work. Trust me, it does not go unnoticed.”

She put down her rag and gave me a huge smile.

“Thank you for that support but most of all, thank you for parenting such a well-behaved and respectful little girl,” she said.

She then told me she is just as surprised and disappointed at how rude much of “this” generation has become. She has worked for our school nearly twenty years, and can definitely see a difference in the overall attitude of my daughter’s generation. She blames it on the type of shows showing on TV and the movies they are seeing. She suspects video games and internet have also molded their behavior. There seems to be a real lack of respect for authority and desire to help others. It’s all about self-gratification and gaining possessions.

I can’t argue against the fact that certain media has negatively impacted our youth, but I’m not for censorship. I still believe in freedom of speech and creativity because the minute I start fighting against these things, there is a good chance that the things that I value could be squashed because someone else thinks they negatively impact our future generations. We won’t ever all agree on what is appropriate or not appropriate in regards to religion, politics, the arts or media. It is all very subjective.

However, I also believe, that the media sells whatever the majority demands. The media caters to their viewers. So perhaps, what really needs to happen isn’t a greater censorship of our media, but a shift of values and perspectives. If there was no more demand for certain attitudes or behaviors, then wouldn’t what the media presented change too?

This trailer was mesmerizing and totally struck a chord with me as a parent of two girls.

Miss Representation 8 min. Trailer 8/23/11 from Miss Representation on Vimeo.

The full length documentary premiered at the 2011 Sun Dance Film Festival and  will be airing on the Oprah Winfrey Network this Thursday. I plan on watching it and sharing it with as many parents as possible.

It is clear that yes, the media can and will influence our youth. However, as parents, we have the power to control what they see and hear. We have the choice to limit books, games, television shows, music, movies and magazines that we deem inappropriate. We also have the advantage of providing the tools necessary to rise above the social garbage and media mayhem. There are programs out there that support strong leadership skills and community involvement, we just have to seek them out and participate.

I think the lunch lady was surprised by my response to her comments about “this generation”.

“Unfortunately, ” I said, ” I don’t think we can blame these children. I think the blame lies with my generation, the one that is parenting them.”

Obviously, this demoralizing and overly sexual or violent media content makes our job as parents much harder than our parents. I mean seriously, we watched shows like the A-Team, Family Ties and Full House. There wasn’t anything on like Cougar Town, Pretty Little Liars or MTV’s Teen Mom. One could argue that TV is evolving to match the reality of our youth, but I would argue that our youth is trying to emulate what they are allowed to see in the media. My daughters are aware of those types of shows, but have never viewed them in my home. Some of their friends dress more adult, copies of what they see in advertisements like Abercrombie  & Fitch, Victoria’s Secret or Hollister. Again, who buys their clothes? DW and I have gone to great lengths to talk about what type of impression certain clothing choices make.

My goal as a parent is not just to raise adults that finish college, find good jobs and  have independent lives. I could easily make that happen with less involvement or censorship. My goal is to also raise adults that have a strong sense of self-respect, respect for others and have a desire to serve their community without prejudice. All things that certain media influences negate, which is why I limit.

So I guess, if being an involved, media-intolerant and rule enforcing parent makes me a “discipline Nazi”, a “helicopter mom”, a “psycho mom”, and a “control freak”  then I will wear those badges with honor. I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to have regrets. But I will continue to parent my children to the best of my ability and hope for the best.

And if later in life, I find out I was wrong, then I’ll pay for their therapy.

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13 thoughts on “How much is the media and how much is parenting?

  1. Bravo. I go on a major crusade from day one with my upper elementary students to get them to treat me, each other, and yes, the cafeteria workers with respect. I’ve given them “the look” at conferences when I didn’t like how they were speaking to their own parents and heard them restate what they were saying. If only their parents expected that level of respect. And now I am going to do everything in my power to be sure my boys are respectful and that they don’t spend a lot of time watching trash, because that is what so much of this is. How kids go from Sesame Street to Pretty Little Liars is just sad, and I’m doing my best to influence my boys’ paths.

  2. First of all, I am so sorry you’re receiving such harsh comments about your columns. I think comments like that stem from a place of defensiveness, but who knows? I saw a lot of crazy stuff from parents when I was a teacher.

    That video makes me sick to my stomach. I am planning on watching the documentary, though I know it will upset and anger me.

    What I don’t understand is the disconnect. I hear so many people lament these things, yet I see so many parents acting in a way that is so very contrary to their words. (I’m talking IRL, where I actually SEE what is happening.) I don’t understand why people want everyone else’s kids to act in certain ways but don’t want the same accountability for their own.

  3. I also believe it is the parent’s job to police content their children take in.

    I received the strangest look at my gym for daring to complain they aired The Incredibles and Mulan in the child care.

    Both are way too violent for my son at this age. He is far too into mimicry to give him such ideas.

    I’m still trying to find a way to get him to actually “listen” to me. Suggestions?

    I hope our conversation last week did not kill your creativity.

    Hugs, my friend.

  4. You sound like you’re doing a great job. Nothing makes me feel like I’m doing well by my kids than when I see them treating others with respect. “Excuse me”, “please”, “thank you”, “I’m sorry”, and “do you need some help?” are not just words. They are evidence that we care about other people.

  5. Well I must be all of those things too. Because I completely agree with you. Completely.

    If people are calling you names like that, it’s because they’re in the group raising rude and disengaged kids. I see it all the time. Makes me feel like a salmon swimming upstream.

    A friend posted this video to my FB page Friday asking if I wanted to put is on my site. I think I will and if so, I’ll link to this post too – it’s a great piece. Thanks for writing it.

  6. Emily- I don’t have any young children now, my children are grown, two have died as you know, but even back in the day those names those ladies applied to you might have easily applied to me, here’s the reasons why.

    We didn’t get cable until our youngest left for college, his brother was also away at college, his sisters were married or engaged and not living home and his brother was in the military.

    We felt strongly when raising my three step children and my sons that all of our children should play with their friends, socialize with our family or friends (all of whom we knew and approved of), attend church activities, play sports,read ,and not fry their brains in front of the tv, and they did not. There was video games in our house, they weren’t allowed to play them during the week, only on weekends and for limited amounts of time. Our kids couldn’t spend time on the phone until their homework was completed.

    They said yes ma’am and yes sir when speaking to their elders. When we went to a restaurant it was not uncommon for an elderly couple to compliment our large family on how well mannered our kids were.

    To much TV for kids is not good, not enough parental time with your kids is not good. When parents make excuses for their kids poor behavior I think it’s rather telling and a guilty excuse for poor parenting. Actually they should know better, acting like they’re their kids friends and not their parents, it’s really a shame.

    I think what you did with your daughters e-mails was totally appropriate and not unlike something I would do with one of my kids. As far as the comments, some people will say anything without thinking. Some people don’t ask themselves,” hey how would I feel if someone said that to me.”Maybe they should re-read that article again, there was a lesson there to learn about being kind.

  7. I blame video games. I am sort of joking, when I make this sweeping generalization, but in a general, sweeping way, I think about the fact that, when I was a kid, my choice of fun things to do was varied, but nothing on the list included “killing” anything. Simulated or otherwise. It may make me sound old, but I find it odd, not to mention, detrimental, that so many children’s preferred form of entertainment is to play a game whose goal is to kill.

    I also think it’s the obvious reason why more children go from, “the teacher/classmate made me mad” to, “I am going to kill the teacher/classmate” in one step.

    1. Plus, you know well that you have to follow your gut with the blogging and the childrearing because you can’t please all of the people, all of the time. – Heck I believe you can’t please SOME of the people, ANY of the time 🙂

  8. It’s the parents. And we do need to set limits and expectations to all things (not just t.v. shows/video games & media) even social gatherings. Every situation is a learning experience for your child.

    I agree. Many people see me as too strict. However, I’m so irritated over the parents that are not teaching respect and responsibiity. They laugh when their kids do certain things, and say “Oh so and so, you shouldn’t do that.” hahaha. Do they make them apologize? No, not usually.

    When I was in my early 20’s I was starting to see the lack of respect towards women, guys I dated were no longer opening doors or careless of what they’d say. “So, are your boobs real?” Now these people are parents…

    As we drive through fastfoods, or receive assistance at department stores, the youth are irritated to be there and customer service is out the door. I recall being so polite to people and being happy I had my own source of income at 19…purchasing my own car and paying for my own insurance. I was taught to work hard, save money and earn my independence. Now we are seeing the kids as they think it’s a right to be given to them, and that they DESERVE more money straight out of college with no work experience. They feel they shouldn’t have to lower themselves to tasks such as helping people. They learn this behavior from their parents. Living in Orange County, there are several wealthy families that provide everything so quickly and as these kids grow older, they are clueless. They expect to continue receiving benefits with no effort on their end, and get “pissy” when they have to work. Of course, they do. Their parents have introduced them to this life.

    I’ve vowed my children will be respectful. My son, will open doors for people. They will say the phrases “May I please, Will you please, Yes,please or No Thank you and Thank you.” Ridiculous, I know. Are those words now becoming obsolete? I’m even going so far as to make my kids look at people in the face, smile, and say good morning and continue looking at a person while conversing. Apparently, I AM strict. No one understands why I make a big deal of that. “they are only 5 and 7.” Really? And, they will volunteer and work. We will teach them to do it to the BEST of their capability, even if it’s an activity they don’t want to do. Oh, and they have to earn their allowance. Is this crazy-talk? Then call me crazy.

    1. When my friend’s son was a baby, as soon as he could say single syllables, his mother was teaching him to say please and thank you, (he said “tanks“). I remember someone saying to her, “he’s too young for that” and she disagreed, saying, “if he learns it now, it will be second nature to him. Like a reflex.” Flash forward to him at 18, he was in my house along with his step-brother, her second husband’s son (also a nice kid, then 20). A different girl friend of mine knocked on the front door and I hollered for her to come in. When she walked into the living room, my friend’s son stood up. His step brother turned to look at him, and the series of expressions on his face was really funny. In a SPLIT second his face said, “why are you standing up-OH, a woman entered the room. Sheesh, Now I have to stand up.” And he stood up. Later, the girlfriend that came in said that initially, SHE was wondering why he was standing up.

  9. When we were growing up I think our parents didn’t have to be so vigilant. Many people don’t know, don’t realize, don’t care how the media really effects the thoughts and perceptions that a child has about themselves and the world. And how that in turn affects their behavior. I feel that, at least in this respect, parents have a bigger job nowadays than they did when we were kids. And many people don’t get it. So the parenting skill set is lagging behind the demands of the job.
    Don’t worry about the internet trolls. They are the ones who are lagging behind.

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