Friday, November 30, 2007

iRobot Kids

Dr. Albert Mohler hits one out of the ballpark today, as it pertains to one of my own personal favorite parental rants, and I say three cheers for him. He says the same things (with less ranting) that I've been saying for YEARS when he wrote his current blog post called Does a Computer Belong in the Crib?


um... and this is my son, with the hairThe other day I noticed on the front of one of those completely pointless celebrity magazines at the checkout line at the grocery store, a picture of Celine Dion and her son. It's a good thing the caption said "son" because had it not, I would have thought the kid in the picture was a beautiful little girl, with long flowing hair. I mentioned this picture over dinner the other night, and the result was a conversation with my 17 year old who seems to think parents should let little boys have hair like this, if they want it. Now the issue here for me is not hair, nor is it personal choice, but it's the idea that parents are caving into what the kids want, because they want it. When did we become a society that caters to the whims of 6 year olds? When did 6 year olds become so mature and decisive that they even know what's good for them and what's beneficial? Remember now, we're talking about children - you know - those people that still pick their nose in public, wet their pants from time to time, can't eat a meal without getting gravy on their foreheads and have to be told when to get up, when to go to bed, how to do this, that and the other, in the right way. Yes, little children who have the minds of children because they are children.

But little Spiffy wants his hair to his waist, so mommy says okay (does daddy say okay too, or just cave in to mommy? where exactly is daddy in all this, really?). Little Jinky wants a laptop, cell phone and iPod and you better not get her a fake one, and mommy and daddy say okay honey-punkin and fold like a cheap suit and buy her these things for her birthday and Christmas.

Have we lost our minds? Did we forget our roles as parents? Did we, somewhere along the lines, decide that it's more fun to be a "friend" than a parent? Or did we as parents just get so tired of being parents that caving in and giving kids whatever they ask for is a welcome relief from saying no, and being the "bad guy"? Consequently, there's a long term issue here that will most certainly show up when they're 13, 15 or 17. If we're so eager to give in to their desires when they're toddlers and small children, what will they come to expect as their "right" to have when they're moody, rebellious, confused teenagers and have had their brains replaced with oatmeal, as most teenagers do? If we've already established an uber-liberal boundary line when they're little kids, you can only imagine what they're going to come to expect as teenagers and straight into young adulthood. It's hard enough to parent through those teen years when you're doing all you can to do things right, I can't even imagine what kinds of self-indulgent demands these poor kids will become used to expecting, that come from this kind of childrearing tactic. And you better believe it, this all falls back onto the parents.

I really don't know if there is a one size fits all answer to this, but I know that it's become so common to see little children that look and act like adults (or what they think is adult-like behavior), that it even influences my own kids in the things they think they want (they think this because they see other kids with these things) - and I'm one of those bad guy parents that doesn't cave.

Bad Guy Parents (I should form an association, complete with buttons and t-shirts) are parents who:

1. force their kids against their tender wills, to play outside - and like it
2. expect their kids to do their schoolwork, without a calculator
3. have house rules and enforce them
4. say no to whims and frivolous things that don't benefit them - and don't feel the least bit guilty about it
5. make their kids take out the garbage & pick up their own laundry
6. have strict consequences for disobedient conduct

Now that's just the short list. I expect my kids to be able to go outside and play, ride their bikes, climb a tree, build a bike ramp, and do all those things without a techno-gadget telling them how to do it. It's called "using your brain" and it's a most beneficial exercise. When my kids are done playing I don't want to see lethargic little drone-kids with glassy eyed stares and monotone responses when spoken to, I want to see ruddy cheeks from physical exertion, runny noses and a breathless recounting of what they were just doing. I don't want my kids sitting around texting (who are they texting and what in the world are they texting about anyway??), I want to see them active and moving, engaging logic, reason and fun imagination. I want them to know how fix a flat on their own bikes, rather than have the fastest thumbs in town by repeatedly text messaging some other kids who's parents are equally indulgent.

I know I know, there's all kinds of reasons why kids should have cell phones, laptops, iPods and every other high end tech-gizmo that comes along. It's the digital age, you all say. Education these days requires it, they cry. Here's a word for you (look it up at if you like): POPPYCOCK. If you don't fancy that word, try balderdash, hogwash or fiddlesticks.

That's right, I say PFFT to the demand made on parents to plug in their kids like a household appliance. Do you know what an electronic appliance does when the power goes out? Sure you do, it sits there useless and incapable of any other function - just like KIDS that suddenly sense gloom and doom when their digital/electronic gadgets go kaput. They're lost and incapable of productive thought or personal, one on one interaction because they've been plugged in so long, their imaginations and social skills have been seriously stunted. Not to mention the obesity rates in younger and younger children??? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why are kids are fat and can't funtion without a battery operated device telling them what to do and when to do it. I know I'm not the only parent that has noticed these things, and I know I'm not the only parent that has had to deal with the influence of these things in her own house.

I honestly wonder how many of these kids that are plugged in this way, know how to use a real dictionary or an encyclopedia. Do they know how to use an atlas? Some of them do I'm sure, but many will say how much easier it is to pull these things up online. Doesn't that just cater even more though, to this self-indulgent laziness?

I know there are adults who might read this and think "what an old fashioned dolt" I must be, to miss how important these things are. Well, I'm okay with being an old fashioned dolt if it means that my kids learn how to do things manually, before they ever learn how to access the digital world of information, and use it to augment their education and leisure time, rather than depend on it like air and water.

Rant over. I feel loads better.

As you were...