November 6, 2013

A Respons to "Why My Kids Are Not the Center of My World"

I don't usually do things like this.  I decided several years ago that arguing on the internet is a waste of time and breath, but after a discussion in a class about a blog post that was circulating and then seeing it show up in my own newsfeed and reading it for myself, I just can't say nothing.  You can read the original post by a young mom here.  In the original post, this particular mom writes about how frustrated she is with what she calls "modern parents."  She makes some good points about raising independent children who can solve problems and entertain themselves, which I agree are valuable things.  However, there are two main points that I take real issue with.  Bullying.  And violence.

First, bullying.  The writer posts about how in her day, bullying was shoving kids against a locker and taking their lunch money.  She expressed how she feels like victims of bullying are given too much attention and empathy.  That their feelings are too validated.  That we need kids that can take it.  I feel that this author may have a misunderstanding of modern bullying.  She is right.  Bullying has changed a lot since the days of shoving, punching, and teasing that we all remember from out youths.  When I was young, if someone was being mean to me at school, I could escape that when I went home.  I could avoid the bully at school and get some reprieve.  Now, bullying is following kids in every aspect of their lives.  We have to remember that we did not grow up with social media.  For anyone in their late twenties/early thirties and older, we did not have access to social media until college or maybe later.  Back in the day when you needed a .edu email address to get on the illustrious Facebook.  Now, kids are fully engaged in social media interactions with each other all the time.  Sometimes, they can even post anonymously to someone else.  This is modern bullying.  Slamming a classmate on every social media site they engage in, constantly.  Often, they are saying things to each other on the internet that they would never say to someone's face.  The internet has dehumanized bullying where kids are detached from the concept of the things they say actually be toward another person.  And the bully is not just one or two mean kids.  The bully is a mob of kids that jump on a bandwagon to anonymously blast someone with hateful things.  Bullying has changed a lot over the last ten years.

I feel that modern bullying requires modern parenting.  My husband and I often sit and think about what it means to raise children in the age of technology and social media.  We talk about how we can monitor our children's activity online without being overbearing or unfair.  We talk about when we feel it is appropriate for our children to engage in social media.  We try to stay up to date about what the popular sites are so we know where I kids are going to want to go.  I feel like we also need to create an environment that promotes openness and communication.  I want my kids to feel safe coming to me if they are being bullied.  Not so I can get the bully, but so I can support my child.  Bullying hurts and telling the victim of bullying to suck it up is just wrong.  What we need to be doing as modern parents is to raise kids that are empathetic and responsible.  We need our children to understand that what they say online matters, it can hurt people, even if it is anonymous.  We also need to raise kids who will not be bystanders.  We need our children to stand up to bullying and point it out when they see it.  Bullying is an epidemic.  Only us "modern parents" can stop it.  We have to.

The other point she makes in her blog that I have a hard time with is her idea that rules against bringing toy weapons to school are somehow stifling her boys' ability to be boys.  I get it.  I worked in a preschool.  I have been around plenty of little boys and they do seem to be able to make a gun out of everything, but I feel strongly about encouraging them to find other ways to play.  Boys are not born thinking that they need to play guns.  Boys learn to play guns by watching their peers play guns or seeing violence on television.  As the mother of a little boy, I am sure that he will play guns, because he will see other boys playing guns.  I intend to enforce rules like "we never pretend to shoot people."  Why not use that tendency to teach basic gun safety rules like never pointing a gun at a person, even if you are not shooting it?  I will not buy my child toy guns because guns are not toys.  Guns are to be taken seriously and treated with respect.  My son can practice shooting his finger at targets instead of people.  We see stories on the news every day about gun violence and accidents that happen when children get ahold of real guns and treat them like toy guns.  Perhaps if some "modern parents" can raise children that respect guns, we can help decrease some of the accidents that show up in the news every year.  Not a guarantee, just a thought.

I know that the original post was written with good intentions.  Everyone parents in a way that is a good fit for their family and their values.  I just couldn't let it be the only word.  Modern issues call for modern parenting.  It isn't about entitlement or raising kids that can't be capable adults.  It's about preparing kids for the world that they live in and the truth is, that is a very different world than we lived in, so we have to adjust. 

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