Do Dads Exist? If so, do they parent?

Two articles from MSNBC:

Football practice in the heat: Should moms worry or relax?

Those stupid worry wart moms.  Jeez.

Child a handful? Laid-back parenting can make matters worse – Kids with poor self-control whose moms parented in a laissez-faire way had higher rates of depression and anxiety, found a new study that looked at the impact of parenting styles on kids with different temperaments.

On this second one, they pretend they are going to direct an article about parenting to, you know, parents.  But they then IMMEDIATELY target moms.  Of course, the study that the article is based on didn’t even consider fathers when looking at the behavior of children.  Moms can single-handlely fuck up their kids, thank you very much.  And if a kid is fucked up, why look any farther than the woman who did it to them?

Love you so much, mom!

P.S. In case you were wondering what that second article is supposed to teach you about parenting:

“The main take-home message,” Lengua says, is that “it’s not one size fits all. The same parenting might not work with each child.”

So glad we have this mom-blaming garbage article to drive that point home.  What would parents moms do without the media to tell them what to do?

[UPDATE: I was thinking about this over the weekend.  And one more thing I noticed about the second article (the one on parenting styles) is the title.  While it makes it seem like this study is about how a laissez-faire style of parenting (whatever the fuck that is) is the problem, the article and the study it is based on is actually more balanced than that (the conclusion that I quoted above is an example).  But I think this title is relevant because it points to this more general conservative streak now in how we should relate to each other – the title is premised on this idea that we need to return to some hard-ass, take-no-prisoners version of parenting.  That, in fact, the problem is the hippy, love-will-conquer-all, touchy-feely, care-about-emotions type of parenting that is associated with attachment parenting movements and other such liberal parenting ideas.  For me, as a parent who does try to be compassionate, to listen to my child, to teach instead of lecture, to guide instead of force, I take titles like this so personally.

And I see this type of thing as an affront on my larger political position – STOP trying to make me believe in harsh conservative ideas about fruitful and useful relationships via my parenting style (especially using fucked up gendered ideas about parenting to do it).  Women are so soft nowadays that they are making their children soft and, in turn, society soft.  Liberalism and Progressivism have supposedly created the crisis in which we find ourselves because there are people in this society who, lawd forbid, care about the well-being and lives of their fellow citizens.  And if we could just make people harder then we would be okay (or maybe that we would simply be better).

Maybe if we INSTEAD taught compassion, the art of listening, the magic of empathy, and the brilliance of love AT THE SAME TIME that we establish boundaries and provide guidelines then we would actually be better off.  Why the dearth of compassion nowadays?  How come when so many are struggling so much of our response in so many arenas (including stupid and seemingly innocuous parenting articles on the web) is to call for less compassion?  Fuck that.  And fuck these stupid articles, especially the second one and its dumb title.

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5 thoughts on “Do Dads Exist? If so, do they parent?

  1. Came over from a link at Shakesville.

    I really like and agree with the point you made connecting articles like that to an overall trend of telling people to be harder and have less compassion for their fellow human beings (see “entitlement programs” and the war on them).

    Regarding your question: “How come when so many are struggling so much our response in so many arenas (including stupid and seemingly innocuous parenting articles on the web) is to call for less compassion?”

    I think it’s because having compassion is harder than simply believing that people who are struggling deserve to struggle, and it’s their own fault, and telling them if they simply worked harder they could pull themselves up by their bootstraps, or some b.s. like that.

  2. Thanks for reading and posting.

    I agree that it is easier – I just wonder why our society finds that easier than compassion or charity. It also just makes me so sad over and over again that it is easier.

  3. I picked up on that second article as well — I downloaded the study it’s based on, and the spin the article gives it seems completely bizarre to me. The study is interested in the effects of mothering (indeed, not parenting) styles on child depression and anxiety — not child ability to do homework, not general socialization or adjustment of children, none of the typical foci of parenting wars, just clinical anxiety and depression. The conclusions are not straightforward, and “laissez-faire” parenting (or mothering) is never mentioned. I tried to figure out what variables were aggregated into “laissez-faire,” and while the study does talk about allowing children more or less autonomy, it also stresses maternal “negativity” (criticism and so forth). I have no idea at all how they got this make-your-kid-do-homework message out of it. The most charitable thing I can think of is that the lead author proposed this particular angle to the reporters… Maybe I didn’t read carefully enough, but it left me completely baffled.

  4. When it comes to raising kids, “discipline” is a loaded word. It sounds like your style is anything but laissez-faire, but the framing of the second article strongly implies otherwise.

    Take the scenario presented in the lede: the kid would prefer to do his homework on the bus or in the school cafeteria. Mom, on the other hand, says it wouldn’t get done if she didn’t stand there, hovering over him. The reporter, of course, accepts Mom’s word without qualification… which is wrong, IMHO.

    The amusing thing is, this is exactly the sort of parenting once condemned by a highly-conservative child psychologist, John Rosemond, who called this “parenting by helicopter.” Deal is, it’s not the job of a parent to prevent a child from failing… it’s the job of a parent to help a kid learn to be responsible. “Hovering” may achieve certain short-term goals (i.e., the homework gets done), but it’s at the expense of long-term goals. A kid has to be given a certain amount of autonomy, in order to learn (from both failure and success) how to be resourceful and resilient.

    For a parent, it’s the difference between being authoritative vs. being authoritarian. The framing of the article blurs this distinction.

    For the record, my kids are now grown and responsible adults (both are in college, now). I never enforced a specific homework time/place. Yes, they both hit a rough patch in middle school, where some nudging was needed, but it was far from coercive. I enrolled both kids (at separate times) in a quirky, family-run tutoring service and had many an exchange with them. I listened to their complaints about teachers and assignments (many of which I could sympathize with) and taught them how to deal with boredom and unchallenging work via “creative subversion” (the art of bucking group-think by strictly following the rubric, but not the spirit, of the assignment). I also gave them my guarantee that – if they followed the “rules” I taught them – I would back them up 100% if they were marked down for their attitudes (I told them I’d go stand on the teacher’s desk if necessary, and they knew I wasn’t kidding, lol).

    For example, I remember one 8th grade assignment my son was dragging his heels on. His class had just finished a unit on a teen novel, “Romiette and Julio.” He absolutely hated the book (he’s in to sci-fi/fantasy), and balked at the assignment: to create a poster to advertise a hypothetical movie based on the book. I had him show me the rubric, and pointed out that there was nothing in it that specifically required him to praise/hype the movie… so I suggested that the poster should do the precise opposite! We practically laughed ourselves sick during the ensuing, free-style brainstorming session. We came up with totally inappropriate actors, borrowed the “20th Century Frog” studio concept from Monty Python and came up with all kinds of over-the-top one-liners to describe how truly atrocious the movie was.

    The poster got done. He got an “A” on it, too… and it was all done with a giggle, vs. a grimace. He also learned something about how to turn lemons into lemonade – def. a survival skill in any institutional environment. My daughter caught on to the program too (I’m still laughing about the picture she drew in a boring art class… the kids were supposed to draw a barnyard with animals. She drew the barnyard, all right… with a dragon burning down the barn and the animals fleeing in terror, LOL!)

    Suffice it to say, both of them hit the ground running in high school. Both did their homework on their own schedules, and – judging by their grades – it certainly got done (both kids took honors/AP classes and completed HS with high “B” averages). So, I can attest from experience that there’s an alternative to hovering. If you respect your kids as human beings, and use a little creativity to deal with the bumps, they won’t disappoint you.

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