Tag Archives: debate

The Unfortunate Results of Overprotective Parenting

“Hey mom and dad, can I start walking the dog on the dirt road to do an extra chore and get a little more allowance?”

It was a perfectly reasonable question from my son, who is turning 7 in a couple of weeks. We live in a small suburban town where both my wife and I grew up. We are friendly with most of the neighbors, with one glaring exception. In order to walk the dog, he’d have to cross one quiet side street in front of our house and then walk on a dirt road with only one house on it. He’d be out of sight for a bit but still within shouting distance. In my mind it was a win-win because he’d learn the value of hard work and taking initiative, and he’d be getting some exercise to boot.

Which is why it’s ridiculously unfortunate we had to tell him no.

Why? Because as my wife pointed out, “I’m fine with it, but we can’t do it because someone will see him alone and call the cops. We’ll end up battling Child Protective Services just for letting him walk the dog by himself.”

I wanted to argue with her and tell her she was being silly, but I couldn’t. Because unfortunately, this is where we’re at when it comes to overprotective parenting in 2015.

Don’t believe me? Just ask the single working mom who was arrested for letting her 9-year-old play at a nearby park while she worked because she couldn’t afford childcare. Or Tammy Cooper, the Texas mom arrested after a neighbor told police she was neglecting her kids simply because they were outside on scooters. If you need something more recent, there’s the Maryland couple charged with “unsubstantiated child neglect” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) after doing nothing more than allowing their two children, 10 and 6, to walk home one mile from the park unsupervised.

Yet letting kids fire Uzis which results in a tragic death? Totally allowed and the parents are free from legal blame. Have fun trying to figure out that “logic.” But I digress.

As a child of the 80s/early 90s who grew up with the freedom to ride bikes around town unsupervised until the streetlights came flickering to life, I’m mystified as to where we went wrong and deviated so far off course. But then I read the online comments from said overprotective parents, and the answer is suddenly very apparent.

It’s all about fear and misinformation.

Without fail, when discussing this with other parents who disagree, I’ll see someone write “Well times have changed and the world isn’t as safe as it was back then.” Ironically, they’re not all wrong. Times have changed and the level of safety is not the same as it was in the supposed good old days. Want to know why? Because the world is a safer place in 2015.

Yes, that’s right. Statistically speaking, the data shows we are living in a much safer world than 20+ years ago.

Between 1993 and 2012, violent crime in the US declined by 48%, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports. Homicides fell by 51% and forcible rape was down by more than one-third. Furthermore, crimes against children specifically have declined since 2003. According to the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, physical assault against children ages 2-17 was down 33%, while instances of attempted and completed rape declined by 43% between 2003-2011.

And if you want to focus on kidnappings, the Polly Klaas Foundation – a national nonprofit dedicated to the recovery of missing children – found there are only 100 stereotypical “stranger abductions” each year, in which a child is plucked off the street by an unknown person. There is a higher chance of kids being abducted by family members or acquaintances, according to the foundation’s website.

In fact, if you’re really worried about the safety of kids, you shouldn’t let them ride in a car. Or swim in a pool. Because more children die in car accidents and drownings than are kidnapped by strangers.

I used to simply shake my head at the overprotective parents of the world and go on raising my kids the way my wife and I think is best. But this incident has made me realize that’s not always possible.

We’ve moved beyond good Samaritans rescuing babies left in hot cars and scooping up toddlers who have found their way out of houses and are playing near traffic. Those kinds of things are not the problem, and are in fact expected as members of the human race. Too many kids are suffering real, terrible abuse and that must never be allowed to continue. However, the irrational fear of the way other people parent and the willingness to alert the authorities simply for disagreeing with a parenting style other than their own, is also a genuine concern.

The Maryland parents know their kids best and know they’re capable of walking to the park alone, just as I know my son can handle walking the dog by himself. But the bottom line is that no longer matters, because the way other people parent is now directly impacting my ability to raise my children how I see fit. Because if parents 300 miles from me can be charged simply for letting their kids walk to and from the park, it is not a stretch to think the same thing could happen if my son walks the dog alone.

Unfortunately, our lives could be turned instantly upside down with one phone call from someone who simply disagrees with how we parent. That’s not right, and that scares me. It should scare all of us.

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The 11 Most Obnoxious Internet Commenters

Image: FLICKR/babbletrish
Ima?ge: FLICKR/babbletrish (license)

Internet trolls. I hate them. And yet I’m habitually guilty of feeding them.

I’m not proud of it. OK, I’m a little proud of it. Sometimes. But after seven years of writing about controversial topics online, I can say with complete certainty I’m exhausted by Internet trolls and the terrible (yet inevitable) kinds of people who lurk (mostly anonymously) in the dreaded comments section. The ones who you think can’t possibly be that stupid or misguided, yet manage to surprise you every time. The people who have you wondering whether the human race is ultimately doomed. The people you wish would come out of their mom’s basement long enough for you to shine the light of truth and righteousness on them while they scurry back under their bridges. Hopefully without an Internet connection.

I’m not going to list every single one of them.

For instance, I’m leaving off the Grammar Cop because, well, I am one. And despite all of your bitching and moaning, the difference between their, there, and they’re IS that important! Instead, I’m focusing on the big ones. The large, hairy, nasty, atrocious, obnoxious, festering types you find in the comments section, who make you mad enough to kick kittens and punt puppies.

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to document them here, but without further ado, here is my list of the 11 worst types of internet commenters. Also, I’m alternating between male and female pronouns lest you think Internet trolls are limited to one sex only.

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11. All Caps
An oldie for sure, but still as obnoxious now as when he first honed his craft in AOL chat rooms 20 years ago. If you’re unfamiliar, using all caps online is known as “shouting.” And unfortunately, many people think they can stop losing an argument BY TYPING IN ALL CAPS TO MAKE THE POINT THAT THEY ARE RIGHT BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY THE LOUDEST PERSON ALWAYS WINS THE ARGUMENT NO MATTER WHAT!!!!!!! These poor souls don’t realize their stupid, vile comments are no more acceptable or correct just because everything is capitalized.

10. Only Reads the Headline
I once wrote a piece titled “Frozen Turned My Son Gay.” Spoiler alert: Frozen didn’t really turn my son gay. Cinderella did. You see? That’s me using a forgotten and frequently misunderstood tool called sarcasm, to prove how ridiculous it is that some bigots out there were claiming a movie had the power and capability to affect a child’s sexuality. But you would only have known that by, you know, actually reading the article instead of merely a five-word headline. It’s stunningly sad this has to be said in 2015, but it’s important to read the thing on which you’re planning to comment.

9. Link Spammer
This jerk doesn’t have the time to personally educate you as to all the reasons you’re wrong. So instead of making her case, she’s going to send you links. Lots and lots of them. Here’s a link to this study, here’s another link to this guy’s academic research paper, and here’s another to a blog post she wrote in which she referenced more studies with more links. She knows no one has time to read them all, so she’s going to maintain she proved her point with the links but you’re too lazy to read them so you must be wrong. It’s the online equivalent of blinding people with paperwork so they get distracted and give up.

8. The Hitler Guy
The one troll I automatically dismiss and refuse to engage any further is “the Hitler guy.” Simply put, he’s the one who winds up comparing everything to Hitler and Nazi Germany.  It’s Godwin’s Law – “the theory that as an online discussion progresses, it becomes inevitable that someone or something will eventually be compared to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis, regardless of the original topic.” Against gun control? You know the Nazis limited weapons, right? Did your town ban trans fats? What is this, Nazi Germany? Unhappy with the teachers union? Clearly they’re the educational gestapo. Do not engage the Hitler guy and try to shut him down. Wanna know why? Because that’s exactly what the Nazis would do!!!

7. All Memes, All the Time
This person has no words. However, she has amassed a library of memes and uses them religiously during arguments. Because responding to valid criticism with pictures of Grumpy Cat and Willy Wonka really drives your point home.

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6. Captain Politics/Blame Obama
You could be talking about butterflies and rainbows, but “Captain Politics” will find a way to turn the conversation political and divisive. And, of course, it’s always capped off by blaming President Obama. Because rainbows are gay and butterflies are traditionally thought of as symbols of change, which means Obama is clearly trying to push his liberal agenda of gayness in an attempt to weaken the state of Christianity in this country because he’s really a Muslim who is NOT EVEN FROM HERE!

5. The Racist/Homophobe/Misogynist
These are easy to spot. Just look for a string of insensitive and disgusting slurs complete with terrible grammar and lots of misspellings. As a bonus, you can Grammar Police their nonsense and point out how stupid they are afterward — a trolling of the trolls so to speak — which does bring out more of their idiocy, but makes you feel better as well. So it’s a wash.

4. The Martyr
This is one of my favorites to hate on, because they really don’t see their own stupidity. This gal’s calling card will be terms like “Well I’m entitled to my opinion” and “You’re trying to take away my freedom of speech just because I disagree with you.” What this person doesn’t realize is since she just spewed her unbelievably terrible opinion, she demonstrated her freedom of speech which is very much intact. Furthermore, she also can’t see that while she is free to have an opinion, she is not immune from the fallout of stating said opinion. These trolls either don’t know or don’t care that while freedom of speech means they won’t be put in jail for projectile vomiting their filth in public, they are absolutely and unequivocally responsible for facing the consequences of those words. But rather than face up to them, they cry foul and claim they’re the ones being bullied. Because they’re stupid.

3. The Purveyor of Non-reliable Information
This is The Link Spammer’s dumber, more dangerous cousin. He finds something on the Internet that validates his preexisting opinion on a topic, and he runs with it. He publishes it on Facebook with an incendiary diatribe methodically listing out all the problems and the ways in which is is wrong. WRONG I SAY!! The only problem? It’s not true. Because it’s from an extremist website that literally makes shit up. The reason I say he’s “dangerous” is because too many people don’t bother checking their sources, which is how this misinformation winds up spreading like a disease all over social media. Bonus points when this clown becomes infuriated over a completely fictitious piece of made up satirical news, a la The Onion.

2. I Don’t Care/I’m Done With This Conversation
These people might be my favorite of the bunch. They’ll emphatically state they don’t care, and they’ll leave comments such as “No one gives a shit about any of this!” Right. Because the best way to show you don’t care about something is taking time out of your busy day to write a comment and post it online. That’ll show ‘em, Tiger. Then, when you call them out and they’ve “not cared” for eight or nine more comments, they’ll publicly announce they’re leaving and they’re done with this because they have better things to do. Newsflash: they care and they don’t have anything better to do. Because people who don’t care don’t bother, and people who want to leave just leave. They don’t stick around and belabor the point for 53 more comments.

1. There Are More Important Things
“This is what you care about? Out of all the things happening in the world, you’re arguing about this?” Holy hell, for the love of Pete, shut your mouth with this crap! In my opinion, this is the single dumbest comment anyone on the Internet can make. Why? Because of course there are more important things. No one is saying otherwise. But by their “logic,” all any of us should be discussing is The. Most. Important. Thing. But, ummm…what is the most important thing? And who gets to decide that? Is it world hunger? Cancer? Sex trafficking? War? Look, just because something isn’t the most important thing, doesn’t mean it’s not important. Right now hundreds of dad bloggers are trying to honor our friend Oren Miller, who recently died of cancer, by getting Amazon to change it’s diaper subscription service from Amazon Mom to Amazon Family (sign the petition, please). Is this the most pressing issue the world is facing? No. Is it important to us and involved fatherhood? Absolutely. So we’re focusing on it. And many of us are doing it as we simultaneously support initiatives to end hunger, the gender wage gap, and other huge issues. So knock off this crap about “don’t you have more important things to do?” There are enough issues for all of us to focus on, you sanctimonious boobs.

So, that’s my list. Did I miss any?

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The Pros & Cons of Complimenting Parents in Public

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photo credit: Eres hermos@ via photopin (license)

 

***I have partnered with Similac for this piece.

People need to have more support for moms and fewer empty compliments for dads.

If you’re familiar with my writing and my unyielding advocacy of involved fatherhood, that sentence probably left you blinking in disbelief. “Did the guy who will never shut up about the importance of dads just say people need to compliment mothers more while praising dads less?” Yes. That’s what I’m saying. And no, I’m not crazy and this isn’t an impostor. Just hear me out.

When I’m out alone with my boys at the playground or a store, I am bombarded with compliments from total strangers. I’ll admit, it felt really good at first. So many people were coming up to me and telling me what a good dad I was, I felt like Superman. I don’t care who you are, it’s nice to hear a compliment. And when they come in waves and involve your children and parenting skills, it’s that much sweeter.

And then one day I saw her.

I was at a playground with Will (Sam wasn’t born yet) and was the only dad there. As usual, I was basking in the glow of all the compliments from the moms telling me what a good dad I was for being out with my kid by myself. Then I saw two kids, maybe 5 and 3 respectively, bolt by me and chase each other around the base of the playground. I could tell they were brother and sister immediately because of the bickering, which was growing louder by the second.

I looked over at the park bench and saw a clearly exasperated mom craning her neck to see where her two bickering progeny had gone. She had her hands full at the time because she was trying desperately to get her baby to latch for a mid-morning snack. Meanwhile her two oldest reached a fever pitch across the playground over the toy they both wanted, and it culminated with the older brother pushing his sister. She fell to the ground unhurt but crying, with the brother shouting at her to stop crying because they’d both get in trouble.

The mom was red-faced and hissing the names of her two kids in an effort to get them to stop. Meanwhile the jostled baby was having trouble feeding, and he/she (I couldn’t tell and it doesn’t really matter) also began wailing. I remember the “I’m at the end of my rope” look of temporary helplessness on the look of the mom. I also recall the other moms raising their eyebrows and rolling their eyes, as if to silently say “Geez, get control of your kids lady.” I remember wanting to go over there and offer to help her, or at least tell her we’ve all been there and she’s doing a great job. But for some reason, I didn’t. And now I’ll always remember regretting that.

That day made me realize something important, which is all the compliments I received from strangers regarding my parenting were actually anything but.

I’m not doing anything special when I’m out with my kids. I’m literally just walking around, getting my errands done, and hoping they can play without killing themselves or each other — same as every other parent. The reason I’m complimented is solely because I’m a dad out with his kids alone, and therefore kind of a novelty. And that sucks. It sucks for dads AND moms.

While I’m 100% confident no one has any ill will when complimenting me, I have NEVER seen a mom in the same situation with her kids receive similar kind words. Why? Because parenting their kids is what moms are expected to do.

If we truly want to move toward being equal partners in parenting, that has to change.

Dads shouldn’t be singled out for praise simply for basic parenting 101. If we accept those compliments while mothers get no public support for the same tasks, we’re automatically erasing the level playing field. We’re saying raising kids is a mom job that dad helps out with every once in a while. We’re patting dads on the head for nothing more than completing the basic job requirements of parenting. That belittles fathers and ignores mothers — a dual disservice.

That’s why now, when I see any parent struggling to keep up with their brood, I take the time to stop and tell them we’ve all been there. There are good and bad days. But either way, they’re doing a helluva job.

It’s not much and it takes so little effort, but sometimes a kind word and some reassurance — even from a stranger — is enough of a lift to get through the day. Small actions often have gargantuan positive repercussions, so next time you’re out and you see someone struggling, throw her a compliment.

And while complimenting a dad with just cause is always worthwhile, please stop doing it just because we’re out with our kids. Despite your best intentions, it ultimately comes off as patronizing and does a disservice to dads and moms.

Let’s work to support all parents, because you never know when a random kind word will make all the difference.

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ABB_SIM_BloggerBadge_250x151I was compensated by Similac for the “Sisterhood of Motherhood” campaign (#SisterhoodUnite), which aims to unite all parents in a judgment-free zone. But as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. I hope you enjoy this fantastic video Similac developed that shows we’re all #ParentsFirst when it comes to raising our kids. You can visit Similac’s website or go to its Facebook page to learn more.

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Amazon Mom and Why Words Matter

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Chris Routly of www.daddydoctrines.com

“Choose your words carefully.”

That’s what my mother told me when I was trying to squirm out of a lie as a young boy. My father gave me that advice in college when I told him I wanted to become a writer. And my wife hisses the phrase at me in the heat of arguments when I’m dangerously close to crossing a line I can’t uncross. Point being in all of these examples, the things we say and the language we use often have a long-lasting impact and substantial significance.

Or, to put it bluntly, words matter.

Two years ago, my friend and fellow dad blogger Oren Miller took issue with Amazon’s discount diaper subscription service, called “Amazon Mom.” He wasn’t flying off the handle, loony tunes mad about it, but he was annoyed. Especially because in several other countries around the world, the program had a different and more inclusive name — Amazon Family.

“It’s not about a name and it’s not about me personally being offended and it’s not about stupid emails about yoga classes. It’s about a company that looks at the US, then looks at England, and then decides that over there, parent equals mom or dad, while here, well, we’re not ready for that yet.” — Oren Miller, 2013

Well, Amazon didn’t make the change. And unfortunately, my friend Oren had to end this fight to battle a more insidious foe in the form of stage IV lung cancer. Sadly, he died last weekend. But while Oren may have lost his battle with cancer, a bunch of his friends (myself included) decided the best way to honor his legacy is to finish his fight to get Amazon to change the name of their program.

And so the #AmazonFamilyUS hashtag was born. Since beginning 48 hours ago, it now has more than 6 million impressions. More than that, it’s been picked up by TODAY, CNN, MarketWatch, Adweek, Consumerist, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, and many more, all talking about the emergence and importance of involved dads, and why some companies are still dragging their feet to be inclusive.

But with the good, comes the (expected) bad. Mainly the troglodytes who still think masculinity is how many beers you can drink in one sitting and how big your paycheck is.

daddydoctrines

This guy.

This guy is still (unfortunately) the majority in this country, and that’s why words matter. That’s why making Amazon Family the norm instead of Amazon Mom matters. It’s why we rail against bumbling father stereotypes in TV sitcoms. It’s why we complain that fathers are either left out of, or worse, made fun of as inept buffoons by marketers promoting products parents rely on.

Some people — even some dads — say “none of this matters if you’re a good dad to your kids” and “this isn’t going to change anything,” but I don’t buy that. It will change things. And I have proof.

Did you watch this year’s Super Bowl? If so, you probably noticed commercial after commercial involving dads cast in a positive light. A lot of people were surprised and wondering why and how that happened. Well, as someone in the trenches on this issue, I can tell you it was years in the making. It involved a lot of discussions with brands who initially cast fathers as dolts. It involved laborious howling on social media about the negative effects of casting dads as idiots. And it involved showing companies that marketing to dads in a positive way benefits all parents, and the bottom line.

And that’s why we do this.

Because for better or worse, culture impacts society. Even policy. So when Phil Dunphy becomes the norm over Ray Romano, people begin to have different (and higher) expectations of fathers. When dads are seen in national spots as nurturing, diaper-changing pillars of the family, guys in general will gravitate in that direction. And when a retail giant like Amazon starts being inclusive by using terms like Family instead of Mom to market to parents, it sends a message of “we’re in this thing together.”

That’s why this change is so important. It’s for Oren. It’s for dads. Hell, it’s for moms. It’s for being equal partners in parenting and doing away with harmful gender norms.

It’s because words matter.

***Please sign the Change.org petition to get Jeff Bezos of Amazon to change Amazon Mom to Amazon Family. And if you’d like to join in the call on social media, please use the hashtag #AmazonFamilyUS.

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Are Public Schools Discouraging Excellence?

grades

My son is in first grade and this is the standards-based grading system his school uses. Do you see anything that bothers you? We got his report card last week and it took me a few days to really put my finger on it, but I finally figured out what wasn’t sitting right.

You can fail but you can’t excel.

Does that seem inadvisable and fatalistic to anyone else? Right from the start — before they even take their first test — the message is “you can fall short of the standards but it’s impossible to exceed them.” The very best mark you can get is to meet expectations consistently, which I think is very, very wrong.

To be clear, I don’t blame teachers. They’re given a system and told to operate within it, and I know for a fact many of them don’t like grading systems like this one. The explanation I was given in my son’s case is “Well if they’re exceeding expectations they already know everything and should be in the next level.” Sorry, but that makes no sense. You can have a student who exceeds expectations but isn’t quite ready for the next level of work. And conversely, if someone receives an “N” for not meeting the standard, does that mean they should be automatically dropped down to a lower level? No, of course not.

From my brief time as a parent of a school-age kid combined with my years of covering area school systems for the newspaper, there seems to be a concerted effort to raise low performers into the middle. And don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing. However, it seems to be coming at the expense of high-performing students.

Gone are the days of academically talented and gifted programs at elementary schools. But more troubling than a lack of resources is a lack of recognition. The grading system in place at my son’s school doesn’t even provide a classification if you’re an advanced student, essentially making excellence an impossibility. So while some kids are told they’re not making the grade, the ones on the other end of the spectrum will never hear they’re exceeding expectations.

That’s not right, because it’s counterproductive to make excellence the enemy while raising the bar on mediocrity.

I know some of you are thinking I’m some blowhard parent longing for the days of traditional report cards, but that’s not totally the case. I like some of the changes that have been made, specifically the emphasis on observation with continuous feedback. I think that is much more helpful at accurately gauging progress than a traditional letter grade based off a mash-up of homework, attendance, and test scores at the end of the year.

I’d like to find a way to dovetail the standards-based system with traditional grades and come up with some kind of common sense solution with set guidelines that determine grades. And I’d also like to stop discouraging advanced students — however unintentionally — by recognizing their achievements instead of focusing on getting everyone to the middle of the pack.

It’s the same reason I’m disappointed there are no longer 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes for the annual Science Fair, how we don’t keep score at athletic events until kids reach double digits, and how my son told me he doesn’t need to try hard at sports because all the games end in a tie and everyone gets a trophy. Instead of letting kids explore the thrill of success and learn from the mild pangs of disappointment, we tell them all they’re the same. Everyone is tied. Competition is bad and success will come just from being there.

We’re doing kids a disservice with that mindset.

Let’s continue to work with the kids who need extra help, but let’s not be hesitant to point out excellence. In fact, let’s do more to foster it and let it bloom.

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