Desperately Seeking Parents
- A roof over their head
- Enough clothes to be warm and comfortable
- Enough food to be healthy
- Medical care
- Transportation to school
- An audience to address grievances and requests—IF and only if they are expressed respectfully
- No physical, sexual, emotional abuse
- A bare minimum of privacy (more can certainly be earned)
My family and I went for a walk uptown the other evening for some ice cream. When we got to the ice cream store, my 6-year-old noticed a young boy, maybe 2, who had a leash. For those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to, there is a harness that the child wears that is connected to a real leash, which the parent holds onto.
My daughter looked at me to explain what she clearly perceived as something bizarre. I simply said, “I guess some parents feel that they need a leash to keep their kids close and safe.”
As I thought about it, I was aware that I was feeling pretty judgmental about these parents. Who the heck needs to tether their child—especially inside an ice cream store? I can understand in a crowded festival or an airport or something like that, but an ice cream store? If anyone needs to be tethered, it’s our U.S. Senators. Anyway, I thought to myself, “Do they know how silly they look?”
On the other hand, I acknowledge that some parents do not know how to (or even recognize that they can and should) maintain control of their children in public and so a leash makes sense to them. Maybe their child ran into the street once and was almost turned into a kid pancake. That would be enough to make a normal parent paranoid.
So I’m struggling with how I feel about the leash. I mean for young children. If you’re putting a leash on your six-year-old, then you’ve really got problems.
Let me know what you all think of leashes for children. I’m curious what collective wisdom and experiences are out there.
Now that I think of it, leashes for teenagers doesn’t sound like such a bad idea…
Photo by: niimo
We had just sat down for a bite at this beachside/streetside grill when this child and her mom came strolling by, both of them munching on some snacks. My camera sat on the table in front of me. I instantly clicked it on, didn’t even take it from the table for the sake of time and remaining unnoticed. I swivled it to face them. The height of the table was perfect, the distance was ideal.
I don’t mean to criticize this mother in particular, I don’t know her circumstances, I don’t know her life. But this photo makes me wonder how she intends to help guide her child once she is too old to be leashed, too old to be controlled. Unfortunately a leash is not the same a discipline… I think it is summed up well by a statement I heard recently: We in America are seeing a major problem with four year old terrorists because parents won’t discipline their kids.
Quick, think of some neurological disorders. If you’re having trouble, how about these well-known disorders: Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Parkinson’s, Lyme disease, Epilepsy, Hydrocephalus, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. All of these are very well-established diseases, with known pathophysiology (that means we can see where the brain or tissue has gone wrong or is adversely affecting the body).
ADHD is completely different. There has never been any pathophysiology evidenced for ADHD. There are theories, of course, but nothing has ever been demonstrated, despite billions of dollars spent over decades. No microscopic or macroscopic differences, no structural or chemical differences have ever been discovered.
Another crucial difference…think of all those neurological disorders. Do any of them get better when someone pays attention to them, when the person has greater discipline, or when there are novel stimuli present? The idea is laughable, isn’t it? Imagine expecting the symptoms of a child with Cerebral Palsy to disappear simply when his or her parents unite in their expectations or a young man with Parkinson’s to stop shaking when he is playing a highly interesting game. It just does not happen. Why? Because those are true neurological disorders.
But the symptoms of ADHD improve dramatically under at least three conditions: when the child is presented with novel stimuli, when the child has strict, consistent limits, and when the child has significant one-on-one attention. If something is that responsive to three things that every child NEEDS, how can that be a neurological disorder? It simply stretches the bounds of credulity beyond what a critical thinking person can tolerate. Neurological disorders do not get better when the person’s environment offers them things that normal people need.
ADHD is not a real disease. It is not a neurological disorder (or what they sometimes call a “neurobehavioral disorder”, which is a nonsense term.) ADHD is simply a description for a list of behaviors that are annoying to parents and teachers and for which they currently do not know how to effect change.
- All parents are imperfect, usually in a few important ways and always in several minor ways.
- Parenting imperfections do affect children—sometimes seriously, sometimes negatively—almost always inadvertently.
- Children are quite resilient to parental imperfections, as long as love, concern, and discipline are the rule, rather than the exception.
- Parents who are aware of their imperfections and can accept themselves as imperfect parents are poised to minimize the damage that is done to their children.
Join me on The Imperfect Parents Society (TIPS) on Facebook!
Dr. Paterno is available for appearances, speaking engagements and lectures. For information, please contact ImaginePublicity at firstname.lastname@example.org or imaginepublicity.com
by Dr. Dathan Paterno
One of the factors that determine whether bullying will increase in intensity and frequency is the degree of involvement peers have in the process. Peers can intervene directly by stopping bullying as it occurs, ostracizing the bully, supporting the victim directly, or by telling adult authorities about the bullying. As many of you know, peers tend to stay out of the process altogether, which further reinforces the bully’s behavior. Essentially, their lack of involvement sanctions the bully and says that it is OK on their end.
This must stop. Peers must take some responsibility for their neighbors. Remember the golden rule? In case you missed that Sunday School, it goes like this: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is not a mere suggestion; it is a command. It is a child’s social and moral obligation to stand up to bullies and to stand up for the victim.
Now, I understand that children will be equipped differently to respond to bullying. Stronger, bigger children will be able to intervene directly. The more savvy and trusted children can tell teachers, principals, school social workers, and parents about the bullying. Some can take the victim aside—at any time, not just after an incident of bullying—and offer that child all kinds of emotional support. Some of the more creative children could start a campaign against bullying, by having peers sign a petition, such as “End Ritual Child Abuse! STOP Bullying!” or “Bullies Are NOT Cool! They Are Weak!” Any and all of these can help both curb bullying behavior and, just importantly, support the victims of bullying.
In my work with children, I hear countless stories of children who are afraid to tell teachers and other adults about being bullied and abused. It is incredibly shameful to admit, partly because it is an admission of weakness and an inability to handle the situation on their own. However, there is an additional reason why many children avoid telling adults.
Some schools frown on “tattling”. Wisely and with good intent, many schools take pains to differentiate between tattling and telling. Tattling, they reason, is reporting nitpicky things to adults, like minor squabbling, faces, minor name-calling, bragging, etc. Telling, on the other hand, is reporting serious problems like violence and other dangerous situations. It all makes sense on the surface. One problem is that victims of bullying tend to err on the side of avoiding because they don’t want to be “tattlers”. Who wants to be nicknamed “The Tattler”?
Another problem, as I have previously discussed, is that children do not want to stir up even more trouble for themselves. Children possess enough intuition to know that schools generally do not use their power enough to make a bully stop; they know that the bully will get a minor consequence, then be right back at the bullying. And this time, with more steam. Not only does the bully continue, but he/she has a justifiable reason to seek vengeance—“You got me in trouble! Now I’m going to make you pay!”
If schools want children to report bullying, then they will have to learn to respond with gusto. Until then, expect most children to hide their abuse from the adults who are entrusted to protect them and teach them life lessons.
Imagine if you went to the park with your children and a large, aggressive man came up to you and started calling you vicious names, threatening to hurt or kill you, and even shoving you or worse. Would you simply rely on your “assertiveness training” to deal with him? What would you do if the man continued to do this whenever you were at the park?
You would call the police. That’s what a sane person would do! Why? Because threatening, harassing, and assaulting another person is a crime and you would likely recognize that the man would be arrested. This is what adults do; they get proper authorities involved. After all, they are there to serve and protect.
Why do we not afford our children the same protection and model the same kind of response? Parents must do this for their children whenever bullying becomes violent. If your school seems unwilling to do their part—and even if they do their part—I say get the law involved.
Victims also share some responsibility when it comes to being bullied. First, the child must report the bullying, whether it is physical, emotional, sexual, social, or cyber-bullying. Parents can’t help if they don’t know what is going on.
Second, the child must be willing to take responsibility for any behavior he or she is doing that creates or exacerbates the ire of his peers. While bullying is never acceptable and should never be tolerated, sometimes children do things that, well, are asking for it. The child must take steps to remove this factor from the equation.
Third, the child must learn appropriate, assertive responses to bullies. Ignoring mildly annoying behaviors is one thing; kids can’t be so thin-skinned that everything is perceived as a heinous crime. But ignoring bullying is never the right move. Learning how to stand up to a bully—physically and verbally—and say “No more!” is essential.
Let’s get back to the first responsibility of the child: reporting. This is extremely difficult for children to do, because they are often intensely ashamed of the bullying and are afraid of the repercussions of “tattling”. Many children I know who have been bullied tell me that they know the school will not do anything significant to the bully, so they choose to stay quiet. They believe that the only effect of telling will be that the bully will mock the child even more or seek vengeance for whatever punishment followed. The most important factor, which I have written about before, is the response of the adults. If a child reports bullying early in the bullying sequence, the school MUST take it seriously and respond swiftly and weightily.
Wrist-slaps will serve only to convince the child that he will not be protected. This invalidates the school as an authority and forces the child to remain silent. I hope I need not convince anyone how tragic this is.
Schools must respond swiftly with resolve and with serious consequences. They must not only punish the child, but they must communicate the gravity of the situation with the bully’s parents. They, in turn, must be held accountable for their child’s behavior. Again, parents of bullies cannot intervene if they are unaware of their child’s behavior.
Finally, other students have a smaller but significant responsibility to the victim and the bully. They must be able to report bullying with sufficient confidence, to assure that no vengeance will be sought on them.
Let’s start building teams that can effectively fight bullying and create civil, loving, just, and moral subcultures in our schools.