Tag Archive | parenting

“Just”- Use it Sparingly

Justify Until we Stop Thinking

I guess that’s why it’s called ‘controversy’-  not everyone agrees.  The controversy I’m referring to is Willow Smith’s nipple shirt.  This isn’t about the “Free the Nipple” movement. I don’t think it’s appropriate attire for a 14-year-old child. Others believe I’m going overboard because it’s just a shirt.   I feel, however, that It removes boundaries and sets them up to be victimized.  I disagree and the word “just” makes it sound innocent enough.  It “just” doesn’t work for kids as well as it does for adults. I’m not saying this leads to bad behavior or that Willow is a bad kid. Willow is a rich, sheltered child who can afford to be expressive.  That doesn’t hold true for the average American kid. We live in a society that complains about out-of-control kids and yet we’re afraid to set boundaries. In fact, we continue to remove them in the name of  “freedom of expression”.  “Just”… There’s just something about that word:

  • Just a joint, until you get hooked on crack or meth- between ages 16-25 I’ve had guys tell me “do just one line of coke for me”. Just one. Just…
  • Just sex, until you get pregnant
  • They’re “just” boys – until the behavior escalates
  • It’s “just” a conversation (or kiss, or hug) with that married person, until they have that affair
  • Just one more drink, until you wreck the car
  • Why not add: Just 4 killed/18 wounded over the weekend in Chicago. As opposed to 82 shot, 14 killed last July
  • He’s just a child and it’s just a dollar he took. Give him a break, mom/dad. It could be worse.

My son wanted “just” a tattoo, a cell phone, a pager, a TV/VCR in his room, and pierced ears when he was 13.  I told him when he turned 18 he could have as many tats as he wanted.  He’s 32 and doesn’t have any tattoos (though he did get his ears pierced :-)!  His priorities shifted as an adult and he didn’t think about tattoos anymore.  I have nothing against those things.  I didn’t feel that a black male teen in Chicago had a reason to have tattoos, pagers, and cell phones in the early 90s.  And, I was right.

Is it possible that “just” opens the door to something “more”?  Is it just a scratch that’ll heal, or one that will fester and require antibiotics?  Is it just a scratch in the paint that’ll buff out, or is it one that will cost five hundred dollars to remove?  Yes, I’m an “over thinker”.  I’m the person who studies heavy traffic ½ mile down the road to determine my next lane change or whether or not I should exit.  What seems “innocent” to some can actually be of potential harm to others.

I didn’t raise a girl but I’m 100% sure if I did she wouldn’t possess that particular shirt.  There are so many ways to raise a girl and teach her to love her body and to empower her sexuality.  At 14, this is not the way to encourage it because let’s face it, it invites the wrong kind of attention. In her mind she’s expressing liberation and freedom (I guess). But that is not what a pedophile will see when they see a child walking down the street wearing that shirt.  Grown women are being followed, harassed, and attacked for deflecting unwanted attention.  It’s not just a shirt–it’s a slippery slope.

So as far as “just” goes, there are reasonable ones and questionable ones.  I feel that Willow’s nipple shirt falls into the latter.  Just… In retrospect, maybe I should’ve tried just one line of coke to find out why everyone else was so fascinated. Just one.

I’m “just” saying, this is just my opinion…

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Public Shaming and Punishment of a Child

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There seems to be a new way of punishing children publicly that is deeply disturbing to me. It’s called Public Humiliation or Public Shaming and it goes beyond having a child stand on a street corner holding a sign that describes their transgression. Children are being filmed getting their hair chopped off, being “spanked” for “acting grown”… the list is endless. When children act out, I agree that there needs to be punishment and consequences for the action. However, I believe that publicly shaming a child is humiliating and sets them up to be bullied; it creates a digital footprint which can come up later in adulthood- therefore violating their privacy; and it’s self-serving on behalf of the parents who seem to have something to prove.

Parents have the right to raise and discipline their child however they see fit. That being said, even with the best intentions in mind, posting the punishment on Facebook and YouTube only serves to deepen their embarrassment. Although it may deter the child from repeating the action they committed, they now have to deal with being teased and worse bullied at school. This damages the child’s already fragile self-esteem and awkwardness. Sure, the lesson was learned, but at what cost?Public punishment

The ripple effect of these videos will be felt beyond their childhood. EVERYTHING that is posted on the web STAYS ON THE WEB—forever. Once it goes ‘viral’ after your friends and family share it, it’s out of your child’s hands. What you thought was a punishment is now a life sentence to remind them over and over again what a bad child they were (or are). My parents had seven children and we got our behinds spanked often enough. My siblings and I sit around and tell our kids some of the most outrageous things we did and described those spankings. The best thing about that is we can share them privately, laugh, and teach a lesson at the same time. Children who are ‘virally’ punished do not have that option. Their professors and employers may stumble across those videos one day and thereby strip away the professional demeanor that kid(now grown) cultivated through hard work. Their privacy is gone and now their colleagues will look at them differently.

I admit that I used to think that it was creative and innovative to have a child holding a sign as punishment but now, I’m not so sure if that or any form of public punishment is a good idea.  So, the child did a bad thing and they need to be punished. WHY DOES THE WORLD NEED TO SEE IT? I’m not convinced that there’s a pure motive here.  The child is humiliated, it’s posted on social media and all of a sudden, the likes, shares, and comments explode through the WebSphere. The parent gets the kudos—the “atta boys”—for being a great progressive parent and they swell with pride. They’ve showed their child who is boss and now the world knows that he/she is the best parent ever because he/she “don’t take no mess.” Mom or Dad gets to show complete irrelevant strangers that they don’t care what anyone thinks because THIS is how they “handle my parental business.” It’s a bit of an oxymoron because they posted it, therefore they actually do care what others think. They’re just hoping that the ‘likes’ and comments ‘for’ will outweigh the naysayers. That makes it a selfish form of child abuse.

It is far better to drill into children how the Internet works. Just as important as ABC’s, today’s children (and parents) must also learn that anything posted on the web will follow them for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t matter if it’s been deleted from your social network accounts. Once it’s out there and someone else copies and shares it, there is no taking it back. Children have a right to privacy and an embarrassment-free future. Their punishment should not be a degrading life sentence.

Reference – common YouTube searches of extreme punishment:
“Mom catches daughter having sex, beats her…”
“Father whoops on daughter dressed like Beyoncé …”
“Mother Jacks Her Son’s Hair Up For Acting Bad In School!”

 

Question: Is this a healthy way to raise a child?  Why or why not?

Modern Day Orphans

There’s an unfortunate segment of parenting which creates what I call orphans.  The definition of orphan:  a child who has lost either parents through death, or, less commonly, one parent.  For the sake of this article, I speak of orphans created because both parents are alive and ABSCENT from their children’s lives on a daily basis. When I say “absent parenting” it means either the parent (mother and/or father) are either with the child on a daily basis but is not providing guidance and structure, or the child is living with relatives and neither parent is physically present on a daily basis to provide guidance and structure.

I personally know of at least 2 separate instances of this strange phenomenon in which both parents are not physically with their children.  In both cases the fathers are already not involved on a daily basis with the children because they have relationships and families; the mothers have left their children in the care of relatives and are living in another location—or out of state for weeks and months at a time.  Sometimes the siblings are living in separate homes as they wait for a parent to come back for them.  This is extremely detrimental to our communities.

A child needs attention, nurturing, and guidance every day from at least one consistent parent.  When both parents are gone through choices of their own, the child is left with painful unanswered questions.  One of which is “why doesn’t mom/dad want me?”   Now, some will say that the parents are away so they can find jobs and send for their children and that would be a reasonable response.  The problem with that is often even when one or both parents are physically present they fall into the other category of being ‘at home’ with the child but still not providing much needed guidance and structure.  Either way, it’s a lose-lose situation for the child.

They don’t provide the child with consistent rules: be home by 4, homework before play, chores, or bed time.  Children aren’t being taught values such as honesty, hard work, and respect. The result is a hurt, angry, and broken child who eventually becomes rebellious to the point of self-destruction which will eventually spill into the community.

Our children are the most precious commodity we can ever produce.  They don’t come with instructions, but with the wealth of information available at our fingertips today on the internet, parents today can do better.  Here are some common sense tips:

  • Don’t be selfish. Your life is no longer your—it’s the child’s.
  • Teach them their colors and ABC’s while they are still in diapers. They will be better prepared for school.
  • Hang up the party shoes. If you had a child in your teens (like I did), it’s a real bummer but again- it’s not about you  It took me a whole year to learn that one and unfortunately, there’re adults who still haven’t.
  • Give them guidance. Teach them respect.  Nail that and the rest will come easier
  • Give them structure. Bed time—as in a time they need to be in bed (with stories), curfews, and discipline (not abuse!!)
  • If you are the NON-custodial parent and distance is a problem, SPEAK TO YOUR CHILD DAILY. Even if it’s to say “good morning” and “good night, I love you”. Stay connected.
  • Don’t abandon them! They need to see and be with you EVERY DAY.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your extremely bright and gifted child is “mature” and “knows better”.  He/she needs you.

You may not realize it but when you leave your children for days and weeks at a time, you are neglecting their growth and development.  You’ve orphaned them. And that is truly selfish.