Originally Posted by Lillian J
When I look back and think about what I might have done differently as a parent (which, fortunately, isn't something I indulge in often), the changes I'd make would be to be less controlling about small things like this rather than more controlling. In retrospect, I worried about little things that were pretty unimportant, but I had no way of realizing it at the time. Hindsight tends to be a lot more 20/20 in nature. - Lillian
I think there are some assumptions here, though, Lillian--that this is being controlling and that these are unimportant things. That might have been true for your family, but it's not necessarily true for all. And, I say this as one of your biggest fans.
I have learned more from your postings about homeschooling/unschooling than I can recall!
Controlling has negative connotations. But, this is where I have serious issues with a radical unschooling perspective. If something is simply not a part of my lifestyle, I don't see it as something I am controlling. It's just called living my life. In this sense, vegetarians are controlling too.
Fundamentally, I am frustrated and angry (to be honest) that just because something is so pervasive in modern society that if my family chooses to not participate in it, we are seen as controlling (at best) and completely freakish weirdos (at worst).
I am seriously appalled by society's obsession with television, commercial characters, movies. My academic training is in neuroscience, particularly child development. I was working on my PhD when I left grad school in the early 90s. There is absolutely no anecdotal story that a parent could possibly share with me that would encourage me to expose my
particular child to screen time.
Programs like Sesame Street, for example, were originally intended for select demographics who were shown (statistically, qualitatively, etc.) to have significantly lower parental involvement. These groups of children didn't benefit from parents who read to them, who directly involved them in play. Many of these families simply didn't have the luxury of time to do these things--they work too many hours/jobs. Others simply didn't know they were supposed to be doing these things. In these very select cases, there are benefits for children to watch shows like Sesame Street (in its original inception, not since the marketing weasels have infiltrated it...). They were getting exposure to language, social skills, etc. that they were not getting any where else. They were never meant to replace direct parental/adult interaction. They were meant to fill a void.
The problem, though, is that these programs have vastly overflowed their intended use. Marketing folks have long since played on the emotions of parents, telling us that we need to let the kids watch programs for fear of them falling behind. They've convinced most of our society that they have created educational programming and toys to accompany them. Even worse, is that the kids who need the most help are getting the least now because marketing convinces parents that they need to buy these expensive "educational" toys that then require parents to work even more to fund them, taking away even more direct parental involvement.
All they have really managed to do is replace huge chunks of what should have been direct interaction with the real world, with passive, screen-based drivel. The human brain requires that children directly manipulate their world. Watching something is simply not the same as working through it in the real world.
However, this is why I am personally struggling with non fiction programming for older children. (Brains of older children are different so this is why I am specifying older...I'm still not 100% convinced of what that magic age is for "older" though.... so that's my own personal struggle). Anyway, in my mind, they target the original intent of educational programming. They are supplementing something I cannot otherwise provide. For example, my daughter loves flamenco dancing; she has ever since she saw a performance last year. I cannot find her a class locally. I am not a dancer. We can read about it, but reading about dancing is difficult. So, I recently found a DVD about flamenco for kids. I ordered it, but I'm going to screen it before sharing it with her to see what I think. This is a big deal for me; it's the first DVD I've ever bought for her, and I honestly have no idea how it's going to work out. But, it's a very specific example of where I do see a possible
Everything else is just fluff, which is perfectly fine. I have no problem with my daughter having fluff in her life. We've got plenty of fluff books and toys. But, at the age of 5, I see absolutely no motivating reason to plop her down in front of a screen to ingest this fluff. She has decades of her life ahead of her in which society will do everything possible to jam it down her throat.
Yea, it's fun and exciting to see some book you love on the big screen. But, how many based-on-a-book movies have you seen that have ever lived up to your expectations? I can probably count on one hand. I am always disappointed--sometimes to the point of changing my opinion about a book. It took me years to figure out why--it's because someone else has, essentially, violated my imagination. I get so much more enjoyment out of imagining these worlds that it's a bit of a watching a disaster to unfold to see what other people do with these words.
As she has gotten older, we have even been willing to explore some older fiction movies with her, and she always asks if they are scary at all. Let me tell you--for an extremely sensitive child who also happens to be adopted and gifted (the latter being important only because of the types of questions and concerns her advanced understanding leads to), Disney story lines are absolutely terrifying. Why is everyone's mother dead? It might be fine for kids who haven't had to deal with these real issues in real life, but it's simply not entertaining for her. She simply has no interest in them. She would much rather sit and read a book with us.
To be honest, my DD doesn't like fiction. She has never liked fictional books, unless they are based on real-life (like adoption books). We cannot read any books that have any sad parts in them at all--if they are fiction. She can handle absolutely any non-fiction topic. She can handle the implications of eating animals, even learning where food comes from. But, she cannot handle a sad story about animals.
If I recall the plot from Wind in the Willows, just to use your example, there are some scary parts to it. Trust me, I know that most fictional stories have conflict/climax--that's what makes them good stories. I have explained this to her many, many times. I have even told her that sometimes I read the endings of books first to make sure I like how things work out, but she simply will not or cannot get beyond the sad, conflicting parts.
We have a very open dialogue with her on these topics. She asks us to tell her about the stories, and we do. She always opts out of anything she determines is scary.
So, if this is being controlling, then so be it. I consider it child-led, gentle parenting for a sensitive and smart young girl.