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Yeah, just wait until you start reading Roald Dahl. In fact, it is an almost certain aspect of children's literature that the protagonist will in some way be shed of his parents (orphaned/lost/abandoned) and need to complete his journey alone or with a peer group. There aren't a whole lot of stories about a nuclear family sticking through adversity (Swiss Family Robinson and Little House come to mind; both very wholesome).

We have lots of living examples in our (family, acquaintance) lives of a 180degree different parenting style; and kids at preschool who talk about spankings; and not to mention what is prevalent in children's books and movies; and my own unwillingness to visit with my parents due to their decidedly non-GD childrearing practices.

We usually say that some people parent this way, but we don't believe in that in our family - in our family we have rules that not everybody else will have, such as not hitting or yelling or saying things in rude voices. We ask her - Why do you think parents do that? Is it just because they're mean people, or because it was done to them? How do children learn to hit and lie? We're vegetarians, nonsmokers, organic eaters as well, so we explain it along those lines - our family is different in a lot of ways, and these are the rules for our family, although you are free to choose differently when you're older. I try really hard not to be judgemental about the yelling/verbal cruelty that we see go on, but my daughter has perfected cutting a look at me that says, "will you just LOOK at that" and has specifically asked not to go to playdates at schoolfriends' houses where spankings happen. My DD is five - we started talking about rules for our family vs. other families when she was around four.

DD loves James and the Giant Peach and all of these horrid movies with horrid parents/stepparents/evil aunts; so I think there's something about exorcising that anger that probably ALL children have with their parents (no matter how AP) from time to time; and a certain sense of relief that those aren't YOUR parents at least. How many adults read sad/suspenseful books with protagonists with messed-up lives - Tom Perotta's Little Children for example -and why? It's interesting! It's a bit boring if in the book, everyone is happy and never has evil aunts who make you do all the housework.
 

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I think the tricky thing is though, is that my daughter (and many children) will know by themselves that hitting, yelling, etc is wrong in those families without me saying explicitly, "look at how mean X is to her kids, yelling at them like that." I probably communicate some sadness through my voice though, when I point out not all families are like ours and ask the questions about why...It's a huge lesson - to me - in the power of modelling.

In our family, pointing out the weaknesses of others would be fighting words -we have too many people who don't parent as we do in our life, and if I said things explicitly (poor kids) then they would come back to visit me at Thanksgiving, where all things said by parents come back to haunt through the innocent mouths of children. And not that I haven't tried plying those parents with lots of GD books and been rebuffed.

I've been really proud of my daughter, who comes home from preschool and says, "Did you know Jamie's mommy spanks her? I told her that's against the rules at my house, no hitting allowed. I told her I thought that was sad and my mommy is nicest." Ha! Apparently Jamie went back home and told her mom, because the mom (nice, middle-class, very proper) seemed extremely nervous around me after that, and made a show of how nice she was to her daughter. But the children reveal...
 
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