Saturday, October 24, 2009

An Open Letter to the NY Times

Dear NY Times,

In the immortal words of Michael and his sister Janet, "you make me want to scream." First you publish an article telling parents that we are not allowed to give our kids time-outs, and your reasoning for this seems to be as follows: because kids don't like them. Okay, fine. I'll let that slide. Maybe you've never been upclose to a misbehaving child before. Or maybe you are unfamiliar with the term "tough noogies". It happens, especially to people who can afford live-in nannies. But then you have the nerve (the nerve!) to publish an article called "For Some Parents, Shouting is the New Spanking," written by one Hilary Stout.

When I first saw the title of Stout's article, I was proud, proud of you, NY Times. I thought you were actually running a mea culpa piece, apologizing for taking away the last weapon in parents' arsenals, leaving us no choice but to become banshees, howling impotently while our ghostly hands flail pathetically, unable to connect with earthly butts. The first paragraph seemed to back this up, as it chronicled Jackie, a child-development-book reading mom who's idea of discipline is saying things like "You're making bad choices." Occasionally, and the end of a long day, Jackie yells things like, "“This is ridiculous! I’ve been doing things all day for you!” And then the Catholic Church decided to canonize her prehomously.

So far so good, Stout goes on to remind us that even dear old Dr. Spock admits that occasional shouting is "inevitable". So it seems that St Jackie is Spock approved. But soon, the tone of the article gets dark. First, she quotes Aviva Pflock (I'm assuming either the "P" or the "F" is silent), the writer of a stupid (I'm also assuming) child-development book that supposedly reduces "mommy guilt" as saying, “What blew us away about that is that the one thing you really have ultimate control over is the tone of your voice.” I have no idea if Pflock has kids, but if she does, I'm sure none of them has ever walked up to her and pinched her boob. Because if they had, she would know that "ultimate" and "control" are words you should not throw around willy-nilly when talking about parenting small children.

But then it gets worse, remember those studies they did to prove that spanking is bad...oh-so bad....bad like Arnold Schwarzenagger as Mr. Freeze bad? Bad as Arnold Schwarzenagger as Governor of California ba-aaaaaaa-d? And now, anyone who spanks their kid is no better than a pedophile or the hamburglar? Well, apparently some over-educated jerk named Murray A. Straus has decided to do a similar study on yelling and says this of yelling, " affects a child. If someone yelled at you at work, you’d find that pretty jarring. We don’t apply that standard to children.” What? Jarred? We can't jar our children? Scar...sure, I understand that...but jar? What's wrong with that? Hey NY Times, maybe the idea of getting yelled at at work wouldn't be quite so jarring if we had been yelled at at home.

This quote made me realize two things, 1. Straus has never worked in a restaurant and 2. That according to you, NY Times, we were not supposed to be impressed with Jackie, we are not even supposed to feel sorry for her, we are supposed to tsk tsk her for the horrible crime of yelling at a child. Uck Ooh, NY Times. The reason we are yelling is because we have nothing left to do. You, NY Times, and your child-development-book writing friends have stripped us of all weapons and armor right before the big cage match. We are left with two choices, pull a Kanobi and bow to Darth Vader's light saber...or scream.

Now we're not allowed to yell at our kids? Really? Well-played NY Times. Well played. I suppose you think you've left us with the Kanobi option, right? Wrong. I used to scream at my daughter. I figured that I would one day just slip it in to our "you're becoming a woman" talk. As in: "And that's why mommy yells at you once a month." But now, I really do have control over the tone of my voice because I have control over my kid. Not total control, of course, my kid would never allow that to happen, but I don't feel like the only one in the Thunderdome without a mace and a motorcycle. That's because I stopped listening to you idiots and started taking control of my own child. Whoa, put down that phone, NY Times. I didn't say spank. No, I don't spank, but I say "No", I give her time outs, I raise my voice, I take away treats, I take away toys, I remind her often that I am the parent and she is the kid. In other words, I parent. It seems weird, right? To use that word as a verb...when according to you, NY Times, we are supposed to do nothing but read all your condescending articles and all the completely useless books and feel guilty.

I have just one more thing to say to you, NY Times, on behalf of every parent that has ever yelled at their kid: Don't just stand there, staring, NY Times! Help us!


Karen said...

This NYT article is complete crap. First it states, with no support whatsoever, that "this generation" yells a lot. Then it cites a study that found 88% of parents yelled at a child within the year. It also quotes someone as saying that the one thing we can control is the tone of our voice -- again, with no factual support provided (if this were true, how would voice-based lie detection work on anyone?). What the article boils down to is, yelling at kids is bad because parents feel guilty about it. BFD.

Devra said...

I hope you'll take a look at Aviva's response to the NYT article. There is always a backstory, and just because we were interviewed for the piece doesn't mean it turned out the way we expected either. As for our book, it's not a child development book and the ideas in the book aren't just ours, we published the stories given to us by our survey respondents. Would you like a copy? We'll send one to you.

Aviva and I are far more in line with Dr. Spock than any of the other experts who were interviewed for that NYT article. In fact I was the one who emailed Hilary Stout the quote from Dr. Spock.

So if,after you've read Aviva's post, you still feel we are full of stupid advice at least you will have read something we've written and won't have to base your opinion on any assumptions.

My dad used expression "tough titty" when I expressed I thought something was "unfair" or I didn't like it. My kids are also very familiar with the expression. You can take the girl out of Brooklyn, but you can't take the Brooklyn outta the girl. Or in this case mom. Discipline methods need to be effective, they do not have to be something our children "like." Totally agree with you on that. : )

babypusher said...

Karen, you're right. The article is just crap. Why am I wasting time on it?

Devra, yes, that clears things up, but but did your kid ever pinch your boob?

mr. lazer dad said...

yeah this article pissed me off too. i mean, sure, yelling is less than ideal but fuck we are only human. and jarring can be a very good thing sometimes, as life is jarring as an adult plenty of time. i just sort of ignored it, but now you have re-opened my old wounds you wordy twat.

it is just more of the over-berkeleyfying of child development.

i myself will never spank my zelda ( the true zelda) but i was spanked on occasion as a kid and i don't really think it hurt me.

i am not sure what these people are trying to achieve: a person who has never been zapped by life, so that when they are an adult they are surprised life zaps them?

anyway i am just sick of everyone telling me how to raise my kid, always with a finger wag and a tsk tsk. fuck you tskers.

Devra said...

Baby Pusher,

I have two kids. I have two boobs. I have been pinched by both on each.