Are You a

Stupid Parent?

I seriously think a lot of noisy parents should be dope-slapped.

Cartoons Kick Ass! Last week, I read an article in Newsweek about parents being "concerned" about the show South Park. Schools are telling parents that this cartoon is violent, sick, and not for children. Well, DUH! Has it gotten this bad? Do we have to be so into our own world that we have to have other people tell us what is offensive or not? I have a son. He's going on eight, and he goes to bed at 8:00pm. South Park shows itself at 10:00pm, on a school night, has a massive warning on it, and is rated MA for mature audiences only. How many warnings do these parents need?

And now they want a V-chip. Listen, a V-chip is a useless, pointless excuse for not watching your children. People say that children are disrespectful, violent, and have no values. While on the whole, I disagree with that (mostly because EVERY generation has said that), I want to ask whose fault is it really if your 11 year old kid mows down other kids in his school with live ammunition because his girlfriend left him? Who instills the values in a child that sometimes things don't go your way, and that killing is wrong? Huh? The friggin' parents, that's who!

I'd be a liar on this web page if I didn't say my son has seen R-rated movies, and had his share of TV sex and violence. But you know what? My son doesn't watch TV alone. He watches it with his parents. We control what he watches because we know him, what he can handle, and we discuss what's going on. TV does play a major part of our recreational time, mostly because we can't afford anything else (time and money-wise). My son loves educational TV like "Bill Nye the Science Guy," "Arthur," "Magic School Bus," and a lot of animal programs on Discovery and Animal Planet. We also watch "Rocko's Modern Life," "Doug," "Rugrats," and other shows on Nickelodeon. And sometimes, we watch really crappy cartoons on the Cartoon Network like Thundercats or any action cartoon Hanna Barbera made from 1965-1985. We make fun of them together, investigate plot holes and poor writing. We even try to guess what will happen next, and sadly, are often right. My wife loves "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Dharma and Gregg," and "The Drew Carey Show." I like "Real TV," "Gardening by the Yard," and a lot of stuff on Discovery, HGTV, and Comedy Central. TV is not his mentor. It is an aide for the whole family to let us see things we might not get to see otherwise. It is a catalyst for discussion.

The way I figure it, most parents just plop their kids in front of the boob tube, and ignore them. Well, not my family. My son is part of my family. While most parents will agree that their children are, too, what part do they play? Our son is more than someone I just take care of. He's not some sort of pet that we have to clean up and chase after. He's a living, breathing, thinking, and creative individual with his own ideas, thoughts, and problems. OUR idea of parenting is a hands-on approach. We teach our son reality in a matter-of fact way, using words he understands, and we encourage discussion and debate (when appropriate). Sure, we have disciplinary issues that come up, but we explain why one must go to bed, why that topic is not up for discussion, and that we love him. CR is one third of our family. Without him, my wife and I are just a couple. CR's considerations have to be discussed in everything our family does. We also don't HIDE anything from him. We don't deny his feelings as "silly" or "manipulative." We teach him skills of self-coping, positive self-image, and the effect of consequences. CR is not a burden to us, he is a valuable part of our family unit. Maybe if other parents felt the same way, they wouldn't just plop them in front of the TV to baby-sit them and "get them out of their hair."

Blah blah blah... diarrhea of the mouth with constipation of the ideas I have heard all kinds of debates. "TV is addictive, void of education, and a wasteland." I don't disagree with that. But I recognize TV not for what it ISN'T, but what it IS. It is an entertainment medium. That's it. It never was anything else. They have no obligation to teach anything. You never hear that Broadway isn't educational, or that our National Parks need more government regulation ("What if my son sees two squirrels mating? We can't have that sort of smut available to just anyone, can we?"). Their only obligation is to sell advertising revenue so they can make money. The American Way. I have no quarrels with that. If I don't like what's on TV, I don't watch it! I hate "Married with Children." I don't like Howard Stern's show. I really hate sports. But I believe they have a right to be on the air, just as shows that I watch have that right. I have something more powerful than the V-chip, more powerful that a Government censor. I have an individuality and an "off" button. And if I think my son should not be watching something, I turn it. Why aren't more parents using this silent and strong voting power?

I watch South Park. I like South Park. One episode that comes to mind right now is when Kyle's mother was so offended by a cartoon on TV, she rallied all the parents together to protest in front of the station. And since the parents were off protesting, the kids were left alone to defend for themselves, and were being chased by the Grim Reaper himself. Now, while I think symbolism is a lot of self-interpretation, I think this illustrates that while we are out minding somebody else's business, something else is minding ours, and that is not a good thing.

Poultry Poop "We can't control our children all the time," I hear. "I can't be there with him all the time while he's in his room with the TV on. We're two working parents that have a lot of busy things to do!" Your children have their own TV? Or you sit them alone in a rec room with one? Why in the world did you do that if you are so upset by what he's watching? Are you stupid? I'd say that leaving your child alone with the TV is almost as bad as letting them play in a toxic dumpsite. I hear this about porn on the Internet, too. "They should impose a rating system so my kid can't see nudity." What in the HELL is your child doing alone on the Internet? I would only feel comfortable with that once I was comfortable with my son being able to handle and judge what he sees as good or bad. The best quote I heard was made over some newsgroup years ago, where someone said, "I look at the Internet as I look at downtown Houston. There are all kinds of places to explore, resources to learn, and there is something for everybody. I honestly believe that 99% of the citizens of Houston are decent people. Yet I would never let my 12 year old run around by himself in downtown Houston." If you are too busy to be with your chilren, either change your lifestyle or don't have children. Too late? It's never too late. You can involve your child in the cooking of meals, and I don't mean just making them do the dishes, but working with you, doing what you do. Teach them. Talk to them. Learn from them.

On this side-note, I just want to say the only reason kids want to see naked people is because they are curious, and YOU WON'T TALK TO THEM ABOUT IT. And if you won't, someone else will. Same with drugs and sex. Think your child won't encounter these things on his own? Guess again. And don't give me that BS about "these troubled times." When I was young in the 1970's, there was this kid who had the porn magazines, and we all looked at them. The difference was my mother had no qualms about sex education. When I asked, I got frank, honest answers, and if she didn't know, she said so and we went to the library to find out. My son hears stuff on the school bus all the time. Some disturbed kid named Lucas talks about graphic sex and violence quite frequently, with a strong emphasis on homophobic remarks. I can't control what Lucas says and does. But I can tell my child what it means, guesses as to why Lucas does these things, and how to avoid this kid's taunts and psychological games. If your child came to you and said, "Why would a man suck on another man's penis?" how would you react? I'll tell you now, forcing shame and horror on your child will do nothing for your relationship, especially when your child asks what he considers an innocent question. Further on down the road, when your child is confronted with a situation that he or she thinks will elicit that response again, they won't ask. And since you didn't teach them anything about it, they will have to depend on what others tell them who may not have their best interests at heart. That's why girls hear, "You can't get pregnant the first few times you have sex. So if you really loved me, you will let me screw your brains out, and not ask me to wear a condom." Or the familiar, "Just one drink won't kill you. Come on, don't be a dweeb." I also have heard this gem, "I am waiting until my kid is x years old before I tell him about sex and drugs." Ooo-hoh-hoh-ho, drug dealers and other child predators love you for saying that! This is why young kids go into stranger's vans, "experiment" with chemicals, and get pregnant at 13. Marijuana has no age limit printed on it, and if there was, it wouldn't stop them from smoking it UNLESS you, as a parent, had told them how to identify and avoid it. Don't wait for some bureaucratic school system to finally get approval from some very old and out-of-touch geezers, tell them now! I don't care if your child is five, explain it in five-year-old terms. Tell them before some sick wacko tells them to "lick this candy" or some body part. TV won't do it, the school won't do it, that is YOUR responsibility.

Don't just agree, do something! Parenting is not a job, a task, or a burden. It is a lifestyle, a belief system, and a chance at re-defining the world. Sure it's hard. There are those days when your child has put Cheez-Its in the Vick's Vapo-rub, put oatmeal in the VCR, or started a fight with some other kid a block away. Some days your child will disagree with anything you say and some days he or she will seem to be into everything. You will make mistakes and have regrets. Nobody is perfect, and expecting parental perfection is ludicrous and damaging. But remember that there are good days, too. And you'll miss those when you plop them in front of the TV all the time. Understand that together you and your child can go into this world, achieve wonderful things, and let it be a learning experience for you both. You have something TV will never give, interactive caring and love.

Use it.

Children are fun, wonderful people
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