Thursday, September 28, 2006

Thursday Thirteen - Poor Parenting Edition

Thirteen of Jessica's rants about poor parenting
(Warning - this is totally judgmental so if you don't like stuff like that, don't read on).

1. Before I rant about bad parenting, let me say that I am far from a perfect parent. Some of the things I'm going to rant about, I've been guilty of myself. But I'm trying to learn from my mistakes. Some of these parents won't even acknowledge that any of this is their responsibility.

2. Here's a link to a big story in Chicago today. A five-year old girl died after being sedated at the dentist's office. My first thought was - what kind of dentist sedates a child? Apparently, according to my dentist, it's done all the time. Even by the best pediatric dentists. This is because it's hard to do dental work on a squirming child and because they don't want the kids to be afraid to come to the dentist later. Fine. But why in the world are a child's baby teeth in such bad shape that they have cavities to be filled and they need caps?

3. So my rant is this - way too many parents abdicate their responsibility for their kids' dental health. This was a totally preventable death - not because she should have been better monitored while she was under sedation (she should have). But because she should never have been put in the position to need sedation in the first place! There is no reason for a child's teeth to be that bad. My dentist said it happens because parents put their babies to sleep with a bottle of milk. What the f***? Unless you're a street person or illiterate, you KNOW how important dental health is. Every baby care book says you should not let your child sleep with a bottle in her mouth - not only is it bad for the developing baby teeth, it's a choking hazard!

4. Which leads me to my next rant - the childhood obesity epidemic. The FTC is inclined to blame, at least in part, the significant number of advertisements for crap food that are geared to kids. News flash - it's not the ads that are making kids fat! It's the food they are allowed to eat that makes them fat. Parents have to take responsibility for teaching their kids good nutrition and not letting them eat junk all the time just because they want it.

5. My kids watch Spongebob, they see the same ads but they aren't obese. Why? Because we don't let them eat crap every day. They eat good food and learn about good nutrition at HOME so they can make good choices when we're NOT around. At least most of the time. They have desert a few times a week. We let them have candy occasionally. We don't want them bingeing on sugar elsewhere because they never get it at home. In fact, I'm having an easier time controlling my own weight because I'm trying to model good eating habits for the kids. Given the adult obesity epidemic, it wouldn't hurt the parents to eat better, too!

6. We go to McDonalds and other fast food restaurants on occasion. I don't have anything against it in moderation. However, when we go, all four of us split one medium order of fries. (Credit goes to my husband for that - given my absolute love of McDonalds fries, I wouldn't have been the one to suggest it!) Our kids get chocolate milk (usually - sometimes low sugar lemonade) and we never get soda. We never, ever supersize anything. It really makes me mad when I see children - CHILDREN - eating a supersize meal. Or walking around drinking a Big Gulp of soda. There is really no reason for that.

7. While we're on the subject of food - allowing your child to bring sugar to school for a mid-morning snack is not a smart choice. A sugar coated granola bar is NOT a healthy snack. Neither is a bag of potato chips. Same thing for M&Ms. Really. Not healthy. Every year the teachers beg the parents to give their kids healthy snacks - do these parents seriously not understand what that means?

8. Also, allowing kids to eat sugar cereal every morning is not good. Our kids get cereal maybe once a week. (Although - truth be told - if it weren't for my husband making a good breakfast virtually every morning, I would probably give them cereal way too often). Kids need a good breakfast. Too many adults don't eat breakfast and then they say "My kid isn't a breakfast eater." Gee, I wonder why. Moreover, kids need some protein in the morning to keep their energy level constant until lunch. Sugar (cereal, donuts, sweet rolls and juice) in the morning will give them a burst of energy for an hour and then they get the “sugar bounce” resulting in a loss of energy and ability to concentrate. How many studies need to be done that show that kids who eat a good breakfast perform better in school to get parents to understand the importance of this issue?

9. On to another rant - I've talked about this before but it really bothers me when parents take no responsibility to teach their children appropriate behavior. I realize that five year old boys can't be expected to sit still all day. I know that they - and many girls, as well - like to run around and might play rough sometimes. However, if you allow your child to hurt another child without correcting your child, you are abdicating your responsibility. I've controlled myself in the past but if I ever hear another mother justify her son's bad behavior by saying "boys will be boys", I will have to bitch slap her

10. Similarly, it drives me nuts when parents don't teach their kids to apologize. Kids who don't learn to apologize grow up to be adults who don't know how to apologize.

11. Basically, I have a hard time with parents who don't take responsibility for teaching their children. This applies to everything from being able to respond when someone says hello to them (even a child as young as three or four is capable of saying "Hello") to putting on their own clothes to eating well. These are learned skills. Although most schools have a unit or two in nutrition it isn't the school's responsibility to maintain your child's health. And the schools can only do so much to teach kids proper behavior. If the lessons aren't being reinforced at home, they won't be learned. Bottom line - parents are responsible for teaching their children, no matter how hard it is. Ultimately, we all pay for the poor health of other people and their children. Our insurance premiums and health care costs go up. Productivity goes down. It isn't just a personal issue - it's a societal issue.

12. Let me say again that I'm not the best parent in the world. I credit my husband with teaching me to be a good parent. Actually, more than a good parent - an effective parent. It isn't enough to love your kids. That, for most of us, comes naturally. It's the other stuff that isn't easy - denying them dessert despite the begging, telling them that no, they can't have Spongebob marshmallow cereal every day for breakfast. Disciplining them when they behave badly even though - gasp! - it means they won't get to watch TV for a week. (Try that one as a punishment - it's surprisingly effective AND it's good for them.)

13. One of our favorite quotes is from the movie Parenthood. "You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car - hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any butt-reaming asshole be a father." I know as well as anyone that babies don't come with an instruction manual. We all have to do the best we can, sometimes on little sleep, sometimes with not enough money or other resources. But there's not one thing I've mentioned in this post that isn't obvious - either from reading the most basic baby care book or the newspaper or just from having common sense.

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Just Expressing Myself said...

Lucky you - great kids and husband.
I'm looking forward to visiting you again!
Waving at you from New York,

jen said...

really liked your 13. i know i struggle w/ the best ways to provide for my child, that balance health as well as possible...and there are so many schools of thought, it's hard to know what is right so you trust yourself, and sometimes the women in the blog world.

Anonymous said...

Be careful about judgement on the dentist daughter had to have her two front teeth pulled at four years old because, being the active child she is, she had traumatized them twice with the result being abcesses that might have spread to her jaw if they were not pulled out. And you bet she had anesthesia for that procedure! I think she also had light anesthesia for sealing her molars, which was done to prevent future cavities. Sometimes taking care of dental health involves some pain and it isn't always preventable.

Dayngr said...

That was quite an informative 13! Good job momma!

Sandra said...

That is so sad about the child dying at the dentist's office. Many years ago, I read an article about incidents such as that one, and it convinced me to never allow my child to be sedated outside of a hospital. Those small offices and storefront places are simply not equipped to deal with an emergency, such as respiratory arrest or severe allergic reactions that sometimes (rarely!) occur with anesthesia. What a sad story. I definitely blame the dentist, though, not the mother!

Kristen said...

Argh, I HATE the "boys will be boys" or "kids will be kids" excuse for bad behavior. That infuriates me, and believe me, my kids test the limits all the time. (You probably have pickedup on that by now from my posts...hahaha!!)

And the whole eating thing. Man. My sister-in-law lets her kids have candy, dessert, soda, etc. all the time. Those things just are not staples around here, and I love the fact that my kids still consider candy a "treat" and not something that is part of their daily repetoire. And soda isn't even an option for them - they've never had it, they don't ask for it. They drink milk, juice or water. We suck as parents in so many other ways, but we really try hard with the nutrition, esp. since our kids are picky and we have concerns over what calories they DO take in.

Jessica said...

Anonymous - I wasn't saying that anesthesia was never necessary for children or for dental procedures. In your situation, your daughter had an accident that caused damage - it happens, and you do what you have to do knowing the risks. But in this situation, the girl had cavities - so many that she had to have some of her teeth capped. THAT is totally preventable. That happened because someone - her parents or other caregivers - were not taking her dental health seriously.

Sandra - I don't blame the mother for the problems her daughter had with anesthesia. That was a horrible thing that happened either because of bad luck or bad monitoring. But who's to blame if a child's baby teeth are so rotted that they need to have cavities filled in SIX TEETH (or more)? It's not the dentist's fault and it isn't the baby's fault.

People are so quick to blame circumstances beyond their control when something bad happens. But the reality is that sometimes, there are things that are within our control. We just need to be strong enough to make the right choices when it counts.

That Girl said...

Jessica, although Im sure in many cases having a lot of cavaties is due to neglecting a child's health I also wanted to let you know (since Im sure you didnt) that children who receive a lot of medication also get a lot of cavaties.
Although many parents of children with disabilities try very hard (rinsing their child's mouth out right away, etc.) the sad fact is that most parents are not aware that medication can harm their child's teeth - before they even come out!
Most dentists wont even see children until they are 2 or 3 by which time children who receive medication daily already have a few cavaties.
Im not saying that this was the case in Chicago or even in a lot of cases but it's something few people seem to know. There is one reason for children to have cavaties.

Anonymous said...

wow, I followed the links from paper napkin and I find this post very judgemental. I send my children to school with food they like-whether it's grapes or oreos. It comes down to them eating something, rather than nothing. My niece and nephew had tons of cavities at early ages because porous teeth ran in their family, not because they had bottles in the cribs, and frankly, you can teach your children manners until the cows come home, but take them out of a comfortable situation and sometimes they might forget a few things. Parenting isn't about being perfect nor is it about judging other parents for how they raise their own children. Maybe you should spend less time evaluating everyone else's jobs and stick to just doing the best job that you can. That's all we really can do. Besides, never assume that just because a child brings the oreos every single day for snack time that that's the only type of thing that child eats. Criticism is a slippery slope and someday you might find you didn't know as much as you thought you did.

Jessica said...

Anonymous - I warned people at the beginning of the post that it's very judgmental. I was in that kind of mood that day. I also understand that there are circumstances beyond our control (i.e. bad teeth running in the family or an accident causing the need for dental work) that might lead to a child needing anesthesia. But I wasn't referring to parents in that situation. I was referring to parents that are negligent with their childrens' dental health.

Same thing with the food - you're right that maybe the kids who bring Oreos to school everyday are eating healthy food all the other times. But seriously, I doubt it.

In my humble opinion, it isn't a matter of eating "something" (unhealthy) rather than eating nothing. If they're hungry and all you've given them is healthy food, they'll eat it. If they know it bugs you when they don't eat and that you'll give into them and let them eat junk rather than letting them go hungry - they've played you. They'll get what they want because they know what buttons to push.

It won't kill kids to go without a snack if they refuse to eat something healthy. The next time, they'll know that they either go hungry or they eat the snack you give them. It's a pretty simple equation most of the time.

Also, you're right - when kids are out of their comfort zone, they might forget their manners. But do you remind them? Do you correct their behavior and insist that they apologize if they've been rude to someone? I'm not saying my kids never make mistakes. I'm saying that when they do, we correct them and help them learn. That's what parenting is all about.

Anonymous said...

It is true that they sedate kids in order to put caps and fix cavities. I do understand that you said this would judgemental be, but I have to tell you I am a mother of four. They are ages 9, 5, 3, and 3. My oldest three don't have any cavivites and have never had a cavitiy. My youngest twin however was told that he has four cavities. I of course cried because I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong when he brushes twice a day and he goes to the dentist every 6 months. I was told that he has sensitive teeth so the things that other children might be able to eat he can't. So not ever parent who has a child with caps or cavities is just giving their child sugar and soda. My children eat sugar free ice cream and candy and I don't like for them to drink soda at all. Just to let you know that their are other reasons out there for children to have dental problems other than the fact that their parents are allowing them to splurge on sugar.

Anonymous said...

*would be judgemental