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Have We Created a "Child-Centric" Culture?
Have we created a "Child-Centric" culture? Children have rights and in some states may even turn in their parents if they are not scolded according to their expectations. Parenting is the hardest job you will ever love. In our pursuit to be the perfect parents, have we thrown out all common sense practices that worked for our parents and grandparents? Have we bought into the "psycho bable" of so called child psychologists, T.V. counselors and other gurus the media has thrust into our faces? Have we become so unsure of our own innate abilities to raise our young? We find an author that meets our fears head on with catchy phrases and we blindly follow their advice?
You become an adult the day you are able to accept the consequenses for your actions and not blame adult figures in your life. There are many criminals in our prisions , today, who have never reached adulthood and probably never will. But this group of citizens are the extreme not the majority.
An infant believes he/she is the center of her parents world. This is correct. Because in the beginning , every need is met by the parents. Food, drink, physical comfort, clothing and emotional and social interaction are the responsibility of the parents 24 hours a day. Ask any new father if there is time off for sleep and you know the response. We've all been there. We enjoy this demanding role and should because of the bond we feel to the little one.
However, in every infants life, a time fastly approaches, when the wants of the child must be met, as well. An infant's need for sleep must be met . A parent needs to keep their child safe and also engage the child in learning. To accomplish these goals, discipline must be taught with huge doses of patience. Some infants will fight the parent to skip a nap or not to be potty-trained. The parent must teach the child that their wants will not prevail. Eventually, the child learns that the parent knows best and will cooperate on a daily basis. Thus a routine is established and a certain harmony exists for both parent and child. The parent has learned to "go against" the self-centered wishes of the child to allow the child to be healthy and safe.
What happens when the child wins "these battles" and rules the home? A child who takes a tantrum is completely out of personal control. Crying, flailing of the arms, legs , kicking and hitting and screaming are undesirable behaviors. A parent cannot communicate with the child and will accomplish nothing by trying. No parent wants to condone this behavior and feels awful watching this, as well.
Other behaviors a responsible parent does not want to see are : defiance, extreme selfishness and the lack of ability to get along with others. It has been said that man's greatest need is to be appreciated. Even though such popular songs as "I am a Rock" prevail in our culture - we all know that choice is very unfulfilling.
Have we as a society given up on our innate ability to raise our young? Have we transferred this responsibility to authors, counselsors on T.V. and pop culture celebrities?
One example that comes to mind is Dr. Spock. A renown author, pediatrician was the first to study psychoanlysis and apply this to the needs of the child and family dynamics.
He influenced parents to be more affectionate with their children. He believed a newborn could never get enough attention. He frowned on allowing a child to cry it out. Some believed he ushered in an age of permissiveness and the concept of immediate gratification instead of self-discipline and the denial of selfish "wants".
In 1940, Spock supported circumcision of males performed a few days after birth. However, by l989 in an article for Redbook, he stated that "circumcision of males is traumatic, painful and of questionable value." For this stance he received the first Human Rights Award from the International Symposium on Circumcision (ISC) in l991. Without getting into a full blown debate on this subject, many factors have to be weighed by the newborn parents when reaching a decision on this topic. Religious beliefs, and ongoing health issues ( even the spread of certain STD's ) should be taken into account. This is a multi-faceted decision not to be taken lightly.
Dr. Spock taught not to place the child on their back when sleeping, for fear of blockage of the airways due to choking or vomitus. This belief was widely spread and practiced by health care professionals until the l990's . Later , after years of studies on Sudden Death Syndrome, empirical evidence showed there was a significantly increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome for babies who slept on their abdomens. Possibly 50,000 infant deaths could have been avoided in Europe, Australia, and America if this advice had been changed by l970.
Did the readers of Dr.Spock's books take some of his findings and misinterpet them to meet their own needs? To help us better understand his philosophy here are a few of his statements. " I didn't want to encourage permissiveness, but rather to relax rigidity." His own children were raised strictly. He valued consideration and politeness. He hoped to give children confidence in their own judgements. He did not want young adults to feel intimidated by authority as he did. He wanted them to believe in their views and to stand up to authority. These are all admirable qualities .
Some times people connected his political views to his teachings on child rearing. This is not a fair way to access his teachings, either. He also, lost a grandson to sucide but that 22 year old suffered from schizophrenia for a long time. Not a conditon anyone can control.
At the end of his career, after living with the results of some of his teachings ; he was "man-enough" to state that he was wrong about certain principles. He issued an apology and wrote many, many columns trying to undo some of the damage he had done.
I found that behavior to be breath-takingly honest. I also believe, he did alot of good.
When God gives you a child, he is blessing you and telling you he believes in you and trusts you to create a human masterpiece for him. I told my adopted son this when we first looked at his newborn son. I also believe, what we do with our lives is our gift back to God. Let's all choose wisely and meet our responsibilities head on to create the most beautiful , spiritual and giving human being we can .
Some books by Dr. Benjamin Spock
Baby and Child Care ( l946, with revisions up to eighth edition, ( 2004 )
A Teenager's Guide to Life & Love ( 1970 )
Raising Children in a Difficult Time ( 1974 )
Spock on Parenting ( 1988 )
Spock on Spock : A Memoir of Growing Up with the Century ( l989 )
A Better World For Our Children (1994 )
A note: I hope to visit other authors, psychologists and some television gurus and explore some of their teachings. The decline of parents following their own innate abilities to raise their children has helped to create a very superficial , me first group of young people.
Recently, at St.Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia a conference was held about the recent changes in parenting recommendations and the recent advice about the safety and recall of certain cribs and some infant clothing. Ellen Tyrala was a featured speaker. Tyrala is the national medical director of the Cribs for Kids program, which was started in Allegheny County in 1998. This group now has 280 partner organizations nationwide. Since the 1980s , doctors have dramatically changed their advice on unexplained deaths, including those attributed to sudden infant death syndrome.
At first these deaths were treated as mysterious until a vast majority of the deaths that used to be called SIDS were caused by suffocation or asphyxiation.Tyrala says good data show the magnitude of various risks:
* "An infant placed on soft bedding, such as an adult mattress, faces a fivefold increase of sudden unexpected infant death, the official category that now includes SIDS."
* " An infant placed on its stomach faces a 2 1/2 -fold increase in death risk, placed on its stomach on soft bedding, it faces a 21-fold increase. "
* " An infant co-sleeping with adults faces a 40-fold increase in death risk."
She has written an initiative to get the Pennsylvania legislature to require hospitals to do what St. Christopher's already does: Teach safe sleep practices to all newborns' parents. House bill 47 has passed unanimously by the House but is currently stalled in the Senate. This is very frustrating after a four year battle. The City of Philadelphia recorded 14 accidental sleep-related deaths last year, and 11 in the first half of this year, says Dr. Roy Hoffman of the City Health Department.
Adapted from Jeff Gelles article in The Philadelphia Inquirer
This is a poem that best describes how I feel about raising children. I have seen this printed on cards, book marks , etc. but I have never seen the name of the author . I believe it is anonymous.
Y O U R C H I L D R E N
Your children are not yours
But they are the children of life
Always willful in its own ends.
They don't live from you
But through you, and although
They may be with you ...
You don't own them,
You may give them your love
But not your thinking,
Because they will always have
Their own thoughts.
You may shelter their bodies
But not their souls, because
they belong in the world of tommorrow
That you can not reach
Even in dreams.
You may make an effort to be like them,
But never try to make them be like you.
Because the will of life never retreats
Nor is it ever detained by yesterday.
You are the bow from which
Your children like arrows
Are projected forward ....
Therefore, allow the inclinaton
Of your loving hand as the Archer
To mark the sure way
Toward their happiness ....