Children and Parents as Adversaries
by Sandra Dodd except where otherwise noted

Lee Roversi wrote at UnschoolingDiscussion:
Sandra said in a recent posting:
School both methodically and inadvertently creates a rift between children and parents.
I'd like to point out that dynamic is so prevalent, not only in school situations - take note of many of the television shows in which the children are pitted against the parents (us vs. them) and the younger siblings are always annoying. My children and I have had many discussions about this. . . it is how it is perceived and accepted to be.

So many cultural norms are consistently debunked by the kind of parenting we are advocating. I have a letter I am about to fire off to Toyota. Did anyone see the ad on the back cover of the latest National Geographic? It is a photo of a young man standing in the midst of his few possessions in front of a college dorm with the banner over the dorm entrance saying "Welcome Freshmen." There is a Toyota Highlander parked there also. The ad reads: "5:15PM. Dropping the kid off at college. 5:17PM. What kid?. . .Highlander For Your Newfound Freedom." I found the ad repugnant for its inferences of people being so relieved to have a child out of their hair so that they could cruise in their groovy SUV while quickly 'forgetting' that child exists. But, my guess is that most people would not even relate to my distaste of that, and even could relate far better to the ad itself. Sad.


I didn't see that ad, but the one that always gets to me (and I haven't seen it yet this back to school season, but we have been extraordinarily busy as of late with my oldest being in the hospital) is the one for one of those office supply stores (Staples or Office Max I think) where the dad is dancing down the aisle, throwing school supplies into his cart, looking tauntingly at his children, and the tune "it's the most wonderful time of the year" is playing...that commerical just irks me beyond belief.

Maybe I shouldn't be so miffed about the dumb commerical...after all my kids are REJOICING that the rest of the kids return to school in less than two weeks, it means we get the museums, parks, swimming pools all to ourselves once again!


A cingular wireless phone commercial I saw recently that really disturbed me.

Why is it even necessary for them to create a commercial like this (Mom and daughter yelling at each other)? I don't understand in anyway how this would make me want to buy one of their phones???? And Adrants is claiming cell phone commercials are getting better? (referencing another commercial where the girl is a speedtalking cheerleader) I've always liked the old Hallmark family commercials that make you cry, myself.


The sad thing is that it justifies the feelings of any parent who's dismissing her own part in such negativity with the idea that it's natural and inevitable to be at odds with teens.


It's the ultimate case of "everybody's doing it."

I've never thought of it this way, but the whole WHOLE HUGE parenting bunch of bunk is nothing more than "everyone's doing it."

I grounded my kid.
Do you feel bad?
Everybody does it.

I threw my kid out when he turned 18.
Are you sorry?
Everyone's doing it.


When I've been struggling to be patient with Eric, 5, and try to talk to other moms about times when I've lost my temper or yelled, this is the Number 1 response I get: "It's OK, that happens to everybody." I always say, "Just because it happens to almost everybody doesn't make it OK." That's why I like bringing those kinds of problems to unschoolers when I'm having them: I do hear back, "First, you need to forgive yourself and stop beating yourself up about it." And then I get a whole range of ideas about how to shift my thinking, adjust my actions, change my view of Eric, re-arrange my house and my time, so that it doesn't happen again. Nobody just says, "It's OK."



The post from which Lee quoted was in response to something about a schooled kid not wanting to hang out with his dad:
"The kid came to the conclusion that he thinks the class will be more fun because it is done with peers instead of his dad."
I had responded:
School both methodically and inadvertently creates a rift between children and parents. Partly it's on purpose, so the five and six year olds will "be independent." Partly I think it's because children don't understand why parents would abandon them that way and take the school's side, and so they grow calluses there so they aren't hurt so easily anymore.

It's not just school that does that, though. Mothers are given bad advice from all sides about letting babies cry it out, not letting babies "manipulate them," and many other things that create an "us vs. them" situation from birth, or earlier. Cynicism and negativity create a pretty dirty nest to bring a baby into.

There are traditional messages we speak without consciously thinking about what we're saying or what we actually think. Like the punchline to a mean joke, or a playground come-back (something my kids knew nothing about when they were little), people just SAY these hurtful things.

There are assurances people utter, and that parents will even write and put in public about their own children, about which they have not thought clearly, if at all. I have collected many, and while some are amusing, many are heartbreaking. Most begin "If I let him, he will..." and then go on to state something that is just as false as it is ridiculous and mean.

Flowing and open
When parents and children can be partners rather than adversaries, communications will be flowing and open.

In families with punishments, criticism and shaming, children sometimes avoid the parents in social situations, and they will hesitate to share secrets or problems with their parents.
photo by Sandra Dodd, of an irrigation ditch in Los Luceros, near Alcalde

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