Advice About Parenting Advice

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Below are some tips sent to me because, as a mommy blogger, I am assumed to be constantly looking for some expert to tell clueless, flummoxed me how to talk to my kids about __________.

Fill in the blank. Something awful. It could be ticks, cancer, earthquakes or, God help us, the election. Today (somewhat belatedly, no?) I got an email with advice from a psychologist on “How to Approach Mass Shootings with Your Child.”

Um, most of us do not approach mass shootings. We run away.

But of course, it’s really about how to approach the topic of mass shootings with your child. Even so, my m.o. is the same: Avoid it.

Even when my kids were younger, I did not feel compelled to sit down and talk to them about all the terrible things that appear on the news, because I didn’t have them watch the news. To me, watching the news is like drinking a little vial of poison. You feel awful afterwards and want to die. (On the other hand, you do know tomorrow’s weather.)

But even if somehow a mass shooting did come to my kids’ consciousness, I think two of the tips I received are terrible:

*Explain through an analogy. Rather than giving your children a lengthy lecture on the history of terrorism, gun control, and politics, offer them an analogy from their favorite cartoon.

So I sit them down and brightly say, “Well, imagine if Arthur and his friends were at a birthday party and a man with an automatic rifle…” Or, “One day, Winnie the Pooh got really mad at all the other animals and wanted to kill them, but also wanted to kill himself…” Hmm. And —

*Teach them to be careful. At the end of the day, what these tragedies teach us is that we should always remain alert. Instill in your young one a sense of vigilance that can save others and themselves in the long run.

We should always remain alert to what? People entering a club? Males? Gays? Bars? Remain alert to the possibility that the worst possible thing — an unprecedented crime on American soil — could happen on any given day? Perhaps on the Magic School Bus?

The idea that only your children’s vigilance can save them “in the long run” is also wrong. You can be really vigilant and still not save yourself from a murderer. And being ever-vigilant sounds like looking at the world through mass-shootings-colored glasses.

We are so awash in advice overload that we don’t even question why experts keep telling us how to do the most basic, natural things, like talking to our own kids.  In fact, just an hour or two after getting this “Orlando” press release, I got another from yet another pair of shrinks on how to make sure my child does not become a terrorist.

After almost any tragedy, from earthquakes to shootings, we are inundated with tips. In fact, in the face of almost any event, even daylight savings time, the advice givers flood the airwaves, telling us how to prepare, react or survive. Mark my words, as the school year approaches, we will be awash in “How to prepare for the school year” must-do’s, as if it’s a Category 3 Cyclone.

Experts make it seem as if everything having to do with our kids is fraught with pitfalls, and that our kids are so delicate that if we  screw-up, they’re toast.

Fortunately, that is just not true. Our species is resilient, parents don’t need to be perfect, kids will hear a ton of terrible stuff and, for the most part, deal with it. (I remember one reader writing to say that her children’s bible had a passage, “Then Jesus went away.” Like to Bermuda.)

Want advice on how to talk to your kids? Start talking to them and see what sticks. – L.

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Orlando shooting that you do not have to discuss with your kids.

The Orlando shooting (that you do not have to discuss with your kids).

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31 Responses to Advice About Parenting Advice

  1. BL June 24, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

    “In fact, in the face of almost any event, even daylight savings time, the advice givers flood the airwaves, telling us how to prepare, react or survive.”

    Daylight savings time? That’s nothing. What about leap years? A whole day more for tragedy and death. Parents who subject their kids to leap years should be arrested!

  2. James Pollock June 24, 2016 at 3:36 pm #

    OMG, what a gigantic load of overreaction.

    Not the school, the people complaining about the school. OK, so the school has decided not to have a beach field-trip. Bummer. Are the beaches all around this island somehow unavailable to children who are not in school?

    I mean, right here in this nation there are millions of schoolchildren who cannot have a schoolday at the beach because the beaches are inconveniently located hundreds of miles away. Yet they survive, even thrive somehow.

    What a trivial thing to get worked up about.

  3. James Pollock June 24, 2016 at 3:36 pm #

    Oops. Wrong article. Oh well. Still true.

  4. Teresa H June 24, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

    James Pollock now I want to know what article you were responding to. Lol

  5. Theresa June 24, 2016 at 4:36 pm #

    It is not as bad as the nosy government telling people how raise the kids. You can’t please them! If you can find something the government doesn’t complain about that news.

  6. Emily Lockard June 24, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

    As a secondary matter, do these “experts” actually feel the need to consult the latest research before sending out their sweeping advice, or do they just make it up on the spot? This might be my own bias, but when it comes to topics of education or parenting, it often feels like people who have Ph.D.s just reach into their own lives for their own experiences, think of what worked for their own kid, and state it like it’s true in general. Use an analogy? What about the studies that show people process grief better when they don’t talk about it and rehash it?

  7. hineata June 24, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

    James…you reacted here, so I’m going to tell you here. America is a big part of a continent. The Jersey Islands are….islands. Islands are surrounded by grass…no, ice cream. …no, beaches and the sea. How ridiculous to consider that people shouldn’t get worked up about no beach days. I suppose you think places like islands have vast forest areas or prairies where children could go hunting for weeks as an alternative?

  8. hineata June 24, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

    As for this….I agree, Lenore. Flip, I always talked to my kids my way about stuff if they brought it up, otherwise I didn’t bother. Not that we have to have discussions about mass shootings of course, as we have a little thing called gun control (and also no handguns anyway) but other stuff like earthquakes, fire and other weather events, you just tell them the basic safety stuff and hope for the best.

    And first aid…all kids should be given basic first aid instruction. My anxious then-12 year old and his friends ‘managed’ another friend’s first seizure (removed everything from the vicinity, kept an airway check, kept him calm after he regained consciousness) while their poor young teacher (a lovely Canadian girl) ran around the classroom crying that she didn’t know what to do. Those are the conversations to have…not alarmist crap about terrorists.

  9. Xena June 24, 2016 at 5:31 pm #

    You mean you don’t have to watch every tragedy on the news with your 5 year old and then explain it to them? You can just shelter them? Not let them watch things that are not appropriate for them? YES! THANK YOU!

  10. Donald June 24, 2016 at 5:45 pm #

    “And being ever-vigilant sounds like looking at the world through mass-shootings-colored glasses.”

    I love that line! There is a lot of criticism about positive people wearing rose colored glasses and that they are deceiving themselves. However this is the EXACT same thing as the glasses that other people wear such as:

    mass-shooting colored glasses
    ‘there’s a kidnapper or pedophile on every street corner’ colored glasses
    danger is everywhere colored glasses
    ‘any mistake made by the kid is the fault of the parents’ colored glasses
    ‘If I do something wrong, my child will be scared for life’ colored glasses (another version of the glasses above)

    On this page, I only talk about rose colored and shit colored glasses.

    http://www.onmysoapboxx.com/eyes

  11. Jane June 24, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

    So you will all probably appreciate the following I heard today because it also involves asking “experts” for parenting advice.

    As I was flipping through radio stations in my car, I heard a show that has Ryan Seacrest and a female I do not know (I don’t normally listen to the show so I have no idea who it is) discussing a call they received from a listener. The listener wanted their “advice.” (Are either of the DJs even parents, much less experts?). The caller was with a friend and was concerned that her friend, apparently a new mom, put the baby down for a nap, and then, taking some sort of intercom to know if the baby woke up, went an entire block and a half away to the park. The caller said she didn’t want to judge someone else’s parenting (except that’s exactly what she was doing), but should she have spoken up? (Because calling into a national radio show isn’t speaking up?)

    Of course you can guess what the “experts” responded with. Of course she should speak up. And what if someone went into the house and took the baby? Or what if the phone reset (they assumed a phone was being used as the intercom, but that was never specified) or somehow the technology failed?

    No discussion of other risks, such as, if the mother drove to the park and had brought the baby, the baby would have been in greater danger. Or that heat at the park could be an issue for the baby. Or that the mother’s mental health might be greatly helped by the outing, while the risks to the baby are virtually zero. I know of a pediatrician here in the US who told a friend she should put her baby down for a nap and then go for a walk to get fresh air. There was, of course, no mention of practices in other civilized countries, including some in Europe, where parents leave sleeping babies to run to the store (and not always with an intercom!)

    I wish people were a little better at assessing risk. I’ve personally never left a sleeping baby at home for a few minutes, but only because I fear CPS being called on me. The sad thing is that my baby would be safer and better rested staying in his crib than being moved to my car and then riding the three minutes each way it takes to pick up siblings from school (and yes, sometimes they walk or ride bikes, saving me the trip). If only common sense could prevail over paranoia (and I freely admit I’m probably being paranoid about CPS).

  12. pentamom June 24, 2016 at 8:54 pm #

    James, you know perfectly well (as you know perfectly well the real point of most things that you take exception to, but always have to argue) that this is not about the fact that the kids don’t get to the go the beach.

    It’s about the fact that the kids don’t get to go to the beach for a stupid reason. And yes, we care that kids are restricted for stupid reasons. That is the whole purpose of this site, and why Lenore wrote a book.

    If it doesn’t bother you that kids get restricted from things for stupid reasons because other kids wouldn’t have gotten to do it anyway, one wonders why you bother reading this site.

  13. pentamom June 24, 2016 at 8:56 pm #

    The only parenting advice I ever listened to is that of parents who actually raised kids who turned out reasonably well — primarily, but not limited to, my mother.

    Anything beyond that is just sort of examining how other people do things, in case I come across something useful, but not to be taken as something worth listening to if it doesn’t seem sensible.

  14. lsl June 24, 2016 at 10:24 pm #

    I’m pretty sure the only advice that is really useful for anyone after any kind of tragedy/disaster, is that attributed to Mr Rogers’ mother: “Look for the helpers.”

  15. WendyW June 24, 2016 at 10:46 pm #

    On the scale of life traumas, dealing with a toddler whose schedule has been disrupted by the 1-hour shift of day-light savings time is WAY more traumatic than a random shooting on the other side of the country.

    When my oldest was a baby, my husband worked nights. Baby was one of those rare ones who had a totally dependable sleep schedule. I would put her down for her afternoon nap, open the door of the master bedroom so hubby would wake if she cried, and go take care of my errands. (We lived on an AF Base, and I was never more than a mile or 2 from home). This subject came up in conversation recently, and hubby said he had NO knowledge of my ever doing that. Baby never woke him up once.

    On that same AF base, another mom was charged with child neglect for shoveling the snow off her sidewalks while her baby slept inside. She apparently was supposed to take an infant outside in below-zero weather while she shoveled.

  16. CrazyCatLady June 25, 2016 at 12:37 am #

    How to deal with mass shootings with your kid. Turn off the radio, turn off the tv. Turn on PBS kids and watch Mr. Rogers and Elmo. Doesn’t matter what age you are, those two will help you figure out everything. And as an adult, if you really have to, go to your phone or computer. Without sound. Don’t dwell on it in front of your kids. There is nothing that you can do and nothing that they can do except feel helpless. If it is in your town, go hug some people and help them out with cash or time if you can.

  17. Jessica June 25, 2016 at 1:54 am #

    Note to self: do not become a mommy blogger. Seriously, do they not even take the time to figure out that they’re just giving you fodder, a way of identifying them as “experts” to avoid (I always appreciate that you don’t link to these articles).

    I’d also like to point out that Mad-Eye Moody was a big advocate for constant vigilance, and he still ended up kidnapped, bespelled, and held hostage for the entire school year. Maybe if he had been more trusting of his neighbors (wizard and muggle alike), they would have noticed something was wrong…

  18. Donald June 25, 2016 at 2:02 am #

    In Australia (as America) we have an overpopulation of Safety Advice Dispensers (SAD) that are consultants on safety. They don’t get paid unless they advise on something. Even if they run out of sensible things to say, they have to keep advising.

    You know the fire risk signs that change with the weather? (the fire risk is low on a snowy day) In Queensland we have terrorist risk. This sign in the train station says that it’s probable. It’s probable that a terrorist will blow up a passenger train! At bus and train stations, there is a recording that plays every half hour. “Report any suspicious activity to Crime Stoppers on 1300………

    Apparently these safety consultant believe that the more that people worry, the safer they are. Ok. I don’t really believe that they believe that. However they must advise about something – ANYTHING.

    I’m critical about the mass-shooter colored glasses that people wear but it’s not all their fault. This outlook is often crammed down our throat!

    Safety has become a ‘religion’. Safety advisors are powerful people that even politicians and bureaucrats are afraid of them. A politician is afraid to stand up and say, “It is wrong to believe that the more people worry, the safer they are”, or to contradict the advice of a safety officer. This is because, if something bad happens, the newspapers will headline, “Joe Blow Acted in Contradiction to the Safety Experts!”

  19. BL June 25, 2016 at 6:42 am #

    ” At bus and train stations, there is a recording that plays every half hour. “Report any suspicious activity to Crime Stoppers on 1300………”

    That sounds like Airstrip One. Or North Korea.

  20. Ann in L.A. June 25, 2016 at 8:07 pm #

    Mr. Rogers had lovely advice:

    When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.

  21. Tara Kluth June 26, 2016 at 7:01 am #

    Go with Mr. Rogers’ advice. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” (And Snopes.com confirms this!)

  22. Andrea Drummond June 26, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    Amen sista.

  23. Papilio June 26, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    So, just watch the junior news? If there’s such a thing where you live?

    “To me, watching the news is like drinking a little vial of poison. You feel awful afterwards and want to die. (On the other hand, you do know tomorrow’s weather.)”
    Made me laugh. Kind of like a tornado with a silver lining…

  24. fred schueler June 26, 2016 at 1:27 pm #

    “Experts make it seem as if everything having to do with our kids is fraught with pitfalls, and that our kids are so delicate that if we screw-up, they’re toast.” – many of these “advisors” are hoping to make money off your response to their “advice.”

  25. NY Mom June 26, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    Paranoia is America’s Primary Operating Principle. POP.

    Our political elections favor the Party of Paranoia. POP.

    We Pack Our Pistols (POP)
    as Personal Protection from our Worst Fears.

    We search the landscape for any potential danger to anyone as an excuse to call 911 or CPS or or any other governmental security service as confirmation that they are there for us. Then we call their bosses and complain about how long it took them to arrive to our fictional disaster scenes.

    Real trauma is a pregnant mom separated from her little kiddos. Where are the do-gooders preventing that? Abandonment by parents serving jail time is one of the worst
    effects on children of this country’s misguided Tough on Crime Era which has destroyed the childhood of poor, mostly African American children for the past 40 years.

    Isn’t it time we grew up and treated people as we would like to be treated?

    Thanks, Lenore, for reminding us to be more vigilant in these times when guns are everywhere and people don’t seem to matter.

  26. Anonymous June 27, 2016 at 12:16 am #

    I ran into this one at the 9/11 exhibit at the New York State Museum in Albany, New York’s capitol. A family was there and their daughter looked about seven. I’m guessing the family was just passing through, probably on their way to the rest of the NYC section. The child, upon viewing the exhibit, assumed it was an accident and was asking more questions. The mother said it was a fire in a building. The father said that bad people flew an airplane into a building. I reassured the parents that I had thought it was an accident too when I was her age, and my parents had to explain it to me. They thank me for sharing that. My situation is different, however, because I was a child the day of the attacks and between my school going under lockdown, the speech at after-school program, and the TV footage my parents were glued to, the topic was unavoidable.

    You cannot shield your child from these topics in the digital age of internet and television. If you don’t do it intentionally, they’ll run into it themselves, as was the case at the State Museum. The mother telling her it was just a fire was the wrong approach: even a seven year old could tell from the exhibit that that’s not what happened although fire was involved. The father had the right idea: phrasing it in a way a child could understand. They didn’t need to get into the nitty-gritty at her age but even without the State Museum she would eventually find out and ask questions. The trick is to explain it in a way a child would understand before they run into it themselves. If the father hadn’t spoken up and the daughter bought the idea that it was only a fire, she would have turned resentful upon finding out the truth, which she would have done immediately by just looking at the exhibit. My parents explained these things do me and it didn’t damage me in any way. They put it in a way I could understand.

  27. Korou June 27, 2016 at 12:58 am #

    Hi Lenore! I just came across this book, and thought it would be just the thing to share with Free Range Kids and parents! It’s by one of my favourite writers, and it’s called “I can handle it!”

    Blurb:
    “Susan Jeffers, author of the world-renowned classic of personal development Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, along with Donna Gradstein, now show parents and care-givers a very effective way of building confidence in children. They present 50 heart-warming stories showing children ages 3 to 7 “handling” many difficult situations that confront children today – such as teasing by other children…or losing a favorite toy…or fear of the dark…or upset about a parent’s divorce…and much more.”No matter what happens, I can handle it!” is the powerful phrase that is repeated throughout. Ultimately, as the various stories unfold, the child learns that ALL difficulties in life can be handled in a powerful and loving way.”

  28. sexhysteria June 27, 2016 at 4:08 am #

    Another example is that the beautiful child model Kristina Pimenova who has a FaceBook page where visitors repeatedly advise the girl not to look so mature, grow up too fast, focus on her appearance. The transparent envy of less fortunate busybodies is pathetic.

  29. dancing on thin ice June 27, 2016 at 5:04 am #

    When facing an actual mass shooting, a family friend did not run away but comforted a child.

    I use this to point out to people with differing views that a compassionate teacher is unlikely to shoot to kill someone if teachers carried guns but also that these incidents are rare.

  30. BL June 27, 2016 at 6:47 am #

    “You cannot shield your child from these topics in the digital age of internet and television”

    What does “digital” have to do with anything?

    I assure you, that in the 1960s USA with raster-scan (non-digital) television, very young kids knew that JFK or MLK had been assassinated, and that there was a war in Vietnam.

  31. Brooks June 28, 2016 at 9:01 am #

    The first time my wife was pregnant 15 years ago, someone gave us the august book, “What to expect when expecting.” I remember reading a page, front and back (somewhere in the 200’s if I recall correctly), that on one side, told women to eat broccoli because of all the good stuff in it and on the opposite page told women to avoid broccoli because of all the bad stuff on it. Same page, opposite side. It was that day that I decided to hell with advice books. We’ll do it the old fashioned way – figure it out as we go!

    I also find that many friends post articles from Psychology Today, many, many of which are pseudo-science and pseudo-fact. Certainly not the only one, but one of note.

    My advice to those seeking advice. Don’t!