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Posts tagged ‘children’

Childism

Title: Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children

Author: Elisabeth Young-Bruehl

Year of Publication: 2012

Genre Keywords: abuse, children, child abuse, child protection, domestic violence, emotional abuse, narcissism, neglect, non-fiction, parenting, prejudice, psychology, sexual abuse, sociology, violence, witch hunts.

Summary: In our culture, adults tend to understand children as the property of their parents, wild and uncivilized creatures who must be made to submit to authority rather than nurtured to fulfill some innate potential. The essential thesis of the book is that child abuse is a symptom of these larger prejudices, which are one point on the continuum that leads from responsible caregiving into abusive behaviour. The author, a trained and certified psychoanalyst, uses her observations of real abuse victims and of well-known studies in Child Abuse and Neglect to make the case that protecting children from abuse requires us to consider and challenge our beliefs about the nature of the child.

Who’ll Love It: Anybody who cares deeply about children will want to at least consider the idea that we interact with them more as possessions to be shown off, pets to be trained, than as real human beings. (Sure, they’re works in progress, but aren’t we all?) Fans of psychoanalytic theory and of topics in Prejudice Studies (like racism and sexism) will definitely appreciate Young-Bruehl’s approach. If your first reaction, however, was “Well, kids are wild animals who require strict discipline to become grown-up people”, you might want to start off with books on child development, investigating the educational and emotional needs of children as they grow. I also recommend How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish; I consider it the definitive guide to treating children with respect while still providing appropriate guidance and boundaries. I basically have it memorized.

Reality Check: Young-Bruehl definitely makes a point of restricting the scope of her book; she discusses childism primarily in the concept of child abuse and its psychological ramifications. But there are so many different places to apply the theory of childism. Consider child beauty pageants, where children are dressed up and made to perform like show dogs, and the related phenomenon of “stage parents“. How about the controversy over prescribing medication to make children more manageable in the classroom? Or the juvenile detention laws in your jurisdiction? These are just a few examples, but the exploration can go on in countless directions anywhere you find children. What examples of childism do you see around you?

Want a first taste of Elisabeth Young-Bruehl’s ideas about our social prejudices against children? This interview makes a great introduction to her writings on childism and its relationship to child abuse.

The Family Shield: Grocery Store “Protects” Children from Seeing – Gasp! – Gay Dads

Magazine cover featuring Elton John's family censored by grocery store.

Image via Ear Sucker.

Full disclosure: I’ve loved Elton John forever. And when I learned he and his partner were welcoming a new addition to their family, I felt the same strange combination of envy and warm welcoming I usually feeling on hearing about another little child coming into the world. (I love babies.) It’s my genuine wish that, as Elton John once suggested in a favourite song of mine, little baby Zachary will be blessed.

But the poor little guy has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start in the United States.

It seems that a grocery store in Arkansas, prompted by a customer complaint, hid the US Weekly cover featuring the new family beneath a plastic “Family Shield”. This is not an implement designed to shield families; rather, it’s meant to conceal racy cover images on the kinds of magazines they usually kept hidden behind the counter in more innocent times. The kind of magazines that, once purchased, get stored under the mattress.

US weekly cover featuring Elton John and family.

Image via Too Fab.

Perplexed, I checked out the cover image as it appears under the shield, wondering what they possibly could’ve come up with that would cause such scandal. And sure enough, there was no scandal to be found. Just a couple of relatively ordinary guys smiling for the camera, posing with an adorable-but-ordinary baby. No nudity, no suggestive poses, no sex tips. Nothing to see here, folks. The same sort of thing you see every time a celebrity couple has a child, whether biological or adoptive.

Oh, right. Except Zachary’s got two daddies.

And in fact, it seems that was exactly what the customer complaint was about. That’s why Harps brought out the Family Shield. To shield sensitive young eyes from Zachary’s family.

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Not Intended For Children

Glasses-wearing baby reading very serious novel

Image via the Vicky Mathan Blog.

I’ve been meaning to spend some time on this question for quite a while, ever since my good friend told me all about her daughter’s trip to the public library. It was a great experience: the little one (who I’ve christened with the blog-name Berry) got her very own library card and took home some picture books that she really enjoyed. But Mommy told me a story about how Berry kept trying to look at cookbooks, and that got me thinking: what happens when little readers (or not-yet-reading book lovers like Berry) get their hands on material that’s meant for grown-ups?

I encountered another example this morning while I was getting winter tires put on my car. A mom and her daughter were sitting in the waiting room; the child was maybe about six years old. Mom paged through an issue of People magazine, then set it aside, where her little girl picked it up and started flipping through. That’s when I noticed the cover story: TEEN SUICIDE TRAGEDIES.

Now that’s an even m0re serious example, and it highlighted the idea that, for me, there are two separate issues here:

  1. What happens when little children get into reading material that leaves them confronting ideas parents would rather protect them from encountering?
  2. Are there any reasons to keep children away from grown-up books that don’t contain anything controversial or disturbing, but they just aren’t designed for children?

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The Practical Charity Santa

Santa Claus

Image via Turn Back To God.

There’s a holiday tradition in my family. Ever since my husband and I met, we’ve made children’s charities a part of our Christmas celebration by purchasing and donating brand-new toys to children living in poverty. In fact, the tradition has been going on since before I met him: I started to secretly donate toys around the holidays as a teen with the proceeds from my part-time job. So I have a decade-long history with charity-giving for children.

And yet I’ve never had a year when the gift-giving process has been as difficult (or as satisfying) as this Christmas.

The reason seems simple to me. I’ve spent the last couple of years learning a lot about the needs of children – physical, social, intellectual, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and developmental – and I wanted to take those things into account as I picked gifts for my Christmas Children. I’ve learned a lot about what shapes the way we each think and feel about ourselves. Some of it has been intellectual “book-learning”, but a lot of it has been experiential. I’ve watched children grow. I’ve looked at myself more deeply. I’ve considered what trends in my past have shaped me into the person I became.

Even more so, though – most likely because of the recession looming over us – I’ve also spent a lot more time thinking practically about the conditions of real life for those who have substantially fewer financial resources to fall back on. That left me second-guessing a lot of the gift-giving possibilities at my disposal. Gift-giving with the poor child in mind is not the same as shopping for well-to-do kids. There’s a lot to think about.

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The Scare Factor

Hallowe’en is one of my favourite holidays. Call me creepy – you wouldn’t be the first – but I’ve always found it fun.

Yes, I was the kid who was delighted when a seemingly-stuffed Grim Reaper started to follow me across the yard as I trick-or-treated. Yes, I was the kid making smart-aleck remarks to the ghosts in the haunted houses on the Niagara Falls strip. The school library couldn’t find enough Stephen King to keep me happy. And to this day, I’m the one who tries to convince my friends to go see Paranormal Activity 2, though most of them would rather . . . well, pretty much anything.

But I’m very aware that I’ve got an unusually high tolerance level for the frightening and macabre. And in my work with children, it’s a struggle this time of year: how much terror can a kid take?

 

Uruk-hai and horrified child.

Image via Horror Society.

 

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Bad Boys, Bad Boys

 

Boys studying

Image via the National School Foundation Association

 

I’m working right now as a tour guide on a farm that offers apple- and pumpkin-picking tours, among other things, to school groups. Most of the other tour guides have at least some background working with children; a few worked as teachers in another phase of their lives. As we conversed before our tour groups arrived yesterday, the topic came around to educating children . . . and to the problem of educating boys.

“The principal gives you no support,” one lady kvetched. “Getting sent to the principal’s office is a joke, and the kid will come back and tell you that. There’s no discipline; you don’t want to hurt the kid’s self-esteem.” She said it like she wouldn’t mind hurting their self-esteem just a little bit.

Her friend sympathized. “There’s not much you can do, really, when they give you a class with eighteen boys, five girls, and the boys have their little posse going on. Is there sex selection in Canada? Where are all these boys coming from? I would send them out in the hallway so they don’t distract the kids who actually want to learn, but even doing that you get into trouble.”

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Science Rules!

Bill Nye the Science Guy

Image via the American Association of Amateur Astronomers.

It’s something we tend to forget over the course of a long educational process, when science becomes serious business. But watching old episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy has reminded me that, as he notes in his opening montage, “Science rules!”

There’s no reason why librarians – or anybody who wants to get kids engaged with learning about the world around them – couldn’t use that to advantage. Why not build a science demo around a cool science video? With Bill Nye, Mythbusters, Monster Quest, Mystery Quest, and hordes of other “this-ain’t-your-parents’-science-class-video” shows available, there’s plenty of choice.

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