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December 12, 2009 11:06 AM   Subscribe

The Defiant Ones. In today’s picture books, the kids are in charge.
posted by The Dryyyyy Cracker (46 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read this article in October and thought it was pretty obnoxious.
posted by pinky at 11:30 AM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


pinky: might you expand?
posted by leotrotsky at 11:38 AM on December 12, 2009


I found it to be extremely over-analytical of what was seemingly a random grouping of children's books - and then extrapolated that to how "Manhattan Parents" discipline their kids. Or not.
posted by pinky at 11:58 AM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whether or not it's an accurate picture of parental discipline, I'm actually kind of stunned that so many parents read books like these to their kids. Kids are such mimics, and anyway, they come up with enough ideas for misbehavior on their own.
posted by palliser at 12:05 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


And the default temperament of the child is bratty, though often in a way so zesty and creative that the behavioral transgressions take on the quality of art. This idea is rendered explicit in Ian Falconer’s best-seller “Olivia,” when the main character—a pig whose chic tastes and easy effrontery suggest a porcine Gossip Girl in the making—takes a family trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Upon returning home, she gets out the paint and merrily gives one of her bedroom walls the Jackson Pollock treatment.

I've read Olivia multiple times and this is complete bullshit on several levels.

Also, misbehaving children in books are both funny and a teaching opportunity. When I read Olivia and we get to the part where she paints on the wall, even my two year old says "painting on the wall?! she can't do that!" (And if he doesn't, I say "Uh-oh...is she supposed to be doing that?")
posted by DU at 12:09 PM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I never want to have kids.... ever. it seems like too much can go wrong. Read them books from my childhood, and I will screw them up. Read them contemporary books, and they will be even worse. Not very good options...
posted by rebent at 12:10 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


One of the latest catchphrases to infect parental discourse is an admonishment against greed. A child who demands more Goldfish crackers is told, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” (Despite the singsong rhyme, the phrase is rather grim—it could be a fragment from “The Collected Wisdom of Kim Jong Il.”)
Heh.
I found it to be extremely over-analytical of what was seemingly a random grouping of children's books - and then extrapolated that to how "Manhattan Parents" discipline their kids. Or not.
I kind of agree. Seems kind of random. What's this guy's point? Sounds like a standard-issue "we're raising our kids to be pussies" rant. Who cares?
Read them books from my childhood, and I will screw them up.
The problem here is that you're underrating screwed up kids.
posted by delmoi at 12:11 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I learned how to be cool from Goofus.
posted by The Power Nap at 12:13 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


They day I earnestly listen to an article in the New Yorker pontificate about parenting is the day I throw myself under a bus.

Seriously, people.

The New Yorker?

A lovable mag for many reasons, but its down to earth views on raising a family are not one of them.
posted by edheil at 12:15 PM on December 12, 2009


BTW, I love me some Alfie Kohn and apply his advice regularly, I've read my kids Olivia books and loved the "I love you anyway too," and my kids are as far from being the overweening, imperious little brats this article worries itself about as you can possibly imagine. I enjoy the hell out of parenting them and every bit of feedback I've gotten from any teacher or daycare provider or other parent looking after them is that they're as awesome as I think they are.

So, um, I'm pretty much who this article is talking about and I from my point of view it's complete jive.
posted by edheil at 12:19 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wonder how this guy is doing with his kids...
posted by Artw at 12:34 PM on December 12, 2009


I realized that Goofus and Gallant are actually the same kid.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:53 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I only read to my children from Struwwelpeter. In German. Oh, they may clamor for the diaries of wimpy kids, but I know what's best for my moppets.
posted by everichon at 1:05 PM on December 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


I hate Alfie Kohn and have for quite a while. I blame him for a lot of what's wrong with America today. "Don't set limits for your kids, just love them."
posted by Xurando at 1:10 PM on December 12, 2009


In other news, Adults Go Wild Over Latest In Children's Picture Book Series
posted by limon at 1:12 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


„Konrad!“ sprach die Frau Mama,
„Ich geh’ aus und du bleibst da.
Sei hübsch ordentlich und fromm.
Bis nach Haus ich wieder komm’.
Und vor allem, Konrad, hör’!
Lutsche nicht am Daumen mehr;
Denn der Schneider mit der Scher’
Kommt sonst ganz geschwind daher,
Und die Daumen schneidet er
Ab, als ob Papier es wär’.

Fort geht nun die Mutter und
Wupp! den Daumen in den Mund

Bauz! da geht die Türe auf,
Und herein in schnellem Lauf
Springt der Schneider in die Stub’
Zu dem Daumen-Lutscher-Bub.
Weh! Jetzt geht es klipp und klapp
Mit der Scher’ die Daumen ab,
Mit der großen scharfen Scher’!
Hei! da schreit der Konrad sehr.

Als die Mutter kommt nach Haus,
Sieht der Konrad traurig aus.
Ohne Daumen steht er dort,
Die sind alle beide fort.

posted by dunkadunc at 1:20 PM on December 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


I realized that Goofus and Gallant are actually the same kid.

I'm awaiting the horror-film remake with the multiple personality plot twist.
posted by The Whelk at 1:23 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, misbehaving children in books are both funny and a teaching opportunity.

Yeah, I know I'm in the minority of fellow parents, but I don't buy this, at least not for the under-five-year-olds. I think small children are more primitive than that -- monkey see, monkey do -- and do not internalize adults' explanations with the same immediacy. They may be able to repeat back the "lesson" to you, but the misbehavior is more vivid and attractive. For similar reasons, I think parents are wasting their time when I see them go into long-winded explanations for why a toddler shouldn't throw things/hit friends/scream in stores.

I mean, whatever, I'm not perfectly consistent with this, but there are certain areas where I'm pretty intransigent -- I never, ever show them TV or read them books with sibling meanness (name-calling, hitting), because I feel really strongly about that, and I don't think the lesson-learning tacked on the end saves it from being an overall bad influence. Painting on the walls, leaving clothes on the floor, I'm not going to worry much about.
posted by palliser at 1:41 PM on December 12, 2009


Yeah, there were never bratty misbehaving, kind of wild thing children in books till this century...what film?
posted by Phanx at 1:52 PM on December 12, 2009


The author's point was that in older books, the parents were absent (like the mother in Cat in the Hat) and/or able to end the misbehavior (like Frances's father threatening a spanking), rather than present and impotent.
posted by palliser at 1:57 PM on December 12, 2009


Oooookay, Mr. Zalewski, I'll get off your lawn.

Why do people write this bullshit anyway? I can't fault the guy for gettin' paid, but Jesus, what a nonsensical mess.

In OLIVIA, btw, Olivia herself is perfectly good after her time-out.
posted by PsychoTherapist at 2:39 PM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


I never, ever show them TV or read them books with sibling meanness (name-calling, hitting), because I feel really strongly about that

Because the rest of their world is so full of pleasant role-models. I think kids pick up things in ways parents don't always comprehend. My mother, in an attempt to keep violence out of the games my brother and I played didn't give us anything gun-like when we were young. I don't remember what we could and couldn't watch, but somehow my brother, still quite a young thing, had seen enough guns that he created his own. Out of a cow. He held a cow by the body and pointed the gun at my mother and said "Bang!"

Kids are little sponges, picking up things you don't even notice. How you react to what they pick up probably matters more than what you filter out.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:44 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Dear New Yorker subscribers: Your children are not, in fact, plates of beans.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:05 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Xurando, I'm not sure that's what Alfie Kohn is saying. At least the way I interpret it, he's saying that the limits you set should not be limits of love, love is withdrawn at a certain point. This seems very similar to the idea that committing a crime doesn't mean that you've given up your human rights, and now you are a non-person and the law can do whatever it likes to you, which is what many conservative authoritarians believe.

The idea that human beings have inherent dignity is an important idea that we should defend, and raise our children in way that demonstrates its value. We're in a bit of a crisis right now, because many people have taken the phrase "Don't tell anyone how to live" as the ultimate expression of this value. When parents apply this to their kids, its obviously a disaster, so the compromise MeFi position is that parents can (and must!) tell kids how to live, but when they turn 18 they cross a magical boundary where you can't, except if it's teenagers having sex, in which case parents probably shouldn't.

So adults have dignity but children don't yet, and they are subject to some "reasonable" authoritarianism, particularly if they are very young and misbehaving, throwing fits, crying in restaurants and generally being a nuisance to adults they aren't related to. You can see the end result of this exception by looking at AskMeFi's human relationships section - a common conservative response to a difficult, "toxic" adult is that they aren't really acting like an adult, so they aren't entitled to be treated with dignity. This echoes somewhat the justifications for excluding women from voting -- it was claimed that women aren't really rational.

This article illustrates the crisis that parents face, which is a microcosm of the crisis of liberal thought: that we've traded universal dignity for pseudo-universal hedonism, so long as you're an adult/behaving like an adult. And in the process, surrendered politically to the right for 50 years.
posted by AlsoMike at 3:15 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Additionally, dad on the B63 bus, heading to Park Slope: Your colorful knitwear-bedecked son is not "expressing his musical creativity" by repeatedly smacking two ceramic planter bottoms together. They aren't cymbals, and he's not John Cage.

It's okay to tell him to fucking stop. I promise.

posted by evidenceofabsence at 3:16 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because the rest of their world is so full of pleasant role-models.

I feel like you want me to be saying that I protect my children from all bad influences, but you'll have to keep looking to find someone to disillusion on that point. I made no claim to controlling my kids' entire worlds. My 3-year-old son picks up sticks and shoots me with them, just like your brother.

Every parent filters, to one degree or another. All I'm saying is that the theory behind my filtering is a bit different from many other parents' -- namely, that in my opinion, under-five-year-olds are more influenced by the action of a story than by the moral at the end.
posted by palliser at 3:42 PM on December 12, 2009


filthy light thief - my cousin, the son of Berkeley hippies, was given no violent toys as a young child.

He would bite a cookie into the shape of a gun and shoot you with it. I thought that was quite creative.
posted by pinky at 4:04 PM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


I liked this:
Too many experts instruct adults to act like a piano whose soft pedal is permanently pressed down. It’s possible to find something sinister in the effort to hide half your emotional spectrum from your children. Sometimes it might be a good thing for a kid to hear, instead of polite evasions, an honest, full-throated “Cut it out!”
posted by hermitosis at 4:52 PM on December 12, 2009


It only takes me three lines to summarize parenting:

1- When your kids are in elementary school, you will look down in smug superiority at the lousy job other parents are doing raising their older children.

2- When your kids are in their teenage years, you will start to think that raising kids may be a little harder than you thought.

3- When your kids are grown you will reflect back and think "Boy, did I screw that up."
posted by digsrus at 4:59 PM on December 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


To be fair, I'd actually rate childless MeFites somewhere under clueless New Yorker writers whne it comes to people whose advice I am willing to take on childraising.
posted by Artw at 5:10 PM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


digsrus: I was going to be all smug and all, and dispense advice, as the father of an 11-year-old. Then I read your comment. And I just favourited it.

help me
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:11 PM on December 12, 2009


And, that said, you never need to plead with your subadolescent kid.

INTERIOR. NIGHT. FANCY RESTAURANT. A FAT GUY AND HIS ADORABLE 11-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER:

"Esmerelda, don't do that."

"What?"

"Don't smush your beans into your napkin because you don't like them. We're at a restaurant and some poor soul is going to have to clean up your mess way after you're tucked into bed."

"But I thought that was polite! I don't want to leave food on my plate and make them think I don't like it."

"Esmeralda, the cook in the restaurant doesn't care whether you leave things on your plate. It's great that you're thinking about that, because if you go to someone's house for dinner they do care. But here in the restaurant, you're just making work for people. I'm proud of you for thinking about these things, and it's just one more thing I can teach you."

"Got it, Dad."
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:34 PM on December 12, 2009


palliser - First, I realize I was a jerk in my reply, and I apologize for that. I'm not (yet) a father, and I was writing from what I've seen and come to know of kids who were raised with various sorts of parents. My cousin saw Terminator 2 when he was 5 years old, and he had nightmares for a month. I saw it with him when he was 6 and I was 12, and I was frightened, yet he laughed at the movie. He's now in his 20s, and seemed to turn out all right. I won't be playing Predator to put my kids to sleep, but I think kids can be pretty resilient in terms of what they see and hear, but I could be wrong.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:34 PM on December 12, 2009


I'd actually rate childless MeFites somewhere under clueless New Yorker writers whne it comes to people whose advice I am willing to take on childraising

Dude. Give the Struwwelpeter regimen like, a solid year before you make rash broad-brush-betarrings like that one there. I forgive you.
posted by everichon at 6:03 PM on December 12, 2009


PS Does two cats and a dog really count as childless? Fractionally childed?
posted by everichon at 6:04 PM on December 12, 2009


I didn't think you were being a jerk, filthy light thief, I just felt misunderstood. *sniff*

Anyway, I'm sure your cousin turned out awesome. I'd just rather minimize my experiences of wiping paint off the walls, being awakened at 2 a.m. by 5-year-olds who've seen Predator, and/or hearing my kids call each other stupidheads. So I only read them stories where the children are models of terrified obedience.

(Little House on the Prairie, all day, every day.)
posted by palliser at 6:12 PM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


People have been succeeding and failing as parents at about the same rates since parenting began. The only major change is, as society slowly becomes less violent, so does discipline. In thirty years, the damned kids being talked about in this article will be writing the same article about damned kids.
posted by Foam Pants at 6:24 PM on December 12, 2009


I am a children's librarian who thought I would never, never, never censor the books my kid reads.

Then I had a kid and bought Ella Sarah Gets Dressed* for her without reading it first.

I still read it to her, but through gritted teeth.

And I second the New Yorker's endorsement of the Frances books (though I do censor the spanking line... man, I suck).

*Ella Sarah wants to wear an outlandish outfit one day. Her family politely suggests other choices. Ella Sarah has a tantrum, and gets to wear what she wants. It's not that the same turn of events hasn't taken place in my own house, but I don't usually celebrate it.
posted by missrachael at 6:26 PM on December 12, 2009


Being a brand-new parent with, hell, almost half a year of experience, I've concluded that you are all doing it wrong.

Except for Struwwelpeter. That's just awesome.
posted by madajb at 7:28 PM on December 12, 2009


I only read them stories where the children are models of terrified obedience.

(Little House on the Prairie, all day, every day.)


This I can support. Having only started to read them in my adult life, they are fantastic, and definitely something to read to my future little creatures. Then maybe someone will laugh along with me at the antics of Half Pint Ingalls.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:18 PM on December 12, 2009


Sei hübsch ordentlich und fromm.
...
Ohne Daumen steht er dort,
Die sind alle beide fort.


Man, they really don't make kids like that anymore. You know, good, orderly, pious, and thumbless.
posted by ubersturm at 9:48 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


In general, children don't seem to respond much at all to the things you do or say, but rather the things you are. For example, a child's enjoyment and ability in reading later in life is not meaningfully correlated with how often you read to them when they were young. However, it is strongly correlated to how large your book collection is and how much you enjoy reading.

Children don't make good plates of beans, they really are simple critters, adults on the other hand are worth thinking about...
posted by Blasdelb at 10:35 AM on December 13, 2009


I realized that Goofus and Gallant are actually the same kid.

The first rule of Highlights is that you do not<> talk about Highlights
posted by The Bellman at 10:50 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


help me
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:11 PM on December 12 [+] [!]


Take heart in the knowledge that your children will come to realize, like I recently have, that my father really did a pretty good job when raising me and all the things I blamed him for not teaching or giving me were things I never would have accepted.

Of course he's been dead for about ten years.
posted by digsrus at 11:15 AM on December 13, 2009


Love this, dunkadunc. If you can't threaten to snip your kid's thumbs off, what fun is being a parent? I mean hey, she warned him, didn't she?

(This is one time when having a German major has actually come in handy for something! Yay, Metafilter!)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:44 AM on December 15, 2009


In E. T. A. Hoffman's Der Sandmann, the nursemaid tells the children that if they don't go to bed immediately, the sandman will come, scoop their eyes out in a horribly gory fashion, and take them to his nest on the moon where he'll feed them to his beaked children.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:48 PM on December 16, 2009


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