Living in the “Real World” of Parenting

Living in the “Real World” of Parenting

By: Tracy Madlener

Guiding, advising, nurturing, and protecting.  Would you say that these adjectives describe parenting today?  Or maybe these are more appropriate… unaware, uninformed, irresponsible, and unrealistic.

We all know that raising kids is one of the most difficult jobs on the planet.  Even if you’re not a parent, you’ve seen first hand a child screaming for attention at the check out counter in the local grocery store while mom is looking quite frazzled, trying to get the heck out of there!  To be a single mom or dad or a parent of a child that has special needs, brings to the table an even bigger challenge. One that I could never imagine.  Yet, as much as I tip my hat to those parents that keep on striving to raise their kids the best they know how, I am disappointed with the overall parenting population in general.  There, I said it.

I am not the Martha Stewart of parenting.  I can sometimes be overwhelmed, unorganized and I am that frazzled mom at the checkout counter, but the one thing I’m not, those second set of adjectives that are written up above.

Unaware.  I see it daily.  I have witnessed a very young toddler doing an incredible escape artist performance right under her mother’s nose.  I watched as mom, ever so busily, chatted with her friend and not have a clue that her daughter did a disappearing act with no traces to be found.  We were in Target and the exit doors to the parking lot were 10 feet away.

Uninformed.  I don’t think this needs explanation, but time and time again, I see parents giving their child chemicals to drink, purchase fake cheese and give it as a healthy snack, processed foods fill a grocery cart and the list is endless.  From foods to health care products, I wish more parents would read the labels before giving it to their kids.  If the words on the label can’t be pronounce, then why would we give it to our children?

Irresponsible.  This is a doozy for me and thinking about how many times I’ve seen irresponsible parenting makes my skin crawl.  I use the word irresponsible when really the word I should be using is… unsafe.  I guess unaware and irresponsible can be linked as one (see mom in Target above) but sometimes, the parent is looking directly at the situation on hand and simply does nothing about it.  How about that mom watching her small child play in the middle of the doorway with a heavy glass door, people coming in and out, the street right in front while she eats her lunch inside the restaurant with the other adults?  Yep, I’ve witnessed that too.

Unrealistic.  Has parenting become a TV reality show?  Have we lost our senses on where center is?  Did you know that the TV show, “Real World” is going on 28 seasons?  That’s about 20 years of reality becoming less and less so, and now it’s more about how outrageous the show can be.  Does outrageous seem normal to most now?  Can the parenting of today be connected to the “reality” of TV shows that have taken away the standards of what it means to be a moral and ethical person?

The Real World - Greatest Fights (2000)

A generation of new parents has grown up with this in front of them faily

As parents of this new generation, we need to be able to help guide them down the road and being unaware makes for going down the wrong path.  We need to advise them with the best of our abilities and if we are uninformed then we are not giving them our best advice.  We need to nurture them to be healthy physically, mentally, and in the heart.  If we are irresponsible we risk the chance of breaking one or all of three attributes mentioned in the last sentence.  Unrealistic?  Let’s protect our children from the outrageousness of what really isn’t the norm.

Oh, and as for the little escape artist?  Hopefully she taught her Mom to be a little more aware as I watched Mom in tears hugging her child 10 minutes later.  Be the parent that I know you are and let’s help others by setting the example, and it’s okay if you’re a little like me… frazzled at the checkout counter.

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  1. ohgoddessanonymous says:

    Thank you for saying the things I think daily, but cannot say just because I don’t have any children myself. Because I don’t have children, people are prone to attacking me for voicing what I observe about the state of parenting… basically, what you have pointed out in your excellent blog post.

    And before I get flamed here, let me state right now that I don’t have children because I understand and appreciate the serious responsibilities that come with raising a child. I very responsibly decided that I am not, as yet, ready to take on that responsibility, because if and when I do so, I will do so with realistic awareness of the most important job I will be undertaking, and will take great pains to be the kind of parent that I’m wishing I was seeing more often.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s been on my mind ohgoddessA… Everywhere I look, I’m constantly dropping my jaw at the outrageous behavior from not the kids, but the parents! I just don’t understand. The fact that you are aware of the responsibilities that comes along with parenting is a good sign that you will be a fine parent. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Jessica Martinez says:

    As a former live in nanny and (at a different time) a former Probabtion and Parole officer, I have seen my fair share of the various ways people “raise” their kids. I am from the midwest and when I was growing up, in the 70’s and 80’s, we had somewhat specific rules but more importantly, we had standards that we enforced by both our neighbors and teachers. Because of some stupid neighbors and stupid teachers who misused trust and broke laws, what used to be a standard all of a sudden became No No. Our communities have been eroding ever since.

    Add that to the fact that we have quicker and more efficient ways of moving around the country and the “family” that we had growing up (with all of the uncles, aunts, grandparents and cousins) are no longer the norm. Now we don’t use our family to help raise our kids, we use strangers that we pay. No judgement, just fact. But we have now taken something that was done a certain way and have changed it all up. Younger and less experienced are cheaper, but they are also not as experienced. But, money talks. So, we hire younger, less experienced people to help “raise” the kids and since they don’t know what to do as most of us were only 19-22 when we took jobs doing that kind of work, we go to the easy= TV. Now, TV shows have become much better than when I was a kid and even though there is still PBS, there is also Nick Jr and there used to be a show called Sprout. These shows were non-violent and calming and a wonderful way to give Mommies and helpers some 20 minutes to keep the small ones busy while the laundry gets changed or the meal gets made.

    But those shows can be annoying to young adults after awhile or they can be too expensive to subscribe to, so the back up is regular TV with its “irritanment” Gives us a chance to laugh at others who are stupid or to wish we could be a certain way than the way we are now. Kids are watching though…and they see what makes us happy. Enter the fact that everyone needs to “express” themselves and we now have to actually care if a child is satisfied or happy all the time, and you have the perfect little scenario for raising a bratty kid. Say NO? Are you kidding? Why little Johnny is only trying to express himself and he needs to be able to emote all over the place so that he is happy with me–his parent.

    Essentially, we have become a community of pansies. We let others dictate to us what is acceptable and we believe the hype that we are doing it wrong because some doctor who needs to pay off his/her medical student loans has written a book telling us so. Media has become 24/7 so there is no excuse not to know the latest/greatest/best way to do something. And we must keep up. We must be superwoman because that is what “we” have fought so hard for…right?

    Load of crap. Parents of today have stopped being accountable for their actions and don’t demand that their kids are either. They would rather bring home loads of money than spend time with their “precious children, my reason for living”. They stick them in public schools and demand that strangers raise them and teach them and then complain when little Johnny gets in trouble for speaking out of turn. Don’t ask little Johnny to take responsibility, but blame the teacher for not understanding or giving Johnny a chance. This behavior starts early and lasts all the way through school. Oh, and by the way, pay the “teachers’ as little as humanly possible and have them work in conditions that you yourself could not/would not work in and then have to do with your child the things that you, as a parent, can’t do yourself. Then, by all means, bitch when the city asks for more taxes to upgrade the school or increase the teacher salary.

    There are more reasons than the TV for the crap ass attitude of parents today. I have 4 kids. Two boys in the military, serving their 3rd and 4th missions in Afghanistan and two girls here at home. I home school them and spend more time than I ever thought I would spend with kids. I plan on taking responsibility for what I teach my kids, but understand this: if my kids do some jackass thing that goes against what I have taught them, they will answer for it. I won’t do it for them. The motto at our school is “Cum libertate venit responsabilitate–With freedom comes responsibility”.

    It is not harsh to have high expectation for your children, it is mean to not have them for when they go out into the world, they will believe that things should be achieved easily and will then become depressed when they are unable to deal with the pressure. That is our role as parent isn’t it? To prepare our children to be responsible citizens of our Country and to be productive and useful? How is that possible of we never allow failure or emotional growth. Answer: it isn’t. The proof of that is in every American public school that I have been to or worked with. The proof of that is the increase of school shooting, drug use to escape from their “life” and every other pansy excuse to work, strive and become something worthy.

    That being said, this is just my personal opinion. The “norm” is what we allow nad expect. When we, as a nation, start having higher standards for ourselves, we will then pass it on to our children. But so long as shows like Honey Boo Boo and the Real World/REal Housewives of (fill in the blank) are considered “reality”, and we do nothing, then we deserve to get what we raise. Kids who want a quick buck and have discovered that selling your reputation and respect is not illegal and will make you bucket loads of money. Just ask Snookie.

    • Tracy says:

      My, my Jessica, we’ve got much in common! It all circles back to education and you and I both know that homeschool works. What most don’t realize is that parents who homeschool take full responsibility for their children (as it should be) in more ways than an education. Homeschoolers are with their families 24/7 learning and growing under the watchful eyes of not just the parents, but all who are curious about those who homeschool. But that’s okay, I’d prefer they watch us, than Honey Boo Boo.

  3. Double the Caffeine says:

    I personally think that all children should fear their parents. Not be afraid of them, but fear them. Knowing that if they do wrong their parents will find out and punish them. Today children are not held accountable. They are being taught it’s okay to do what they want and behave however they feel because there will be no repercussions. When children fear their parents, they hold respect for them. They then respect voices of authority. They do better in all areas of their lives. They strive to be good because they know there will be repercussions if they aren’t.

  4. Greg Bepper says:

    As we know these little ones don’t come with an individual user’s manual. The one advice fits all does not apply. We as parents learn by our mistakes.. or I should say ‘Should learn by them’ Common sense should prevail… BUT as you have pointed out Tracy… The irresponsible are the most upsetting and the most dangerous. Great article

  5. Michelle Gilstrap says:

    My daughter is 27, and I was a single parent who had to work, and I did not have a lot of help. I did not allow her to get away with temper tantrums. I told her what I expected before we walked in to someone’s house or a restaurant. I said if her behavior did not do as I expected, then we would leave. That was what I did. She knew I meant what I said. Because I would say we are leaving, and I would pack us up and off we would go.

    I also use a reward system of stars on a chart, I gave her stars as a reward for good behavior and I took away stars for bad behavior. She could earn good things she liked to do and she could lose things too. I reinforced good behavior and it worked.

    No father at home, I had to get creative, and I asked her what she liked for creative solutions, we worked together on things. We have a strong bond.
    My daughter is very smart, and I’m not saying this works with all children. It worked with her. I was very lucky, but I also knew I had to be a parent, not a friend all the time, but someone who meant what I said.
    I watched a good friend who never meant what she said and her son had her wrapped around his finger. When he went with me I used the same technique and he behaved.
    He knew I meant what I said. Kids pick up on authority and can tell you care.

    • Tracy says:

      You bring up a valid point that most parents today forget, to be their parent, not their friend. I have said that to my youngest myself with a serious tone in my voice and she knew I meant business. You are a wonderful parent Michelle, and I thank you as your daughter will have some good insight when she becomes a parent.

  6. Terry says:

    We don’t get those shows here in NZ but we certainly get the parents :-)

    In fact I saw a mum just the other day standing n the side of the road with the pram in the road, waiting to cross…..i.e cars were swerving to miss the pram…..hello!!!

    I have no answers….I just try and be a good dad….yes I take away priviledges and yes I put them in the naughty corner and yes when the kids from other families come to our place they are better behaved children because I have a conversation with those kids that goes along the lines of “when you are in my house if you behave the way you do with your parents there will be consequences….”

    they asked “what will those consequences be?”

    “that will depend on your behaviour and what is happening at the time” I said.

    So that question was asked once, one of the 6 children in particular mis-behaved and so he was told “fine, continue what you are doing but there will be consequences as I said earlier”

    About an hour later all the kids wanted to play PS3 and so I said yes except you Lewis….this is the consequence of your earlier actions….now that kid screamed and begged and cried but he didn’t get to play.

    That was 2 years ago and now every time all those kids are with me on holiday they all behave like little angels, especially when I say “remember kids you need to do as you are told or there will be consequences” and all 6 nod their heads and say yes we will behave :-)

  7. Tracy says:

    Terry, I KNEW you were a good Daddy! Keep being an inspiration to not only your children, but for other parents as well. Thanks for sharing!

  8. MM says:

    Great article, Tracy! I truly believe we have become a lazy society with the exception in regards to making money. We are lazy about doing the difficult, repetitive tasks of disciplining our children, playing with our children, watching and guiding them. But money is a God in our culture and people sacrifice everything for it. We are also a hedonistic society– wanting distraction and comfort at every turn. Even when we struggle– and a lot of us are struggling in this economy, count me in– our children should still be #1 priority over wealth and comfort.

    My feelings have always been the same on this matter: Be there for your children. It’s hard work, sure, it can be boring at times, and it’s definitely repetitive when it comes to disciplining. But it’s very important. It’s valuable work. Thank you, Tracy, for bringing this topic up!

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