Tag Archives: media

Instill Creative Discipline During Screen-Free Week

By Stacy Jagger, MMFT, owner of Sunnybrook Counseling and Music with Mommie,  www.stacyjagger.com

As a mother of two children and a newborn, I understand completely how media can become a crutch and a babysitter at times for our children, even for those of us who are mainstream TV-free, and who rely on educational programs, family-based movies and school-based computer enrichment activities. Our world has become more “virtual” than real, and it is sometimes necessary and healthy to take a break altogether to regroup, refocus and reconnect with our children, our spouses and ourselves.1187577_84255851 girl in spring

What better opportunity to experience this than Screen-Free Week? It’s a time to get back to the basics and reflect on why connection-based parenting is not only our parenting theory but the way we actually choose to live our lives.

Here are three thought-provoking, guilt-free ways to instill creative discipline in our families while reconnecting with our children during Screen-Free Week.

1.     Put the TV and computer in the closet for the whole week.

“What!? I can’t do that,” you may be thinking. Many of us won’t. Some of us will. But isn’t our reaction telling us about how much the media has power over us? It’s one measly week, a seven-day respite where the cell phone, computer and TV are not calling the shots. What in the world will we do?

There was a period in my life where I desperately needed to unplug. My husband and I did not have children yet, but we proactively and adventurously decided to pack up our belongings, put them in storage, and live in an 1850s cabin for 18 months, without even electricity. EIGHTEEN MONTHS?! Yes, 18 months. And the first day was the hardest. The first day I literally looked at my watch every five minutes and felt like it had been at least three hours. I didn’t think I would survive. I thought, “Oh dear God, what have I done? I surely made a terrible mistake.” As I sat on the rickety front porch I thought, “This is it. I have officially lost my mind.”

But as the minutes and the hours ticked by, my mind and heart began to slow down. I began taking in life in real time. And I began to realize that life in real time was slower than I had ever imagined.  Little things like the whistling wind, the green rustling leaves, the sounds of the cattle farm next door, and most of all the quieting of my mind began to take on a new meaning. And it wasn’t so bad after all. It was a rest I had never known but one that I had needed for some time, probably for most of my life.

I learned many lessons from my cabin adventure, and the one that stands out the most is that the busyness of life had robbed me of experiencing life itself, life that happens in the now. This was not something I was willing to surrender anymore.

So whether you choose to lock your media in the closet for one hour, one day or the whole week, I hope you will find an adventure and connecting presence in your “virtual-free” time and see that “busyness” and “life” are not one in the same.

A great tradition worthy of starting is a “Technology Turn-Off Time” each evening where we turn off our cell phones, televisions and computers, and just sit and read with our children, play a game or go for a walk. Twice a year, we could even have a “Technology Turn-Off Trip,” where we vacation away or staycation at home and remember to experience life without virtual means.

2.     Look your children in the eyes and feel your feelings.

In our media-saturated world, our computers, televisions and cell phones have taken the place of simple eye contact, even with those we love most. To gaze in your child’s eyes, using words or no words, is a healing and bonding experience at any age. It helps us to get in touch with our most primary emotions, many of which we have unfortunately left behind in order to survive our adult world.

A therapist friend explained the concept to me that the word “intimacy” is “into me see.” We teach this type of “into me see” early on with our children. What we don’t realize is that when we forget to bond with our children while feeling our feelings and empathizing with theirs, we are sending them an important message for the rest of their lives. We are saying, “This is too hard,” “I am too busy for you,” “I am not comfortable with this.” This message eventually matures into their adult relationships where it is no longer parent-child, but spouse-to-spouse.

We can use the “replacement principle” in this matter and, instead of sending those negative messages, forgive ourselves and take the time to bend down, look our children in the eyes, giving the message, “You are important,” “I like you,” “My time is well-spent with you,” “I want to know you.”

We are in essence saying to ourselves: I may not have received this when I was a child to the degree that I wanted or needed it, but I recognize the importance and choose to slow down, guard this bond, reconnect and repair from what is familiar to me. I can do this. I can slow down and be with myself and with my child, minute by minute. And when I fail, I can repair. I can humble myself and say I’m sorry, I was wrong. Please forgive me. Now let’s go have some fun!

3.     Experience nature.

One of my heroes is Richard Louv, and his wonderful book, The Last Child in the Woods, literally changed my life and way of thinking. What was in my heart, he put into words. What I knew to be true, he communicated brilliantly. Childhood completely separated from the natural world may be no childhood at all. There may be a forever void in children who are more comfortable plugged-in than unplugged. Children were made to be outside. Media is a wonderful tool that can enhance our lives. It is our job as parents to limit our children’s access to media, and to give them the tools to combat our culture’s message that unstructured time playing outside is a waste of time. It is just the opposite.

Time children spend in nature is a natural healer. It teaches them the circle of life, how long things actually take to grow, how to work together as a team. It really is a child’s first classroom for creativity, problem-solving and emotional and intellectual development. Connecting with nature goes hand-in-hand with connecting with people. Children learn the value of life, the value of a moment, and how moments pass quickly. Children need time to be children. Excessive media robs that from them.

So for this week, turn off the screens. Sit in the silence. Feel uncomfortable. And let it pass. Then watch the birds, the bees, the trees, and find the magic in the moment. With yourself. With your child. Experience life in real time, and then write about it. I would love to hear from you.

Managing Your Time Online

By Judy Arnall, author of Discipline without Distress, www.professionalparenting.ca

Judy ArnallOne of my worst parenting days was when I was still sitting at my computer in pajamas and my husband walked through the front door. I thought that he had forgotten his laptop again and returned to get it so that he could go back to work and get started on his day. When he didn’t seem to want to leave again, I realized that it was suppertime and that I had succumbed to spending the whole day in the black hole of the internet and social media.

Where had the time gone? My kids had spent the day at home watching movies and eating sugar cereal for breakfast, snack, lunch, and snack. I realized then that I needed to manage my online time better and not have it manage me so that I was missing out on the life I wanted.

The internet and social media can be a huge distraction for women who work and parent at home. Here are some tips to manage your online life: Continue reading Managing Your Time Online

Using Media Literacy in the Battle for Our Children’s Minds – and Health

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

advertising and our children's healthWho’s teaching your children about food and nutrition? As much as parents hope the answer is them, even attached children are barraged by food messages from sources you might not have even considered: the media and advertising.

“A lot of people say, ‘Media doesn’t influence me,’” said Melinda Hemmelgarn, a dietician and food journalist from Columbia, Missouri, when in fact, advertising is often the only form of “education” they may be receiving about food and nutrition. Even of those people who have heard about their nation’s nutritional programs, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid, few rely on them to make their food choices, she said.

Hemmelgarn is spending her fellowship with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Food and Society Policy Fellows Program educating parents about the dangers of letting the media make children’s nutritional decisions. Media’s influence on our children is so pervasive, she said, that most of us don’t even realize how much our children – or we – are being exposed.

Advertisers are Relentless – and Want Our Children

The amount of advertising we receive on a daily basis is staggering: television, Internet, radio, billboards, newspapers, magazines, cell phones, video games, at sports venues, in supermarkets, food packaging, even in schools, and the list goes on and on. Children and adults are constantly hearing where they should go to eat or what they should buy. With so much marketing coming at us constantly, it’s impossible for media not to have an influence unless we live somewhere with absolutely no contact with the outside world. Cell phones now have the capability to allow businesses to track where users go, so if your teen walked past a pizza parlor, an ad could pop up for that pizza parlor on the screen of the cell phone. It’s both awesome and frightening what technology can do.

Advertisers are also keying in on trends, which are most influential on children and teens. “Now, with regard to children especially, you got to get them when they’re young, because if you can get them when they’re young, you got them for life,” Hemmelgarn said of how advertisers think regarding children.

Study: Food Marketing Aimed at Children Influences Poor Nutritional Choices
A recent report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies shows that food and beverage marketing targeted to children 12 years old and younger leads them to request and consume high-calorie, low-nutrient products. Advertisers aim for this age group because dietary preferences and eating patterns form early in life, the study says. The report calls for manufacturers and restaurants to direct more of their resources to reshape children’s awareness of food by developing healthy foods, drinks, and meals for children. The report also calls for the government to enhance nutritional standards in school meals and offer tax incentives to companies that develop healthy foods, and for schools, parents, and the media to support the government and food industry to pursue these initiatives.

It’s the Parents’ Responsibility

Parents need to teach their children how to be smart about buying their food – to realize that the purpose of food is to provide nutrition to the body, Hemmelgarn said. Children need to learn that there’s more to buying food than convenience, price, or emotional comfort. They need to learn how food choices affect their health, not just their checking accounts or their schedules.

Parents also need to teach their children that just because an advertiser makes a claim, it’s not necessarily accurate, Hemmelgarn said. For example, 78% of people in the United States say they like to buy green brands because they want to be eco-conscious, but not all advertisers who claim to be green or sustainable or organic actually are. One fast-food restaurant claims that its chicken nuggets are green because they don’t have trans fats, but there’s no information on how the chicken was raised or any other nutritional facts about the food. Even the term “organic” can get confusing, as many companies are now diluting this label to include naturally raised, yet not organically certified, foods.

Media Literacy is a Learned Skill

The key to guiding our children’s ability to make smart consumer choices regarding food is to teach them to be media literate – using critical thinking to sort through the messages they are receiving in order to find the truth about the food being advertised and if it aligns with their own values and beliefs.

“Media literacy is not media bashing,” Hemmelgarn said. “It’s a counter-balance. It’s an antidote to the excess media of this age. But, it’s an alternative to censoring.”

Through media literacy, consumers learn that all media is constructed to deliver a specific message to consumers and to persuade them of something — in the case of food purchases: where to go and what to buy. They learn how to think beyond the plate to find “food truth,” answering questions such as: Where did this food come from? Who produced it? How was it raised? What’s in it? How might eating this affect the environment, society, my community, my family, or me?

There are seven key questions for consumers to ask themselves before basing a food purchase on a media message they received:

  1. Who paid for the message?
  2. What is the purpose of the message?
  3. Who is the intended audience?
  4. What techniques are being used to grab and hold my attention?
  5. What is being sold?
  6. What is not included in the message?
  7. What are the unintended consequences of purchasing this food?

Using the case of a fast-food restaurant’s ad promoting parties to schoolteachers for their classrooms during field trips, Hemmelgarn demonstrated how to use these questions:

  1. Who paid for the message? McDonald’s
  2. What is the purpose of the message? To sell food
  3. Who is the intended audience? Teachers
  4. What techniques are being used to grab and hold my attention? Happy, fun character interacting with happy children
  5. What is being sold? A free event for classrooms
  6. What is not included in the message? That the food is unhealthy
  7. What are the unintended consequences of purchasing this food? Children learn unhealthy food choices from the teacher’s decision, and children learn to overlook healthy food options such as homemade meals or healthier restaurants

Here’s another example using a soft drink company’s pop machines in schools:

  1. Who paid for the message? Coca-Cola
  2. What is the purpose of the message? To sell bottles of a soft drink
  3. Who is the intended audience? Children
  4. What techniques are being used to grab and hold my attention? Bright colors, catchy slogans
  5. What is being sold? Easy, inexpensive drink option
  6. What’s not included in the message? That the drink is unhealthy
  7. What are the unintended consequences of purchasing this food? Children learn unhealthy food choices from the school’s decision, and children learn to overlook healthy drink options such as milk or juice

Sorting through media messages can be difficult to learn and to teach to others, but says Hemmelgarn: “If we love our kids and if we’re interested in protecting them from these media messages, then we need to know how to do this.”

Cheap Food is Often Unhealthy Food
Anyone who has ever walked into a grocery store knows this is true: Healthy food is not cheap. Earlier this year, at the groundbreaking of U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama’s home garden, CBS News reported that people going through the economic recession were more likely to opt for inexpensive, unhealthy foods over whole foods, even when they know the long-term consequences of an unhealthy diet. When it came to saving money, people are more likely to trade their $3 organic apple for a $1 fast-food sandwich rather than look for other money-saving options. As attached parents, we must keep in mind that we are raising our children to grow into healthy adults and to value health over greed. And we must model the decisions we want our children to make. Be careful when you begin cutting the family food budget.

Is ‘I Love Lucy’ Educational?

By Jan Hunt, member of API’s Advisory Board and API’s Editorial Review Board. Reprinted with permission from www.naturalchild.org.  Can TV sitcoms be educational?

During a debate on legislation that would require a minimum of three hours of “educational and informative” television each day, a USA Today article quoted readers’ viewpoints on the definition of “educational and informative.” One show that brought about disagreement among readers was “I Love Lucy,” a favorite of mine.

The view of many adult panelists was expressed by a Detroit reader: “While some of life’s valuable lessons may be included in shows designed primarily for entertainment, that does not qualify them as educational. Education can be fun, but it is a disciplined activity. ‘I Love Lucy’ just doesn’t fit the bill.”

The children who wrote to USA Today took a different view, pointing out that “I Love Lucy” teaches valuable lessons about the consequences of one’s actions. They saw Lucy Ricardo, whose escapades often backfire, as a sort of reverse role model and the show as something of a morality play. Continue reading Is ‘I Love Lucy’ Educational?

Letter to the Editor: The Truth about TV

By Joanna Glass, leader of API of Garner, North Carolina

Editor’s Note: This Letter to the Editor was written inTV time response to an article published on The Attached Family on July 28, 2009, “TV as a Teaching Tool?” The topics on The Attached Family are open for discussion, and readers are welcome to write articles in response to any of the articles published in this ezine. Attachment Parenting International will clarify any points related specifically to the Eight Principles of Parenting; but with topics that do not fall directly under the Eight Principles, we aim to foster a healthy discussion of ways that parents can strengthen their attachment with their child. To submit a response for publication, e-mail editor@attachmentparenting.org.

We all hear the negative about television. Television is associated with obesity, sleep problems, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), violent behavior, and poor school performance. Is there truth to it? Should we blame our problems on electronic media?

Author’s Note: I wrote to my fellow leaders and to API Headquarters asking about this issue and approached them with some of my feelings about what I have learned over the years. They were very open and receptive to hearing some of the alternatives to some of the negative information that is being brought up about this subject, so I wrote this article. It is a bit longer than I planned. The wonderful view of API is that families of varying beliefs can participate. It is open to everyone. It is an online community that has not created a homophily atmosphere, which has begun to plagues so many other sites and groups.

API groups and forums leave so much room for diversity, and with diversity, we have room to grow as people and as parents. If we homogenize everything and only associate with parents who believe the same thing, we are only hurting ourselves and our children, for our children are not us, they are their own person who craves exposure to new information.


The information that the American Academy of Pedatrics based their statement on was shown not to be factual. This information can be obtained directly from the ADHD sites and the author of the “study” himself.

Dimitri Christakis, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and co-director of the school’s Institute for Child Health, admits that his study was limited. He based his research on a previous survey of about 1,300 mothers who recalled the television habits of their children in early childhood. Such after-the-fact reporting is considered highly fallible, because parents often over- or under-report the amount of TV watched.

What’s more, the study linked TV-viewing to general attention problems rather than to diagnosed ADD. Study participants were never asked whether their children had Attention Deficit Disorder. Instead, the study looked at five kinds of attention difficulties, including “obsessive concerns” and “confusion,” neither of which are core ADD symptoms.

Nor did the study consider the kinds of programs children watched. Educational programs, such as Blue’s Clues or Mr. Rogers, which have a slower pace, rely on storytelling, and avoid rapid zooms, abrupt cuts, and jarring noises, weren’t differentiated from more aggressive programming. Neither did the researchers consider whether TV-viewing and attention difficulties presented a chicken-or-egg situation. According to an article in ADDitude Magazine, “Living Well with ADD and Learning Disabilities,” some critics suggest that younger children with pre-existing attention deficits may be drawn to watching TV, while solving simple puzzles or concentrating on games would be an uphill battle. They add that parents of these children might turn to the TV for relief more frequently than parents of kids who have less trouble staying focused.

Another interesting article about ADD and technology by Joel Spolsky stated: “ADD is often marked by an inability to focus on a given task or, in the case of ADHD, a tendency to hyperfocus and then lose complete focus. Just as with multiple personality, mainstream media has made autism and ADD appear to be commonplace and everywhere.

Technologists have also adopted and promoted these concepts, marking them as valuable to the way of geek life. Many of you are staring at your laptops, multitasking. At computer conferences these days, like the one where this talk was given, it’s not unusual for 80% or 90% of the audience to be using laptops for something during the presentations.”

Our society requires that we be able to not have complete focus at all times. Many parents assume that their child sitting very focused on the television program is a lack of focus, when in fact it is not. We disrupt them and pull them away, which actually creates the problem with paying attention. Just because it may not be something that we are interested in doesn’t mean it is any less important.

Parents will excuse situations by commenting that if it is educational, then it is OK, but as a child who was brought up with this concept, I lacked one most important lesson: The lesson of doing something for the joy of it and because it was what I wanted, something I am learning to do now. For a child, play and joy are the first and most important lessons in life. As a parent, you may not learn something out of watching a children’s program or playing a computer game, but your child may: personal happiness – self happiness that was not created only because you told them it was something they could be happy about. Once I found out how important this was to my child, I found absolute joy in watching and participating with their digital life. I don’t always get it, but what I get is a connection and a bond with my child. They know I trust them enough to find their path and their own joy and that it doesn’t impact my personal beliefs or make either of us wrong.


Television does not promote violence. Children watching violent programs without their parents taking the time to explain things to them can create situations where violence can occur.

Dozens of books have been written, hundreds of studies published, and hundreds of thousands of invectives thrown by each side towards the other. Despite the extensive research, video games have not been proven to be harmful or to cause violence. The persistence of opponents in trying to pin society’s issues on television and video games is an unfair attempt to demonize a new media for issues that it has not caused.

What makes kids smack others and maybe grow into homicidal adults? Not the tube, says new research, but a lack of social skills – something that television can also provide as an increasing number of families have lost this ability, even down to the basic act of knowing how to invite someone to their home or even how to ready a home for company.

All babies are born with violent tendencies, which most kids learn to control as they grow older, a University of Montreal professor who has spent more than 20 years studying 35,000 Canadian children told ScientificAmerican.com. Those who don’t or can’t learn are the ones who become violent. Author
Richard Tremblay states: “It’s a natural behavior, and it’s surprising that the idea that children and adolescents learn aggression from the media is still relevant. Clearly, youth were violent before television appeared. We’re looking at to what extent the chronically aggressive individuals show differences in terms of gene expressions compared to those on the normal trajectory. The individuals that are chronically aggressive have more genes that are not expressed.” This is an indication “that the problem is at a very basic level,” he added.

A pregnant woman’s smoking, drinking, poor nutrition, or exposure to excessive stress can cause or contribute to a fetus’s abnormal genetic development, Tremblay said. Damaged genes can prevent a child from learning skills for self-expression, reducing his ability to interact socially, and thus make him prone to violence. Tremblay cited genes involved with language acquisition and development as an example; children who can’t speak well get frustrated easily and can erupt violently as a result.

Violence is also passed on. Parents who have violent tendencies pass these along to their children. The prisons are filled with people who were abused as children and grew up to be abusive adults. This is not caused by television but by the lack of intervention and education for families to not use violence as a means to raise their children or solve their problems. We are a country based on fear and violence. We tell our children that we solve our problems by hitting them or hitting each other, and then get upset when they do it and blame television or other media. Violence has been around longer than television.

The Bible has more violence in it than most television programs, and I don’t often hear people saying “close that, turn it off, don’t read that, or you may become violent.” They actually take the time to talk about it with their children.

And I have even seen parents and churches use violence to force belief. It isn’t just the Bible, but all literature. Humans are naturally drawn to violence because we are raised with so much of it. For more information about the history of it and how violence perpetuated in American homes, you may want to read Behind Closed Doors: Violence in the American Family.

Poor School Performance

Poor school performance has been blamed on so many things instead of what it really happening — that the American School systems are failing our children.

Children do not do well in school, because school has become a place where everything is controlled. Instead of children learning naturally and at their own pace, they are forced to learn information that they are not yet interested in or information is being put into them at a pace that they are not able to handle. The hours are too long and the methods being used are cookie-cutter ,not taking into account the individual. Children are being told what they can do from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep. Even the simple act of using the bathroom has become an issue.

Having to ask for permission to use a bathroom is a humiliating and very strange thing to do, something we have gotten use do as adults.

School is a place where all of your rights are stripped when you walk through that door. This isn’t conducive to learning. I have heard parents say that if children had complete control over when they could use the bathroom, there would be chaos. Maybe now there would be, as children have lost the ability to control themselves because we as adults have told them they can’t.

Then there are teachers. Many are not qualified, because it is such a low-paying job. It used to be thought that people would teach because they loved the job, not for the money, but when a family can’t afford to pay their rent, why would they want to teach? So we lose many of the better qualified teachers to jobs that can pay them for that knowledge.

One of the reasons behind our choice to homeschool: My husband worked for the Board of Education on a very high level seeing how those people were paid in excess of over $100 an hour and teachers paid next to nothing and zero money being spent on books. Classrooms were forced to share one book per class of students.

The food in most of our schools is some of the lowest grade food available. We know that healthy foods create a healthier brain and learning environment, but yet we feed our children the lowest quality foods. They have created environments where they have taken disruptive students and children who were not learning well in regular schools and put them into a school where they served healthy organic foods and it was proven a success. The food in our school systems is also another reason why our children are obese, not television.

Parents can do more to make changes in the system. One or two parents may be, but as a community, it is not happening. There are parents who feel they can’t do anything to help, but they can. No matter how small it may seem, everything you do to help your school or community can add to the bigger mixture of everyone else doing something small. Parents can look into charter schools and other educational opportunities for their children. My older children did public school until we moved to where we now live, and then after a year of absolute horror of the public school system here, we opted for charter schools. For our youngest we are homeschooling, actually unschooling.

Some Other Personal Thoughts

Are boundaries an issue or an answer? Are limits? It is more that the parents are not interacting and not discussing with their children what they are viewing and what their feelings are about it. I am not saying a three year old should watch a horror movie, but a teen might want to and wouldn’t it be better for a parent to say learn how to explain these situations to their child instead of him getting that explanation from someone or somewhere else?

I prefer not to dictate what my child watches in bits and pieces. I used to feel that way, and I realized I was not allowing my child to find themselves. I was trying to force them to be clones of myself, something they did not want to be and it caused more problems. For me, this was controlled parenting.

I have seen children crushed by parents because they have told them, this show isn’t good or this part is not good and the child really liked them. They felt crushed, because the parents were disapproving of something they loved.

I have also watched children who have limited TV and the way some parents disrespect their child. They walk up to the television in a middle of a show and turn it off, saying that is enough, choosing what the child’s limits are, telling the child that she is incapable of knowing who she is and what she enjoys. I then have not only witnessed, but have been an unwilling participant in, the child’s outburst.

At more than one play date, the child starting hitting the other children who were allowed to continue watching programs that were playing on a public TV. The parents had set up a hostile angry environment. The parent’s reasoning was she was unable to control herself, so she knew her child would not, either. She had set up a self-fulfilling prophecy that she is passing onto her child. Perhaps the parent had not learned any self control because she never took the time to learn self control. I have also seen parents who fear that their child will become something they do not want them to be or learn that there is a lifestyle different than their own, creating a non-diverse household. Not all of us are supposed to like the same thing. That is why there is so much variety in life.

I had limited my older two children, and it backfired completely, just as every other family I knew who did the same thing had happen. Our children never learned to limit themselves or control themselves. I was always doing the controlling for them – the same way that I and so many others were raised.

With my son Ronnie, I have done the exact opposite. Some days he will watch a couple of hours and some days nothing at all, but I don’t say “no” or comment in any way. He doesn’t have access to violence, but he isn’t interested. He chooses what programs he wants to watch on Noggin and the Public Broadcasting Service, and some of them I may not “get” but he does and that is what is important.

He is not obese, but still, I don’t think the problem with obesity is television. It is lack of activity and lack of affordable activity for most families and so many families not being able to afford better quality foods. I don’t see the community centers like I used to back in New York when my girls were younger. Everything is a paid for activity that most families cannot afford or cannot get to, so children are stuck at home with little to do and with lower grade foods that tend to not build energy and promote activity. The schools have taken away most of the activities, and sports are such an expense for so many families. Not all children are great at soccer, hockey, basketball, and football where the last of the physical activity money is being spent, and most of that is coming from parents who raise funds for them. I would love to see that same passion of fundraising come into play for books. But, back on topic, maybe the schools should have nature hikes each day for an hour, something all students could participate in without feeling inadequate or being forced to compete.

Children who binge-eat are generally from households where control is in every part of their lives, including their choices in food. They never learn to control themselves, and I would like to say from day one, their parents are controlling what they eat when, but it usually starts the moment Mommy stops breastfeeding. That is the point where mothers no longer trust their children and tell them when they are hungry, what they are hungry for, and when they are full. They stop trusting them to know when they are tired and when and where they will sleep. This is very confusing to small children who, up until that point, have been given absolute trust. Just as with adults, for small children, this leads to depression, shame, and guilt, which then can lead to inactivity and overeating and other eating and sleeping disorders and anger.

Blaming television or digital media is easy to do. It is so easy to be anti-something, but being for something and finding real solutions instead of saying “no, don’t do this and don’t do that” would be much more effective.

Commercials and advertisement are important. If we truly do not believe in their use, we have no business using them ourselves. We project our fear of not being able to control ourselves around commercials onto our children.

We, as a society, have no right to dictate what advertisement is okay and which one isn’t. I don’t like fast food, but I have no business telling Sesame Street that they can’t take that grant from McDonald’s because parents are not giving enough to support them.

Or what about TV shows that create toys? They do so for a reason. Children like to identify with their surroundings, and those toys offer this possibility outside the moment they are watching the show. Also, these toys offer employment to the people who make them — in many cases keeping a roof over a family’ head. Not everyone has the luxury of living in a beautiful home being able to sit back and say, “Well, making a toy based on the movie is just consumerism and wrong. Can’t there just be a TV show and a movie without it?”

It may be fine for one family or in reality that one person, but what about what the child wants or another family wants, or the family who is dependent on the income from making that toy. Again, I was anti-toys based on movies, but thankfully my daughter Jackie, now 22 years old, helped me to see the light in the situation: the good that the toy brought to the economy, the jobs it provided throughout the process, and then most importantly, the joy it brought her and her little brother.

Turning off the TV while the commercials while they are on does not teach our children about the commercials and does nothing to change the way they are broadcast. Changing the channel does not either. It just teaches children to turn it off or turn away and do nothing to fix it. Even small children understand more than we give them credit for. If they can understand enough to want something they see on a commercial, why do we deny them an explanation of why commercials exist? At what point do we decide that we are just so much better or smarter than they are and should this be a message we project to our children?

For small children, yes, PBS and commercial-free channels are great, but if you are watching them, then hopefully you are supporting them, even if just a few dollars a year. Living in a commercial-free world has a price, and as parents, we need to be willing to pay for it. I asked more than 70 parents during one of our events last year and not one of them gave to PBS, but all of them watched it. I can’t say I was surprised when I said that our local group was in financial crisis, that no one wanted to help raise funds. There seems to be a disconnect where when people think free, it means it costs nothing. Someone always has to pay.

The problem with keeping the flow with this attraction and not opening our minds to other views and possibilities is that we are cutting ourselves off from reality and diversity.

What Parents Need to Know about Cell Phones

By Lisa Anthony, reprinted with permission from CellPhones.org

Cell phone safetyEditor’s Note: Attachment Parenting International doesn’t take a stance on cell phone use for children and adolescents. This article is to inform parents who do allow cell phone use, or who are considering it.

Each new generation of parents faces obstacles and menaces with which the previous generation never had to contend. The changing times have brought with them a new, more complicated world in which our children must learn to live, to thrive, and most importantly of all, to survive.

Contemporary problems arrive without guidelines on the best way to teach our children to stay safe and protect themselves or precedents to guide us in teaching them. It is our job as parents to define the method and provide clear guidelines our children can follow and live with. But when you are in uncharted waters whose depths and dangers frighten you, how are you supposed to steer your children towards safety when you aren’t certain that your directions won’t lead them into more treacherous areas or point them in the wrong direction?

With so much uncertainty, there is one point of which you can be sure: No directions or guidance is definitely more dangerous than any of the practical advice you can provide. Establish specific and clear rules for your child to follow. It is important that you do not leave room for interpretation or risk ambiguity. Your child needs to know what is expected of them and how to protect themselves. Continue reading What Parents Need to Know about Cell Phones

TV as a Parenting Tool?

By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)

TV timeMost parenting experts advise that parents use extreme caution in allowing their child to watch television, especially younger children, and even with educational programming. And many attached parents either don’t allow television at all or only sparingly. But there are some of us who do allow our children to watch TV and are OK with it.

What Makes TV Bad

A study by the University of Washington and the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, published in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in June 2009, determines that television-watching significantly delays language development in young children. The reason is, children learn to talk from listening to their parents and when the television is turned on and is audible, parents are less likely to talk to their children.

TV-watching is also associated with obesity, sleep problems, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, violent behavior, and poor school performance.

But what exactly about TV puts children at risk for these problems? The reason is because TV is meant to be a source of entertainment, not a teacher or babysitter. Yes, television captivates children’s attention and can keep them from busy for long periods of time – long enough for a parent to get some chores, work, or a hobby done. But, it’s because TV makes it so easy for parents why it makes it so wrong. It’s not the TV in and of itself putting children at risk of these problems; it’s the parents who aren’t interacting with their children and who aren’t setting boundaries on what their children view, as in the case of violence, sexual behavior, and bad language.

According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, media exposure on children affects their brain development as any other influence, such as parents and teachers. Allowing children to watch sexual or violent material isn’t entertainment – it’s education. As parents, we need to be careful what we’re allowing our children to learn.

So, why not just turn off the TV? Well, many parents do choose this option. But, TV is a part of our culture, just as are cell phones and Internet, and all of these electronics are being incorporated into more of our lives. We can just turn the TV off, or we can teach our children how to use the TV appropriately.

When TV is Good

Regarded for what it is, mostly entertainment, families can use television much as they would a book – helping to provide children exposure to new ideas. As long as the show is developmentally appropriate, small doses of television aren’t harmful. For example, my children enjoy watching Nature on the Public Broadcasting Service which takes viewers all over the world to see wildlife and natural habitat.

Some educational programming is OK, too. According to the Center for Media Literacy, some educational programming each week improves preschoolers’ standardized test scores. Many a foreign-speaking family credits television to learning their home country’s language. And, obviously, the older the child, the more she can learn from watching television, such as keeping up on current events or watching shows that explore science or history. Although many experts don’t give too much credit to TV, educational shows are created using child development specialists and on the back of research studies.

Still, parents should screen all shows before allowing their children to view it, including so-called kid-friendly cartoons, and also watch their child’s reaction to the show. For example, I only let me children watch the “Elmo’s World” on Sesame Street because some of the rest of show didn’t sit well with me. There is sometimes a play on a popular song whose original lyrics I know are not kid-friendly. Plus, while my children were entertained, I would rather have a television program that engages my children enough that they are excited to tell me what they learned later. I am a big fan of Word World on the Public Broadcasting Service, which literally taught my three-year-old her alphabet, and Barney because it inspires my children to get up and dance to the music, and not just sit passively watching the TV.

Used appropriately, television can help some families bond. My family has a movie night each week. We make homemade popcorn together, snuggle up on the couch, and turn on a movie, sometimes a DVD and sometimes on a television network. If the movie is on the television network, we mute commercials and take that time to talk to each other. My children look forward to movie night as a time to do something together just like when we go on a bicycle ride or do another family activity.

The big take-home message is, watch what your kids are watching and know the influence of the content they’re viewing. Also, it’s very important to put some limits on your child’s viewing time. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other experts recommend no TV time the first two years of life and a limit of two hours for children ages two years old and older, no TV in children’s bedrooms, and no TV during family mealtimes.

A Word about Commercials

There is a component to television that all parents must beware, and that is the advertisements. We can screen television shows and choose age-appropriate programming, and we can limit our children’s time watching television, but commercials are insidious. You may think your children are safe watching Dora the Explorer, and up pops a commercial touting the deliciousness of some unhealthy snack.

Advertisements are designed to persuade. Many commercials aimed at children are to sell a product, such as a toy or food, and besides when your children bother you about wanting to buy such and such, you may not think much more about it. But it’s important, if you allow your children to watch TV, to realize just what the television is exposing your child to. Start to study the commercials that interrupt the shows your child and your family watch. From sexual innuendos to sell clothing to a promo for a violent movie, you’ll start to notice what advertisers are using to try to influence you – and your children – to do what they want you to do.

According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, marketing is directly linked to childhood obesity and is a factor in the development of eating disorders, precocious sexuality, youth violence, family stress, and children’s reduced ability to play imaginatively. And advertisers want our children’s minds: Companies spend about $17 billion each year marketing to children. TV alone bombards children ages two to 11 years old with more than 25,000 advertisements, which doesn’t include placement of products within television shows and movies. Children under 12 years old influence about $500 billion in purchases every year. Children under 14 years old spend $40 billion each year, and teens spend $159 billion.

There are a number of ways you can reduce influence from commercials while watching the television:

  • Turn off the TV while commercials are on.
  • Change the channel.
  • Mute the TV during commercial time.
  • Watch a TV network without commercials, such as the Public Broadcasting Service.
  • Educate yourself on the influence of marketing. For example, children younger than eight years old are developmentally unable to understand advertising’s intent and therefore rely on their caregivers to regulate marketing exposure for them. With older children, advertisers tend to denigrate adults and exploit children’s desires to fit in with their peers and rebel against authority figures.
  • Teach your older child how to use critical thinking tools to decipher what an advertiser is trying to persuade him to do, how to find the truth in the advertising message, and to take charge of his own buying habits using family values as a basis. To learn more, read the article in the upcoming Summer 2009 “Feeding Our Children” issue of The Attached Family magazine.
  • Use videos/DVDs.

API Members React to Motrin Ad

From API’s Publications Team

Babywearing momThe makers of Motrin received a flood of feedback from parents about the ibuprofen brand’s latest advertising campaign targeting mothers. The ad, which had been released in November, had put moms and dads on the offensive as the ad’s spokeswoman speaks on the so-called (back, neck, and shoulder) pains of babywearing.

The Actual Transcript of the Ad

“Wearing your baby seems to be in fashion. I mean, in theory it’s a great idea. There’s the front baby carrier, sling, schwing, wrap, pouch. And who knows what else they’ve come up with. Wear your baby on your side, your front, go hands free. Supposedly, it’s a real bonding experience. They say that babies carried close to the bod tend to cry less than others. But what about me? Do moms that wear their babies cry more than those who don’t? I sure do! These things put a ton of strain on your back, your neck, your shoulders. Did I mention your back?! I mean, I’ll put up with the pain because it’s a good kind of pain; it’s for my kid. Plus, it totally makes me look like an official mom. And so if I look tired and crazy, people will understand why.”

API SpeaksA link to the ad and messages sent to Motrin, as well as the opinions of Attachment Parenting International’s bloggers, can be found on API Speaks by clicking here: http://attachmentparenting.org/blog/2008/12/18/making-babywearing-work-for-you/.

API ForumsIn addition, this topic is being discussed on the API Forums at http://www.attachmentparenting.org/forums/showthread.php?p=21255#post21255.

Motrin’s Official Response

“With regard to the recent Motrin advertisement, we have heard you.

On behalf of McNeil Consumer Healthcare and all of us who work on the Motrin Brand, please accept our sincere apology.

We have heard your complaints about the ad that was featured on our website. We are parents ourselves and take feedback from moms very seriously.

We are in the process of removing this ad from all media. It will, unfortunately, take a bit of time to remove it from our magazine advertising, as it is on newsstands and in distribution.

Thank you for your feedback. Its very important to us.”

Kathy Widmer
Vice President of Marketing
McNeil Consumer Healthcare