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Parental Guidance Suggested

[The part of Marc Fisher will be played today by John Kelly.]

Kids! What's the matter with kids today? Parents, I've decided. They just don't get it.

If you doubt me, look at Valerie Strauss's article about "millennial parents" in today's Post. It's about parents who are overly intrusive in their children's lives, parents who swoop in to badger and browbeat teachers at the slightest sign of crisis. That term--"millennial parents"--has a nice whiff of the apocalypse to it, and perhaps their rise does signal the End Times: You got your Four Horseman and you got your Back to School Night harridan.

I've been tracking these parents for years, and for one simple reason: I don't like children. No, that's not true. Actually, I love children. But I don't think that children are precious little wuvvy-duvvy sweethearts made of sugar, spice, snips, snails and severed canine parts. Children are adults in training, proto-adults if you will. They are in need of our protection, deserving of our love, but should not be objects of our fetishization.

Hand in hand with the micromanaging of the millennial parents is the burgeoning cult of the child. The cult of the child has spawned such abominations as "family bed," where children are encouraged to sleep with mom and dad, and breast-feeding kids till kindergarten. (I also blame this mindset for the proliferation of the juvenile rat tail: that icky tendril of hair that you sometimes see on 4- or 5-year-old boys. I once asked a parent why their kid had one. "Because he likes it," was the response. Yeah, well, he'd probably like to stick his finger in a socket, too, but you wouldn't let him.)

In my column today I let a reader vent about dog-owners who don't keep their pets under control. I headlined that section "Love Me, Love My Dog." These people are inconsiderate, yes, but just as bad are the parents who seem to subscribe to the notion of "Love Me, Love My Kid." They seem to think that everyone else takes as much delight in little Britney or Joshua's antics as they do. And so they let their kids barrel around the coffee shop or get underfoot at the grocery store. I know you don't want to crimp the little tyke's creativity, don't want her to grow up fearful and "self-editing," but part of being a parent is saying no. Part of being a parent is impressing upon your child that they live in a society, and in a society your freedom to express yourself must be weighed against other people's freedom to keep from getting drooled on.

Lord knows my family isn't perfect. And I'm not recommending that misbehaving kids be beaten at the Safeway checkout line, just that parents realize their job is to teach their sons and daughters how to make their own way in the world.

So, set some limits. Not just on your kids, but on yourself.

By John Kelly |  March 21, 2006; 7:31 AM ET
Previous: Belgian Endive for Tysons Corner? | Next: Journalist Discovers Blogging, Laughs


Please email us to report offensive comments.

As for the dogs, I was in a Radio Shack a few weeks ago and I guy had his dog in the store (why would somebody think it is ok to bring your animal into a store??) and it was on an expandable leash. This dog ran up to me and starting jumping on my leg. It took two sayings of "Excuse me. Please control your dog" before he realized something was up.

Of course, I could have kicked the dog off my leg but why punish the dog for its owner's stupidity. It wasn't the dog's fault. The dog was being a dog. The owner was being and idiot.

Posted by: Rob | March 21, 2006 9:36 AM

Well said (except for "severed canine parts"---bad mental image). Enjoyed the links!

Posted by: L. Robinson | March 21, 2006 9:44 AM

"Self-editing"??? Thanks, I must admit I'm not up on my psycho-babble. That's what parents are FOR, for g-d's sake! Like you said, kids would probably love to stick their fingers all sorts of dirty, disgusting, and dangerous places, and it's the parent's job to say no to the dangerous ones and say "That bothers people, don't do that while people are watching" about the dirty and disgusting. We pretty much let our daughter do whatever she wants, as long as it isn't dangerous or inconsiderate, but when we tell her no, it's final. That's the biggest mistake parents make these days, GIVING IN TO WHINING. Why not just tape a big bull's eye to your butt and write "KICK ME HARD" on it? We hardly have any whining in our house, because if it's something that's OK, we say "How do you ask?" or "You need to use your big-girl voice", and if not, it's "No, but when you stop whining you can [play, have dinner, have dessert, watch TV, etc.]".

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | March 21, 2006 9:50 AM

The part I hate is where everything has to be "family friendly". If they want "family friendly" let 'em go to Orlando, stay the hell out of Daytona. Christ you can't go anywhere nowadays without places reinventing themselves as "family friendly". Maybe there's more kids now; I don't remember places going nuts to be "family friendly" during the Boomer years.

Posted by: Stick | March 21, 2006 9:55 AM

John: You did not address the most striking element about the Metro section and you today. The pink highlights (or are they cherry highlights) on your picture on page 1 make you look like a bad Eleanor Roosevelt impersonator. If they keep this up, your credibility may take a major hit.

Posted by: Tenleytown | March 21, 2006 10:08 AM

I'll bet pink might improve Fisher's appearance, however.

Posted by: Tenleytown | March 21, 2006 10:08 AM

"Fresh Buds, Nefarious Deeds and Other Signs of Spring"

Hmmm. Drug references?

Posted by: wiredog | March 21, 2006 10:26 AM

Kelly has credibility?!

Posted by: Tai Shan | March 21, 2006 10:33 AM

Ouch, I am sometimes guilty of letting my 3-year old wander too far ahead of me in the grocery store. I though it beat listening to a screeching pre-schooler, forcibly strapped into a cart, but maybe not? Sorry!

Posted by: Olney | March 21, 2006 11:00 AM

I think there's a misunderstanding about what "family friendly" friendly means. FF means sure, bring your kid, it's not R rated. It might even mean we have high chairs and crayons, and understand the occasional spilled milk. That's not the same as bring your kid, let them wander, let them wail. It does not mean kids rule. Kids never rule. Grown-ups rule.

Posted by: Mom of 2 | March 21, 2006 11:17 AM

Nice use of links there, Kelly. But the wuvvy-duvvy one isn't working.

BTW, your family looks great and the link to Hansel & Gretel is now obvious.

Posted by: Donny R. | March 21, 2006 11:56 AM

Amen, Cosmic Avenger. Self-editing is an important life skill. If you can't edit your behavior to match basic social norms, you're going to be a spoilt child for life, not a responsible, happy, well-adjusted adult. And parents exist to make responsible, happy, well-adjusted adults out of their children. (I'm not talking about conforming to a soulless, mindless pattern here, either, I'm talking about being able to socially interact without utterly disgusting or annoying those around you.)

Posted by: Confused mom | March 21, 2006 12:00 PM

Consistency, boundaries, and courtesy. As a parent of an almost 6 year old those are the 3 words I would engrave on every parent's brain. What's not okay at home should not be allowed in public. Age appropriate activities mean that sometimes the latest movie is not suitable (see Narnia and the shameless tie in to McD Happy Meals). No one is entitled to anything except the air that they breathe...everything else deserves a "please," "may I," and a "thank you."

Posted by: One of Three Hobbits | March 21, 2006 12:11 PM

Just to let you know:
1. Sleeping with children is a great wonderful feeling as well as nursing - for both parents and the kids.
2. I can't understand how a person can somehow find a hairstyle offensive any more than hair color, and for that matter - skin color, it has nothing to do with behavior.
3.In order for a parent to teach a child not to misbehave, the child has to first misbehave. You can see the parents work in progress at the grocery store. If you can help, please do so in a constructive manner. I've heard parents scolding their kids to be many times more disruptive than the child's own offending behavior.
4. It amazes me how all these well educated, highly successful adults, who have all the parenting advice and answers, have no children of their own. If you want to see what these bratty, spoiled punks are capable of doing, bring one of them to a nursing home; It will light up the faces of the patients like a Christmas tree. There's not enough of them.
5. And just remember, it's going to be one of these brats that will be wiping your butt one day when you become to old and weak to do it yourself.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 21, 2006 12:18 PM

Gene Weingarten would say (has said, I believe) that the fundamental lesson of life is this: We all die alone. Is 18 months or 3 years or 6 too young to start incultating this message? Of course. But it's not too young to start teaching a child that they have certain responsibilities. It's also a fine time to teach them that Mommy and Daddy have a life outside of raising them. I just don't get the appeal of "family bed." I love sleeping with my wife; why would I want a kid in there? Does the kid think I don't love him if I don't sleep with him? Guess what: He's gonna have to learn that message eventually, unless we're gonna be sleeping together when he's 15.

I spoke last year with a local hospital official who despaired over publicizing research that family bed can be dangerous. You can roll over on your kid and smother him in the middle of the night! She didn't know how to get that message across without antagonizing all the family bed practitioners who accuse anyone who's remotely critical of the practice of being the antichrist.

As for rat tails, I chalk those up to parents who see their kids as fashion accessories. You want to play with hair? Buy a Barbie.

Yes, going ballistic at your kid in public is wrong. It's all a question of balance.

Finally, I've adjusted the "wuvvy duvvy" link.

Posted by: John Kelly | March 21, 2006 12:33 PM

Just like drinking and driving, drinking and sleeping with babies is risky behavior with potentially devastating consequences.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 21, 2006 12:52 PM

There is a big difference between a millenial parent and an involved parent. Educators have been screaming for support from parents. Now they have figured out parents are not passive slaves who will quietly bake cupcakes, collate papers, and cut out construction paper stars ad nauseum. So now they want us out of the classroom. I say to schools, feel free to educate my child. Just don't tell me to mind my own business while you do it. My child is my business.

Posted by: Catholic Mom | March 21, 2006 1:38 PM

Catholic Mom, the schools aren't trying to keep parents out of their kids' lives--it sounds like they're trying to keep parents out of the teachers' lives. By all means, you should be involved with your child's life, including talking about what he or she is learning in school, and any problems in school. But (obviously depending on the nature of the problem and the age of the child in question) that doesn't mean that a parent should immediately fire off an email or text message to the child's teacher.

Posted by: APL | March 21, 2006 2:08 PM

Bravo. Just want you to know that those kids who slept in the family bed, were breast fed for more than three months, who have free rein in public places, whose parents don't say "no" in the grocery store, will be the ones who cause teachers and employers grief later on in life. Spoiling does not equal parenting.

Posted by: Maggie Leigh | March 21, 2006 2:08 PM

Olney, other people probably feel differently, but here's how I see it:
Listening to a screeching pre-schooler is annoying.
Being tripped by a 3-year-old wandering in the grocery store is potentially dangerous, for the child and for the adults around him/her. A ramification that speaks to John's point, I think - a parent should realize, because the child cannot yet, that a wandering pre-schooler is a hazard for more people than just the child him/herself.

Posted by: Noise vs. Nuisance | March 21, 2006 2:21 PM

The kids who slept in the family bed and breast for more than 3 months will be the best teachers and best employers.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 21, 2006 2:23 PM

Hey Father of 4, "I can't understand how a person can somehow find a hairstyle offensive any more than hair color, and for that matter - skin color, it has nothing to do with behavior. "

A hairstyle is a choice. Skin color is NOT a choice. I hope you don't home-school your children. Your analogy skills are lacking.

As for family bed, those children will be the most emotionally stunted adults.

Posted by: Father of 2 | March 21, 2006 2:30 PM

Father of 4, interesting points.

"3.In order for a parent to teach a child not to misbehave, the child has to first misbehave."

You learned that murder was wrong only after commmitting murder?

"4. It amazes me how all these well educated, highly successful adults, who have all the parenting advice and answers, have no children of their own."

Disingenuous for two reasons: John does have children. And you do not know about the status of other posters.

And, people who do not have children maintain a certain perspective that can get lost when you've done nothing but speak baby-talk for the past five or so years.

"5. And just remember, it's going to be one of these brats that will be wiping your butt one day when you become to old and weak to do it yourself."

Only if that brat's parents have taught it to be considerate of the world around it and the other people in it.

Posted by: Observer | March 21, 2006 2:30 PM

Does anyone know how exactly many babies have died because someone rolled over on them in the family bed? And, is this a bigger risk to their health than, say, second-hand smoke or being eaten by a dingo?

No wonder the "local hospital official" dowsn't want to publicize this loopy line of reasoning.

Posted by: Kalorama Kat | March 21, 2006 2:31 PM

Oh, Kalorama Kat.

"Does anyone know how exactly many babies have died because someone rolled over on them in the family bed? And, is this a bigger risk to their health than, say, second-hand smoke or being eaten by a dingo?"

Ok, so if only 20 babies die each year from being rolled over, is that few enough to not say "DON'T DO IT"? How about 10? When is the number small enough to condone it?

As for second-hand smoke or dingos, I think pretty much everybody agrees that babies shouldn't be exposed to either one as they are dangerous. However, stupid people still do expose babies to them.

Posted by: Father of 2 | March 21, 2006 2:44 PM

Really? You're not supposed to put the dog's poop in your neighbor's bins? When the bins are on the street waiting for pickup in the morning?

Posted by: Holder | March 21, 2006 2:46 PM

Dear Observer,
My balding hairstyle is not my choice. My comment on these people who know how to raise perfect children is not for exclusively the posters in this blog. And if you trip over a kid, learn to watch where you are going - You're the adult!

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 21, 2006 2:47 PM

Father of 4 -- I wasn't breast fed and I turned out pretty darn good with my 4 degrees. Now, my cousin's little kids all have health issues (nebulizers, allergies, etc.) and they were all breast fed -- figure that one out! Some times breast isn't best.

Posted by: Give me a break | March 21, 2006 2:48 PM

Snuggling with your baby and child is wonderful - as is snuggling with your husband or dog. However, routinely taking your child in your bed is usually done because the parent thinks it's the only way to calm the child, when, in fact, it's merely the easiest way. In the long run - frankly, in the middle run - the child does not learn to comfort itself, so it can get back to sleep on its own. Without this incredibly necessary life skill, no child can really adapt to growing up. Nursing your baby may well be the healthiest way to raise it; however, after the baby gets teeth and moves to solid food, nursing becomes a pacifier. Again, it may be easier for the mom to nurse a child to happiness than to help the child find a self-contained way to calm down, but nursing past that 8 to 12 month mark is patently not the wisest choice.

Posted by: Dingo Bait | March 21, 2006 2:48 PM

No poop in other people's bins! No! No! No! Take it home. Just like all your other trash. Exception: public trash cans. I have a dog, but it drove me crazy when my old neighbor's maid used to put THEIR trash in MY bins. It's just a courtesy - it feels so rude.

Posted by: Poopy Dog Owner | March 21, 2006 2:51 PM

Oh Father of 4, are you really that clueless?

"My balding hairstyle is not my choice." You are equating natural balding to willfully growing rat tail? One is determined by your body (like your hair color, eye color, skin color) and there isn't much you can do about it (ok, get a weave or plugs or dyes or bleach, etc.). However, deciding to grow a rat tail or deciding to shave half your head, etc is a CHOICE. Some choices by one person are offensive to others.

Posted by: Father of 2 | March 21, 2006 2:57 PM

I slept with my children because I liked it and slept much better. My wife nursed our kids for several years because she liked it. We didn't care what the kids thought; however the kids left the family bed around 4 years old because they ran out of room and found their own bed more comfortable. Now that the last one is out, I guess its time to make another baby. Maybe next year I'll post as Father of 5.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 21, 2006 3:01 PM

Father of 4 - how did you become Father of 2 (or 3 of 4) if your kid(s) slept in the bed until age 4?

Posted by: Just curious | March 21, 2006 3:06 PM

Hi "Give Me A Break": No wonder that many children are growing up these days with oddly severe allergies - they live in draft-free homes, with antibacterial cleansers and fiberboard furniture. THAT can't be good for you. What happened to the usual dirt, pets, and plants that contribute to natural immunity, I ask?

And "Father o'4", as the eldest of four, my parents set strict boundaries on our behavior both in and out of the house. No kids in parents' bedroom unless monsters or lightning were involved. No bottles past age 3. No wandering in a store was permitted. If either parent couldn't see you, or if you strayed out of their grabbing distance (2-4 ft.), you were a sorry little child. Then again, I grew up in Baltimore City just as kidnapping and molestation got notoriety (Adam Walsh, anyone?). Our parents watched us like hawks, and tolerated no whining, ever.

All four of us turned out rather well, and well-adjusted, much better than my wealthy and coddled, nannied cousins. We have good jobs and are independent, whereas those cousins still live hand to parent's pocket in their mid-20s, none having finished school.

I think strict parents are the best - giving into kids doesn't teach them boundaries, or give them confidence and wherewithal to push out when they become older.

And Mr. Kelly, I ADORE the sparkly "wuvvy duvvy" link. Thanks!

Posted by: New Aunt | March 21, 2006 3:13 PM

"I slept with my children because I liked it and slept much better. My wife nursed our kids for several years because she liked it. We didn't care what the kids thought"

How astoundingly selfish, not just with respect to your kids, but with respect to everyone around you. If those kids don't grow up to be clingy, emotionally stunted adults, I'll be shocked.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 21, 2006 3:18 PM

In Japan, kids sleep with their parents for years, and they generally turn out ok. The parents also manage to make more babies. I do wish people who do it wouldn't be so damn sanctimonious about it, though. (Well, really, I wish that on both sides.)

Posted by: h3 | March 21, 2006 3:20 PM

Rattail tendrail. You had me until that comment. Assuming we all have hair that is/can be tendril like.

Posted by: AJ | March 21, 2006 3:22 PM

Well, Japanese children turn out OK for life in Japan, but I'm not so sure they'd do well in our individualistic, competitive culture. I don't mean to say that our culture is superior---just that it is what it is and that preparing children to live in requires efforts to foster independence.

And, from my limited observations of family members, I would say that co-sleeping does undermine a child's ability to learn self-management, such as the basic skill of being able to fall asleep by oneself.

Posted by: SJG | March 21, 2006 3:26 PM

To Father of 4:

Not only was I not breastfed, but my parents never allowed us to sleep together as a family. That is just weird. That being said, I turned out pretty darn good. Not only do I have a close relationship with my parents (even though they "deprived me" of breastfeeding and co-sleeping), I am a healthy, independent, well-educated working mother with a very healthy and happy 2 year old boy (and pregnant with the second) who was bottle-fed from day one and slept in his crib alone from day one (unless you want to count his stuffed Pooh Bear as co-sleeping).

Posted by: KCH | March 21, 2006 3:36 PM

Father of 2--

So, I gather that you don't know how many babies have died because someone rolled over on them in bed. Does anyone else?

Look, kids die in car wrecks when you drive them to the doctor for their check-up. That doesn't mean you should stop driving them to the doctor. It does mean you should be careful.

Posted by: Kalorama Kat | March 21, 2006 3:44 PM

Father of 4, I think your latest response is a testament for the millenial parent.

You and your wife did all of these things because YOU liked them, not to further your kids personal development. And you didn't care what your kids thought until they were 4.

I'll admit, I don't have any kids and I haven't turned 30 yet, but I was a kid, and I thank parents for not coddling me that much when I was a kid. I am way more self-reliant and have myself together than my sister who was coddled all through out her life, and is still coddled today.

Posted by: TheConstantLurker | March 21, 2006 3:54 PM

Kalorama Kat, I also don't know how many children have died from riding a bike without wearing a helmet - but my kids still wear helmets.

Yes, kids die in car wrecks but, normally, the driver is NOT asleep. I've got nothing against cuddling with/lying with my kids but not when I'm asleep.

"It does mean you should be careful."
How careful can you be when asleep???

Posted by: Father of 2 | March 21, 2006 3:54 PM

Any child who grew up to become "TheConstantLurker" probably should have been coddled more as a child.

Posted by: Kalorama Kat | March 21, 2006 3:56 PM

Father of 2--

I don't think you should drive a car while you're asleep, especially if you're driving your kids. If you do, then your kids should wear their helmets in the car, not just on their bikes.

Posted by: Kalorama Kat | March 21, 2006 4:00 PM

Kalorama Kat:

"I don't think you should drive a car while you're asleep"

So then don't equate the risk of sleeping with your kids to driving a car.

Posted by: Father of 2 | March 21, 2006 4:03 PM

Father of Two--

Now you're even confusing me! Are you saying that when you sleep with your kids you make them wear helmets?

Posted by: Mother of Two | March 21, 2006 4:06 PM

Mother of Two:

:) Ha Ha.

No, when my kids sleep in their own beds, I make them wear a bike helmet and gas mask. I also keep the rooms sealed with plastic and duct tape. LOL!!

Posted by: Father of 2 | March 21, 2006 4:09 PM

Man, you guys are a fractious lot--or have I just brought out the worst in you? I admit I do love to see such, um, passion in people. And such thoughtful arguments. And when not thoughtful, entertainingly vituperative!

I guess what I think is there have to be ways to show your children that you love them that don't involve keeping them in your bed until they shave or getting in their teachers' faces when there's the slightest problem. I agree that one of the main problems with kids and schools today is the noninvolvement of parents. But that's just one part of a bigger problem. Those same parents aren't involved anywhere in their kids' lives.

Picking the right level of involvement isn't easy. Sometimes you have to let your kids fail. I remember talking to my daughter's 4th grade teacher. How much help should we give with math homework, I asked. "Let me ask you this," she said. "Did you already go to 4th grade? Now it's your daughter's turn. Let her learn it on her own."

Which was a good thing, because my math skills top out at about 3rd grade.

Posted by: John Kelly | March 21, 2006 4:10 PM

i agree with TheConstantLurker. so many of my classmates/dormmates/friends at school don't have basic skills when they get to college and need a friend/roommate to show them around. i know i'm not perfect, but i'm spending my spring break working because i'm short of cash, and my parents taught me a great deal of independence and self-reliance. that doesn't mean i don't have issues, but i'd like to think it means i can figure out how to fix them.

Posted by: college kid | March 21, 2006 4:11 PM

Congratulations KC8!
I think your choices are very wise and I hope your family continues to grow up with love and respect. You are the type of person America need the most; well-adjusted professionals willing to raise a family as best they can. Keep up the good work. And if I ever see your kid throwing a tantrum at the grocery store, you'll know who I am because among the glares of anger, I'll be the one that will give you a warm comforting smile and offer a helping hand.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 21, 2006 4:12 PM


I stopped learning math when my parents kicked me out of their bed. Did you sleep with yours until the third grade?

Posted by: Daughter of Two | March 21, 2006 4:14 PM

I was coddled enough to be self-reliant and determine my own destiny.

I am just not a frequent poster on the ".com" blogs. :)

There's nothing wrong with coddling (parents, please coddle responsibly), but I have just been around too many kids that can't survive without their parents.

I have friends and colleagues that have kids that can't function around other kids, this makes me wonder how these kids will turn out when they are older.

And I'm not talking about 4 to 6 year olds.

Posted by: TheConstantLurker | March 21, 2006 4:17 PM

Posted by: Anonymous | March 21, 2006 4:22 PM

I know I am posting replies too quickly, but there is a difference between support, encouragement, protection, expressing sympathy, and etc. for your child and then over protecting, shielding, sheltering, and containment from the outside world.

You don't have to educate your kids about the daily grind that the rat-race of a dog-eat-dog, blood-thirsty, hyper-competitive, every-man-for-himself, the-world-is-in-the-toilet America that can be hard on anyone at the age of 7.

I just think that kids learn important life lessons when they have to figure things out for themselves, understand that the teacher is the control figure while in the classroom, that you can't have everything that you want, and that self-control and discipline are important for making certain aspects of an adult life healthy.

Back to lurking...

Thanks Mr. Kelly for creating such a passionate topic.

Posted by: TheConstantLurker | March 21, 2006 4:27 PM

See the information below about how many children have died in adult beds. Note that the number is a minimum because they hadn't finished counting when they issued this statement.

• The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has reports of 180 deaths of children
under 2 who were placed in adult beds, during the time period of January 1, 1999 to December
31, 2001. This is a minimum number since death reporting is not complete for 2000 and 2001.


Posted by: Anonymous | March 21, 2006 4:40 PM

We must have been in the same line at the Safeway last night - three little kids running about, stepping on others, and continuosly asking "mommy, can I have this? pleeease? why not?"
However, I did feel sorry for the mother: dealing with 3 kids all under age 5 after a long day at work, I'm sure.

Posted by: Annoyed in the Safeway Line | March 21, 2006 4:49 PM

There is a fine balance between not enough and too much parental involvement in schools. We teachers like to know that you are involved with your child's education, your involvement helps us because it helps your child to be engaged and stay interested in school.

As a middle school teacher I rarely have a problem with over anxious parents because most are working during the day anyway. If I have a problem, I contact you and we set up a resonable time to meet. Parents can also view all of my notes, homeworks, labs and tests, quizes and grades online (after the fact of course) and there are lists of required materials as well as conduct of behavior contracts which the parents have signed.

So far the relationships I have with my students' parents have worked well and parents have trusted me to make the right decisions. They have their own jobs and lives to deal with as well.

However the same is not always the case in elementary school where there are many more stay at home moms who tend to spend a lot of time in the schools. My girlfriend is a kindergarten teacher and sometimes the moms(some dads) do spend a little bit too much time trying to manage their child's affairs during class. It can be annoying and a bit of a distraction to other kids and the teachers. Plus it's good to let the kids alone and get used to it, they will be much happier to see you when you have been gone during that time. Give them the gift of missing you and go do other things you want or need to do, I know there must be plenty as parents.

That being said, it is nice to come a little early to be waiting outside or in the lobby when school lets out. Elementary school teachers do like to touch base with parents and field questions every once in a while, especially at the younger ages. Transitions can be challenging to kidergartners especially. The cupcakes and the help with paperwork and art projects can be nice as long as it is not overdone.

If you have suggestions or criticisms, I suggest you call and set up an appointment with the teacher ahead of time, it's only courteous. Teachers don't come into your place of work and make demands and do your work, right? (unless you are in retail or customer service).

We will come to you if there is a problem, trust me you can bet on that. Treat us as you would want us to treat you. Use common sense and courtesy. Make plans ahead of time.

As far as middle school goes, I don't receive enough tasty home made treats like my girlfriend does in elementary school. It's just not fair, plus she is the one who complains about all the calories anyway ;-).

I hope this helps clarify the situation. Stay involved, especially at home! Feel free to ask questions.

Posted by: Boulder Teacher | March 21, 2006 5:02 PM

John Kelly said: "I spoke last year with a local hospital official who despaired over publicizing research that family bed can be dangerous. You can roll over on your kid and smother him in the middle of the night!"

I have never heard any public pronouncement on this subject from a reputable authority, only fear-mongering. Given the fraction of the population that were once children and the fraction that are raising children (smaller, but substantial), I find it hard to believe that any sound statistical study on this subject would go unremarked, especially if it is a baby-killer. Meanwhile, we get regular updates on whether it is better for babies to sleep belly-down, on their side, or on their back to avoid SIDS. Since my own offspring are no longer infants, I stopped paying close attention, but I believe the current preference is for belly-down sleeping. When mine were small, it was sideways. The only thing anyone agrees on is to avoid face-up, where babies can aspirate saliva or vomit, and where there is a solid statistical penalty of more SIDS. And to avoid soft pillows, which can smother babies.

The only situations I have heard of in which a reasonable case could be made that family sleeping may be actively dangerous is in the case of waterbeds and morbid obesity of the parents. Either case involves flabby material that can paste over a baby's face. Other than that, it appears to be a lot of shouting, no evidence in any direction. Of course, given the incidence of obesity in the modern American population, this could be an issue.

I'm surprised (well, not really) by the amount of mechanistic predicting based on, umm, no evidence whatsoever. "Those babies will turn out to be ..." something bad, or something good, depending. I don't know if I would like your child or not. But I know how I feel about folks who make such predictions.

Posted by: Tim | March 21, 2006 5:02 PM

Not to be unsympathetic, but, why, in this day of cheap, effective, readily available contraceptives, does anyone even have three children under the age of five? It's simply too many kids in too short a time period!

Posted by: BJH | March 21, 2006 5:04 PM

Related to Boulder Teacher's comment, something that has become lost in the discussion is that the vast majority of parents and children are doing all right. That's why her relationships with her students and their parents are unremarkable. Same for her elementary-teacher friend, who has a problem only with some parents. The problem with most of the comments I've seen in this discussion is that they make blanket statements of what everyone else should do, based on a tiny sample. The majority are doing just fine.

There is one theme, though, with which I strongly disagree. The evidence for the benefits of breast-feeding vs. bottle-feeding is very strong. You aren't dooming your child by bottle-feeding, but it's not a positive benefit to bottle-feed under ordinary circumstances. There are positive benefits to breast-feeding. It may not always be possible, there may be some situation that prevents it, but it's a good thing to do if you can.

Posted by: Tim | March 21, 2006 5:11 PM

Being a teacher of third grade students, this discussion has been very interesting. I am lucky to teach in a school where the parents are highly involved, most of them in a good way. I can mention something to my parents and they will apply it at home. For the most part, I have never felt so respected.

That said, many of the parents in my school are way overprotective (IMOP). While few things are ever mentioned to me (I think it may something to do with being male), I can see it in the children's behavior. I have never seen so many children not able to keep track of things, whether it is a jacket or an upcoming test. Coddling produces dependant children. They can't operate without the support of an adult. One of my best students has a brother that has severe CP and has learned that as much as she is loved by her parents, there are things she can do on her own. One of my worst students (on learning disabilities)still can't remember to turn in his homework with me reminding him. It's almost April!!!

Want to be an involved parent? Want to help out in the classroom. Help your children to understand that they have a responsiblity to themselves to be part of your family, their classroom, and by extension, society. If they are expected to contribute in someway (chores, organizing, etc.), it takes the focus off of me, me, me. Let you children fail. Be there to pick them up, of course, so they know they are not alone. But a powerful road to acheivement is through failure. Don't rush over to soothe them. Let them decide if they need you. I can't tell you how many times I have seen children fall down hard, get up to look for an adult rushing towards them, and when no one shows up, they go right back to what they are doing. They have to learn how to handle the world, even in small 8-year old bits, on their own.

I understand that this must be hard to as a parent (I am not a parent... yet). And it is time consuming. Trust me, good teachers struggle with balancing these concepts in their classroom everyday. We don't always succeed either. But, as the saying goes, children are most precious resource (insert tissue here). It is most definitely worth the time.

Posted by: ChocoB | March 21, 2006 5:11 PM


You need to check your sources. See the note above re the incidence of SIDS among babies who sleep w/ their parents. Note, too, that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend putting babies to bed on their backs (They have a special campaign called Back to Sleep.) to reduce the likelihood of SIDS.

Tim's comments demonstrate that, when it comes to parenting, everybody has an opinion, but not everybody has the facts.

Posted by: BJH | March 21, 2006 5:13 PM

To BJH--

Where is it written that three children under the age of five too many? Is that based on any sort of science or is it your own idea?

Posted by: Kalorama Kat | March 21, 2006 5:14 PM

Thanks for your comments, ChocoB. You sound like a good and reasonable teacher.

W/ regard to the kid who can not keep track of his homework, you might consider whether he has ADD. I know that many people think this condition is overdiagnoses, but disorganization is a symptom of ADD. If you think the kid is trying and failing to keep track of his belongings and his responsibilities, you might want to talk to his parents about visiting a clinician skilled in the diagnosis of ADD. See today's articles about ADD/ADHD and adults and the related web chat.

Posted by: Judi | March 21, 2006 5:18 PM

Hmm, I just can't seem to leave...

BJH said "Not to be unsympathetic, but, why, in this day of cheap, effective, readily available contraceptives, does anyone even have three children under the age of five? It's simply too many kids in too short a time period!"

I agree that it doesn't strike me as a good idea. However, let me suggest some possibilities for your consideration:
(1) Religion.
(2) Oops.
(3) One set of twins.
(4) They decided it would be better to have all their children in a narrow age group. It's a defensible choice, even though not everyone would want to make it. My own children are 21 months apart. Others prefer to have a decade between their children. Each situation poses advantages and disadvantages.
(5) Slatternly behavior, having unprotected sex with every man who comes along.

I guess the only option is for such parents to carry preprinted cards that they can hand out to interested parties, explaining their choices and justifying themselves as need be.

Posted by: Tim | March 21, 2006 5:18 PM

For those of you who hate children, don't take it out on me and my family because businesses want to cater to us. Go find your entertainment elsewhere where kids are not welcome. Unfortunately, you're forgetting the fact that you were once a "wuvvy duvvy", screaming, crying, fussing, whining, kid who had no self-control. On that note, it irks me to high-heaven when I see kids who are screaming, whining, and running around, and their parents aren't doing anything to control them. I mean, come on! If I can control my brats, you can at least try to exercise some control over your own.

And as far as the family bed, I have one that comes and goes. When my kids are sick or scared in the middle of the night, my space is no longer my own. When the transformer blew up outside because of freezing cold, I had no choice but to pile everyone in the same bed to keeep warm that night. I know that I'll lose precious canoodling time with my spouse, but we all have to make sacrifices.

Posted by: LH | March 21, 2006 5:21 PM

It's not that having several I think it's against any kind of rule. I was only reporting an opinion. I did, though, do a little googling on this topic, which led me to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that stated that outcomes are healthier for both moms and babies when the period from birth of the first child to conception of the second is at least 18-23 months. Thus, the "three children under five" situation described above is compatible with this recommendation.

But this study relates only to medical outcomes, not to behavior or the strain on parents of having several kids close together. That said, I can see that there would be some advantages of having one's children close together. It wouldn't be my preference, and, speaking only for myself, I wouldn't recommend it.

Posted by: BJH | March 21, 2006 5:27 PM

Whoops! In the first sentence of my post above, I meant to say: It's not that I think having several children close together is against any kind of rule.

Posted by: BJH | March 21, 2006 5:30 PM

The problem really is that teachers no longer are seen as figures worthy of respect. When parents rush in at the slightest sign of trouble, children take the lesson that they are always right and other people are always wrong. As the daughter of teachers I have seen over the years my dad become more and more disillusioned with the increasing number of parents who refuse to hold their children responsible for failing to do their schoolwork or creating discipline problems. These parents automatically assume that anything that goes wrong must be the teacher's or the school's fault.

As for homeschooling, I think it has its value, but it also has the potential to contribute to this way of thinking by reinforcing a family-as-fortress mentality ... the idea that the family is right, and anyone outside it is wrong. To strengthen our society we need to engage with each other, not withdraw, and school is the place where children first learn to do this. Obviously for many homeschooling families their church community replaces this, and that's fine. But on the other hand in the school system kids also get the chance to find out that not everyone thinks the same way as they do - a key lesson for anyone who's going to make their way in a diverse society.

Posted by: db | March 21, 2006 5:31 PM

I know a couple of people with the "3 in 5" or sadly, less. And do you what? They're harried!! They are stressed. And one works a full time job as a teacher on top of it. What happens when it's time for college? Who the heck foots that bill? Or when they all want cars with their licenses?

Posted by: Agree | March 21, 2006 5:33 PM

Here's what the American Academy of Pediatrics said last November about the family bed:
"Bed sharing between an infant and adult(s) is a highly controversial topic. Although electrophysiologic and behavioral studies offer a strong case for its effect in facilitating breastfeeding and the enhancement of maternal-infant bonding,epidemiologic studies of bed sharing have shown that it can be hazardous under certain conditions. Several case series of accidental suffocation or death from undetermined cause suggest that bed sharing is hazardous."

I haven't read every footnote so I don't know the exact epidemiology. And I confess even if not a single kid was smothered I would still find the whole thing kind of icky. For the record, I don't find breast-feeding icky, just breast feeding a kid until he's lost his baby teeth.

Posted by: John Kelly | March 21, 2006 5:36 PM

If you read any books on parenting or talk to your doctors, La Leche league, etc, it's recommended to breastfeed until age 2. The mother's milk adapts to her individual baby's needs, unlike formula. Also breastmilk helps the baby's immune system, among other things.

For the record, I'm not dissing bottle-feeding. I had to bottle-feed my preemie because of latch-on problems, but I did pump for all I worth, until the supply dried up, and fortified it with a special preemie formula.

Posted by: Bottle and Breast | March 21, 2006 5:39 PM

"For the record, I don't find breast-feeding icky, just breast feeding a kid until he's lost his baby teeth."

Or when the child asks the mom for milk...The neighbor's kid ("ma, milk") did that once. I thought my mother was going to faint.

Posted by: DC | March 21, 2006 5:41 PM

If I were going to have more kids, I would do more to look into the family bed issue and its putative dangers, BJH. I will note that SIDS was NOT what was noted as the problem in that comment posted above, but it seems that there is, in fact, some scholarship now available on the subject of family bed sleeping. That was not the case when my kids were small, but the level of anger back and forth was no different from now, including the same level of citation of studies. Now that I see that some studies have actually been produced, I can look into it.


I just went off and read the summary of that CPSC study. 67% of the deaths were from reasons not specifically related to being in bed with an adult, although they do appear to be related to being the child of a fool. 33% --58 -- were attributable to being in bed with someone else (presumably, the adult). The study period covers 3 years, so that's 19.3 deaths per year. I calculate that there are approximately 3.7 million children under the age of 1 in the U.S. today (divide population by life expectancy). This study thus accounts for 0.005 deaths per thousand live births. I do not know what fraction of infants sleep with their parents, but I venture to guess that approximately 1 in 5 do, based on the number of voices on either side of the debate. That suggests that 0.025 deaths per thousand live births could be attributed to sleeping with adults; if 50% of families do the family bed, then the mortality rate is 0.01/1000. The US infant mortality rate in 2002 was 7.0 deaths/1000 live births (I checked), indicating that 0.4% of deaths are attributable to the family bed. It may be a real issue, but there are much bigger fish to fry.

Posted by: Tim | March 21, 2006 5:42 PM

What is UP with the links in that article? Which intern took two minutes to find the websites they link to? What a waste! The article talks about over-intrusive parents; the article is a great example of over-intrusiveness, where the links intrude upon your reading. Give a rest guys! To link "wuvvy duvvy" to a picture of Strawberry Shortcake?! As John McEnroe once said, "You have GOT to be joking!"

Posted by: Reader I | March 21, 2006 5:52 PM

There's a good reason why it's not a good idea to sleep with your kids. Their sleep patterns are much more erratic than those of adults, and they thrash around like beached salmon. If you want a good night's sleep it's best to have the kids sleep in the next room. But, that's just me.

Posted by: CT | March 21, 2006 5:53 PM

I'll have you know, sir, I am not an intern. I are a professional journalist and I discovered those links myself. Furthermore, they didn't take two minutes, they took five.

Posted by: John Kelly | March 21, 2006 5:54 PM

"I are a professional journalist"

Just have to say "LOL"

Posted by: Not an editor | March 21, 2006 6:01 PM

To Judi
"You sound like a good and reasonable teacher." Thank you very much.

The child I'm referring to has already been seen by a professional about this issue, so I believe ADD has been ruled out.

And yes it is WAY overdiagnosed.

Here is something to think about. If a child comes from a home that lacks consistency and boundaries, as Mr. Kelly describes, one might expect the child to struggle with the boundaries that HAVE to be in place in the classroom. With the home and school setting two different standards of behavior for the child, that child might be seen as "willful" or "hyper" or "inattentive" in the school environment. Which could lead to a mis-diagnosis of ADHD that does not reflect of the underlying issue at hand.

Parents and teachers have to be a team to handle this better. Teachers can be just as guilty of seeing an unruly child as ADHD as parents may be of coddling a child who needs to have their space. I've seen both happen. Open and honest communication is essential. Parents are experts on their children... at home. Teachers come to be experts on their students... at school. You teach us and we teach you. How's that sound?

Posted by: ChocoB | March 21, 2006 6:44 PM

To ChocoB:

Sounds good to me!

Posted by: Judi | March 21, 2006 10:09 PM

After reading all of these comments, I feel like a walking contradiction. I breastfed my son until he was nine months old, (he received bottles of breastmilk at daycare), then did a combo of breast and formula till 1 year, when he pretty much weaned himself, then straight to whole cow's milk at 1 year. He's been in daycare since he was 11 weeks old. He's been sleeping in his own room since he got home from the hospital. Why? Because that's what works for us. He's almost 2 now, and developmentally spot-on for his age, according to his pediatrician and daycare teachers. And when he acts out, he is disciplined. See, I was raised by my grandparents, and in my house as a child, you were taught that bad behavior had consequences, and that you alone are responsible for your actions. I think that's the major point that is missing from what we teach kids nowadays: personal responsibility. Take responsibility for what you do, what you say, how you treat others, and how you manage your life. Everything in this world has consequences - some good, some bad - and personal responsibility means taking the time to assess those consequences before you act. Proper discipline teaches that. Parents who are not firm in their discipline, who worry about "stifling their child" or whatever the popular phrase is, are only setting their child up for failure as an adult. Children need boundaries. It's their job to push the boundaries - that's how they learn - but it's our job, as parents, to set and enforce those boundaries. A child with boundaries is more secure than a child without boundaries. When I was growing up, I thought that my grandparents were too overprotective. Now, as a parent, I realize that I would do exactly what they did. They set boundaries because they loved me and wanted me to be safe, while still being able to learn about the world and my place in it. I will do the same for my son, and any other children my husband and I have.

Oh, regarding the spacing of children: Some parents like the stair-step approach because it shortens the overall length of time a parent has to deal with diapers, bottles, college tuition, etc. In some cases, the siblings are very close as friends. Some parents prefer to space their children apart, which means that only one child at a time is in diapers, or college, etc. It also may mean that one child may not be so overshadowed by the older sibling. Both approaches have merit, not to mention that sometimes, fate has its own ideas (multiples, birth control failures, etc). It's what works for each family. Your mileage may vary.

Posted by: Outer Fairfax | March 22, 2006 10:52 AM

Posted by: Stick | March 22, 2006 12:54 PM

Just read the Jay Mohr column. Un-freaking-believable. I am speechless.

Posted by: Outer Fairfax | March 22, 2006 1:28 PM

Regarding the co-sleeping thing...yes the statistics may be small, but I see it as not a generic # of 1000 live births, but rather as an increased risk for MY child.

As a mother I would do anything to keep my children safe from unnecessary risk and I see co-sleeping as an unecessary risk. It endangers the child, and although the risk may be small, the consequences are tremendous. So what if I have to walk next door in the middle of the night to nurse her? That's a small price to pay. I also put her to sleep on her back to help guard against SIDS. Again, very small risk, but why take that chance?

When she starts crawling I'll make sure the outlets are covered and there's a gate at the stairs and all the rest. On the other hand, my 7 year old is old enough to take some risks on her own. She's gone to weekend sleepover camp and will get to go for a whole week this summer.

Just as we need to take reasonable precautions to protect our children, IMO we also need to allow them to stretch their wings and learn to take some risks, knowing that it's okay to fail sometimes too.

Posted by: hmmm | March 22, 2006 1:53 PM

"Unfortunately, you're forgetting the fact that you were once a "wuvvy duvvy", screaming, crying, fussing, whining, kid who had no self-control." -LH

And if I was my mom or dad would have put a very abrupt end to it, and I loved them for it.Now, I don't mean with a beating, although I did deservingly get my arse spanked once or twice, but with the threat of *disappointment*. Disappointing my parents was as bad a punishment as I needed. I saw other kids fussing, whining, and out-of-control and it annoyed me even as a kid myself. I just didn't get it and still don't. Letting kids be kids is a good thing at the right place and time, but showing them what is acceptable behavior in society should be parents first concern. The behavoir of a bratty child is a direct reflection on the skills (or lack of) of the parent, period.

And Father Of 4...if that was your poor stressed-out wife with the 4 screaming, gyrating,playing-hockey-with-a-can-of-soup-in-the-isle, brats in the grocery store the other day. Please tell her that I am not sorry for my loud comment "Birth control, Isle 8 honey".

Posted by: CatsNotBrats | March 24, 2006 11:26 AM

My children were both breastfed until they were well into toddlerhood (okay over 3 years old). They weaned at will. For the first, I also worked full-time and pumped breastmilk at work, then nursed at night.

Knock on wood, they are both extremely healthy, normal weight, and have a naturally developed sense of when they need to eat and when they've had enough.

We had a so-called "family bed" out of necessity. Our landlord would not repair properly the upstairs apartment bathroom, which leaked into the crib of my infant. We moved the crib into our crowded would wake up and want to nurse. Voila, the family bed. The bedroom did not have room for a rocking chair, and no, we never, ever rolled over onto our child, or on the second one for that matter years later.

I don't know why people get their panties in a knot over this one. Co-sleeping is the norm (as is extended breastfeeding) the world over.

I didn't really plan it out ahead of time. It just happened.

Both of my kids are normal, well-adjusted but not clingy. They're independent and loving. When my older child was small, we did not take him out to restaurants or many other places, because he was busy and curious. It was better to stay home with him until we knew he could handle different situations.

I also dislike out-of-control kids at the store, the movies, etc. But really, it's not the kids who are out of control, it's the parents who do not honor their own common sense or the needs of their kids to have routine, or a meal, or a nap, or whatever.

And even then, I think a lot of parents are just doing the best that they can...they're tired and crabby, too.

When my son was small (he's a teen now), I would leave the grocery store if he started having a tantrum or any other talking back. I'd leave my cart and return another time. It was draining, but eventually it worked.

Posted by: Kate | March 28, 2006 1:40 PM

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