Parenting puzzle

A few months ago, I did a post about out-of-control children who seemed to be the product, not of biological pathology, but of boundary-free parenting.  A couple of weeks ago, I did a post about parents who were afraid to exert control over their children because of their fear of Child Protective Services.  And last night, I finally got around to watching a Frontline that’s been sitting on our TiVo, which discussed the huge increase in children diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (which is the new ADHD), after their parents and their teachers failed to control them.  These children are then given a whole pharmacopoeia of drugs.  The show’s focus was the fact that the drugs haven’t been tested on children, but I couldn’t help wondering whether many of these children were being mistreated by being given drugs in the first place.

As with the out-of-control children in the first mentioned post, where I freely admitted that I’m sure a number of them have genuine organic problems, I’m equally sure that many of the children diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder or ADHD have true organic disabilities.  But all of them?  The millions suddenly getting these diagnoses?  I do wonder whether, if one did a Venn diagram of the issues raised in my three posts, one would discover that there’s a substantial overlap between parents who are afraid to parent, parents who have children who are out-of-control because they have no boundaries, and parents who put their children on drugs, which is now a socially acceptable way to control otherwise wild children.

It’s not just in America that schools fear letting children play

I posted earlier today about a friend’s elementary school, which has banned recess-time soccer and football in the wake of a child’s injury while playing football.  America isn’t the only place having a problem with the fact that kids take their knocks when they play.  England, guided by the EU, is being encouraged to make kids soft, helpless, fearful beings too:

I am not positively advocating that we encourage our children to fall out of trees or get whanged off roundabouts moving at 200 rpm. But the scabophobic measures we have taken to protect our children have had consequences we could not have intended.

Ed Balls yesterday called for children to rediscover the joys of the playground, and the football kickaround. He painted a Brueghelian picture of children swarming to play hopscotch and tag and British bulldog, and though we all share his ambitions he could have been more honest, frankly, about the real reasons for the decline in outdoor play, and the role of government in the disaster.

Let us take the surfaces of playgrounds, the ones that used to abrade our knees. Under an EU regulation EN 1176 local authorities are advised not to install playground equipment more than three metres high, and to use soft surfacing on the ground: hence the decline in scabs.

To be fair to Brussels, this regulation is not compulsory, but authorities are so terrified of litigation that they slavishly enforce it. The measure does not seem to have made much difference to playground fatalities: there has been roughly one death every three or four years for the past 20 years.

But the surface is extremely expensive, costing £7,000 for 100 square metres, and that extra expense has certainly played a part in reducing the overall total of playground space available.

According to play expert Tim Gill, who has written a book on the subject, there are now roughly two square metres of public playground space for each child under 12, and that is not enough.

So the next time Balls wants to talk sphericals about what the Government is doing to get more children to play outdoors, I suggest he has a couple of long introductory paragraphs about the baleful effect of over-regulation and litigation – followed by a heartfelt apology for everything he has done to encourage them.

You can read the rest of the article — which also covers the fear of crime that sees British parents keep their kids indoors — here.

Incidentally, I’m not feeling too snide about what the EU is imposing on playgrounds, since we have ridiculously similar rules here.  When my kids’ old school remodeled, they had to turn away thousands of dollars of free playground equipment, all in perfect shape, because of code provisions aimed at ensuring that no child ever gets hurt — or, I think, has fun.  Now, as a kid who grew up on rickety swings and things that were simply planted over asphalt, I enjoy the fact that my kids’ equipment is safer nowadays, and that there is something soft beneath them.  However, on every slippery slope, at some point you simply need to apply the brakes, before you find yourself lying inert at the hill’s bottom.

Let kids be kids — not!

I received this email from a friend, who thought that you all might have some useful input about a recent policy change at her daughter’s elementary school:

Apparently a boy got hit in the head playing football at recess and hurt himself, though I don’t know in what way or how badly.

The school’s response has been to ban all soccer and football at recess and lunch despite the fact that no accident occurred in soccer. Children can still play basketball and tetherball. They are only permitted to play soccer or football under adult supervision, that is at p.e.

We happen to think that this policy is ridiculous. I plan to meet with the principal to try to convince her to bring soccer back. This is an affluent community with some pretty protective and forceful parents. I don’t know if the principal is afraid of a lawsuit- but for heavens sake- minor bumps and scrapes is a part of childhood!

If you feel inclined to put this to your blog, I would be interested to know what you and your readers have to say about it. I could use some good points when I meet with the principal (who is a pretty strong and opinionated lady herself).

So, my friends, if you were meeting with a school principal and wanted to have a rational, intelligent, polite discussion with her that would help convince her that a ban on soccer and football is a bad idea, what would you say?

Must boast

We left early this morning to attend a 5K race that my 5th grader has been training for over the past three months.  I signed all of us up, though, assuming that, while she ran, the rest of us would walk the race.  My 3rd grader, however, announced his intention to run too, despite never having run a race or trained for a long run.   His running experience is limited to soccer sprints.

My son therefore left with the runners pack that included my daughter, and my husband and I walked along behind.  We assumed that our daughter would end up near-ish the front, because she’s quite a runner, and that we’d collect my son somewhere along near the end.  Boy, were we wrong.

Since the race was a loop, we were still heading out as the lead runners were heading back.  Imagine our surprise when, after about 20 adults came stampeding back, the first child to appear was — yes, my son!  My husband was so excited that he hollered out to him, “You’re the first kid!  You’re the lead kid!” Two other boys heard that message, put on their afterburners, and managed to cross the line in front of my son.  Still, in his first race ever — indeed, his first run outside of a soccer game — my son came in third in the kid age group!

My daughter finished very respectably in the middle of the pack.  True to her nature, she’d been happily trotting along side her friends, chatting away, which killed her speed.  We were very proud of her, though, for participating in the race and for running the whole thing.

I suspect that, from this day forward, when I take my dog out for our “hard walks” (since a knee problem prevents me from running), I may have two little companions trotting along ahead of me, and waiting for me impatiently at selected intervals.

Non-traditional families are not good for children

One of the constant themes from the Left is that a traditional home, with a biological mother and father (or a home with a married mother and father who have committed to adopting children) is no better than a single mother home, or a two father home, or a two mother home. With respect to that first — the single mother home — they could not be more wrong, as even an AP article admits:

Six-year-old Oscar Jimenez Jr. was beaten to death in California, then buried under fertilizer and cement. Two-year-old Devon Shackleford was drowned in an Arizona swimming pool. Jayden Cangro, also 2, died after being thrown across a room in Utah.

In each case, as in many others every year, the alleged or convicted perpetrator had been the boyfriend of the child’s mother — men thrust into father-like roles which they tragically failed to embrace.

Every case is different, every family is different. Some single mothers bring men into their lives who lovingly help raise children when the biological father is gone for good.

Nonetheless, many scholars and front-line caseworkers interviewed by The Associated Press see the abusive-boyfriend syndrome as part of a broader trend that deeply worries them. They note an ever-increasing share of America’s children grow up in homes without both biological parents, and say the risk of child abuse is markedly higher in the nontraditional family structures.

“This is the dark underbelly of cohabitation,” said Brad Wilcox, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia. “Cohabitation has become quite common, and most people think, ‘What’s the harm?’ The harm is we’re increasing a pattern of relationships that’s not good for children.”

The existing data on child abuse in America is patchwork, making it difficult to track national trends with precision. The most recent federal survey on child maltreatment tallies nearly 900,000 abuse incidents reported to state agencies in 2005, but it does not delve into how rates of abuse correlate with parents’ marital status or the makeup of a child’s household.

There’s a lot more in the article which, even though it admits that some statistics are hard to come by, nevertheless says that existing statistics show a very disturbing trend for children trapped in single Mom homes, with revolving door boyfriends.

I’m actually quite surprised that this went through the AP filters, because it’s a tacit admission that the conservative agenda, which promotes stable traditional marriages, is actually better than the alternatives.  I’m not saying, of course, that we should make it illegal for women to raise children alone or that women alone should be denied boyfriends, or anything silly like that.  I am saying, though, that one of the ways in which America can improve child welfare without more taxes and endless government programs is simply to promote traditional marriage.

Right now, between the devaluation of traditional marriage because of the pressure for gay marriage, the PC claim that single women don’t need a man (which is both a sop to feminists and to African-American women who have traditionally found themselves parenting solo, for myriad reasons), and the pop culture that turns its back on the old rhythm of “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage), the social and emotional validity of marriage as a prelude to children is at a low ebb — and children need us to reverse that trend.

Children at risk

I have one more school children post I want to do today, and this one is scary and depressing. It’s also not new, because it’s an issue that’s been around and about which I’ve blogged before: the possible terrorist threat to our children. Danny Lemieux gave me the heads up about the latest column on this subject, this time from Jack Kelly. He spells out, first, some disturbing factual trends:

• U.S. forces seized in 2002 an al Qaida training tape of a practice assault on an abandoned school in Mir Bach Kot in Afghanistan. The terrorists were barking commands in English.

• U.S. forces in Iraq found on a captured al Qaida computer building plans for schools in six states.

• In May of 2006, two Saudi students at the University of South Florida boarded a school bus. They were “cagey and evasive” in explaining why they boarded the bus, said a spokesman for the Hillsborough County sheriff.

• In March, the FBI issued a bulletin to law enforcement warning that Muslims “with ties to extremist groups” were signing up to be school bus drivers.

• A Houston television station reported in August that 17 large yellow school buses have been stolen.

Al Qaida prefers middle schools because the girls are old enough to rape, but the boys aren’t big enough to fight back, says retired Army LtCol. Dave Grossman, who runs a private security firm.

Kelly believes that Al Qaeda’s goal, if it does attack schools, is to turn the American people into slavering anti-Muslim monsters, who can then be used for propaganda value to unite Muslims into a global jihad.

Kelly also thinks that, with the situation in Pakistan so inflammatory, this is a window of time in which Al Qaeda will act, since it wants to tip the balance on the global scene.

The rest of Kelly’s article looks at whether the Democrats can stand before voters and credibly claim to have protected them from this kind of threat, or to have thought through a response in case, God forbid, something does happen.  It’s the weakest part of his article, but you should read it anyway and draw your own conclusions.

Here’s how the story could have been reported, Part II

A few months ago, I took umbrage at a BBC news story that reported that Israel killed Palestinian children and only saw fit to mention, in the 5th and 6th paragraphs, that the children were fiddling around rocket launchers when Israel fired its missiles. I felt that the news was being reported to demonize Israel, and that’s why it led the story with the dead children. Just to refresh your recollection, here are the headline and first three paragraphs of that story:

Palestinian children die in blast

Three Palestinian children have been killed after an Israeli tank shell hit northern Gaza, Palestinian doctors say.

Israel’s military confirmed it launched an attack, saying it had targeted people setting up a rocket launcher.

Doctors said two boys aged 10 and 12 died of shrapnel wounds. A 12-year-old girl who was critically injured in the blast died also in hospital.

Two months later, I now have an interesting comparison study about how newspapers report child deaths in the Middle East. As you may recall, yesterday Hamas, a Palestinian organization, fired into a crowd of supports of Fatah, another Palestinian organization. Here are a few headlines and first paragraphs.

From the BBC:

Deadly clash at Arafat Gaza rally

At least six people have died in gunfire at a rally in Gaza City organised by Fatah to mark three years since the death of Yasser Arafat.

The violence occurred when Fatah supporters began taunting Hamas police and throwing stones, witnesses said.

From the London Times:

Bloody anniversary wrecks hopes for peace between Gaza factions

Seven people were killed and more than 100 wounded yesterday when Hamas paramilitary police clashed with Fatah supporters during a massive Gaza City rally marking the third anniversary of Yassir Arafat’s death.

In the worst inter-Palestinian clashes since the Islamist Hamas drove its secular Fatah rivals from the Gaza Strip in June, the self-appointed Hamas police force fired on a demonstration and beat protesters, claiming that Fatah snipers on rooftops had triggered the violence.

From Sky News:

Gunmen Open Fire At Gaza City Rally

At least five people have reportedly been killed at a mass rally marking former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death.

Hospital officials said 50 others were wounded when security forces opened fire in Gaza City.

From the AP (via the Winnipeg Sun):

7 killed as Hamas open fire on Fatah rally

GAZA CITY — Seven civilians were killed and dozens were wounded in a clash between Palestinian factions yesterday when Hamas police opened fire after protesters began hurling rocks.

On the anniversary of the 2003 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a rally of more than 250,000 Fatah supporters posed the strongest challenge to Hamas rule in Gaza since the Islamic militants seized the territory.

From the New York Times:

6 Palestinians Killed in Gaza at Fatah Rally

GAZA, Nov. 12 — At least six Palestinians were killed and more than 100 wounded here on Monday when a rally by the relatively pro-Western Fatah movement to mark the third anniversary of the death of its founder, Yasir Arafat, ended in armed clashes with its rival, Hamas.

Doctors at two Gaza hospitals said all of the dead and most of the wounded were Fatah supporters who had taken part in the rally.

None of these stories, from major news outlets, make any mention of children amongst the dead after this Palestinian violence. Yet, surprisingly, at least one child was, in fact, a victim of this internecine bloodshed. I discovered that tidbit in paragraph 9 of a London Times story from today looking back on yesterday’s events.  Yesterday, buried deep in its initial report of the event, the London Times did have witnesses report that children were in the line of fire, but it mentioned no juvenile deaths.  The New York Times also didn’t mention juvenile deaths in its initial report, although I think it gets credit for reporting the Palestinians’ dawning realization that they opted for a sizzling Palestinian fire in lieu of the warmer, more humane, Israeli frying pan:

At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Afaf Abu Tayeh, 45, was waiting by the morgue. She was there to look for two sons, ages 16 and 17. “The Israelis were more merciful than them,” she said of Hamas. “They beat children in front of my eyes.”

Maybe it’s just coincidence, but I think there is something going on when the death of children is reported so differently, depending on who is doing the shooting.  And I think that what is going on is that the media, either purposely or because of an inherent, uncontrollable bias, views Israel as a demonic child-killing country (sort of the modern blood libel), while it is loathe to give any openings for too many value judgments regarding the Palestinians, whom the media has championed for so long.  And all the while, as we excuse the Palestinians for their bestial conduct towards others as well as to themselves, we give them carte blanche to continue with such behavior, so that more children will die.