Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dark Knight for one little girl

My husband and I went to see Dark Knight last weekend, and just as we were settling in, a family walked in and sat down behind us. Mom, Dad, little girl-- maybe 6 or 7. I was stunned. I had a really hard time enjoying the movie, because every time I winced at the gore and violence on the screen (disappearing pencil, anyone??) I turned around in disbelief that there was a little girl behind me and her parents were sanctioning her viewing it.

What were you thinking?? You should be ashamed of yourselves. If you cannot afford a babysitter, either go see a G rated movie or rent from Netflix and wait until the kids go to bed. How selfish are you that you take your child to a movie like that? Nightmares, night terrors, anxiety, bedwetting, clingy behavior, that's what you can expect. Your child's brain is still forming, still developing, still thinking the world revolves around them at that age. They are immersed in the fantasy world, and cannot differentiate fantasy from reality. The Joker is as real to them as the librarian.

Be a parent. Do what's best for your child, not what makes your life easier.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tough Love

I usually try to be nice when coaching parents, believing that a caring approach will get you further in terms of changing behavior. I always said when talking about my choice of going to my state medical school (rather than the high powered, well-known private one which was my other option) that when you have a choice of having someone lead and inspire you or kick you in the butt from behind, you'll get to the end either way, but one trip will be infinitely more pleasant.

Recently I saw a 3 year old who was so meek, so soft-spoken, so timid that he could barely tell me his name (and I've been his doctor since birth), so I dug a little deeper. Turns out he still sleeps in bed with his parents, and his mother still feeds him, she still dresses him. She felt like when he dressed or fed himself, it was too slow, so she just did it for him. Looking at this little boy, I couldn't be nice any longer.

I said, "You have to stop this. You are hurting him. You are hindering his development. I know you think you are being loving and caring, but by continuing to baby him, you are doing him a lot of harm. I am going to repeat myself-- you HAVE to stop babying him-- he will cry, he will get upset, he will be slower at dressing himself and feeding himself than you would be, but he HAS to do it himself, or he will never develop properly!" Mom was smiling in this sort of apologetic, "I guess you're right, but I don't know what else to do..." sort of way that I was quite familiar with. I had been seeing it for three years now. It wasn't the first time I had had the conversation with her about needing to be tougher. It started with him being brought into their bed since he didn['t want to sleep through the night in his own bed. It continued with him being a picky eater, and the parents not being firm enough with forcing him to eat. It was the first time I'd been so blunt. Encouraging good behavior apparently hasn't been enough.

When they're 6 months old and they're still bringing the baby into their bed when he or she wakes up and cries, I don't always pick that battle. I tell parents that while I think it's a bad idea, I'm not going to come to their house and pull the baby out of their bed. I understand they need to sleep.

It was a real lesson to me that I need to be firmer in my advice when I see parents not being tough. Even caring too much can be harmful. I'm going to be following this family more closely now.