I like to think that I have a sense of humor, but when it comes to parents teasing their children, I can’t find anything about it. Jimmy Kimmel’s “prank” of having parents tell their children they ate all of the child’s Halloween candy and recording the child’s responses is wrong on many levels. First, the parent is purposefully telling the child something that they know will upset the child. Then, when the child cries or reacts violently, the parent finds it funny enough to not only laugh at the child, but also record it and share it so that it could be viewed on television or the internet so that an entire viewing audience can also laugh at the child. Finally, those recordings will be available for the whole world to see forever. How can parents expect the child to trust them after treating the child as an object of ridicule. Parents, imagine if your spouse or significant other told you he/she just threw out one of your prized possessions and then laughed at your outrage, recorded it, and sent off a video of your reaction to a television show? How many of you would want someone who claims to love you to do something like that? Children don’t quickly and easily forget these “jokes.” These children will grow up and be teenagers and the parents will wonder why they have no influence or control. If the person who is at the other end of the “joke” isn’t laughing and if you are having a good laugh while your child is in tears, you are a bully. Is that REALLY what you want to be to your child?
A parent’s words and actions can be very powerful lessons to young children. As an eight year old, I played with matches on a very windy day. In the middle of a hayfield. After a dry spell. My eight year old brain truly thought that these made for great conditions to play with matches: no one could see me in the middle of the field, the wind would quickly put out a fire if I dropped a match. While the hayfields and Christmas tree farm was on fire, burning at a rapid rate, my mother said, “Just wait until your father gets here, he’s going to kill you!” I heard those words and believed them- literally. I hid. I didn’t want my father to kill me and trusted that he would! Not only had I disobeyed him by playing with the matches, I burned down valuable resources. However, when my father came home, he grabbed me, hugged me to him and said, “I don’t care about any of that (trees and hay), all I care about is that you got out of that fire and you are ok.” Those words were spoken nearly 50 years ago by both of my parents. The hurt from my mother’s harsh words have never been forgotten. Even though I deserved her anger, I was left feeling as though I did not deserve to live. Young children are very literal and do not have the capability of understanding implied meaning. She was not saying “your father is going to kill you” literally. She meant that he would be angry and punish me. I did not understand that. I want all parents to understand that their young children do not have the capability to interpret your words and jokes in the way you might intend.
Annie Mouse Meets her Guardian Angel was written with these types of incidents in mind. By sharing this book with your children, you have an opportunity to clear up hurt from misunderstandings your children may have formed from your “harmless” pranks or your harsh words spoken in anger and frustration. (What parent HASN’T had those moments?)
Where the Rainbow Touches Ground was inspired in part by my father’s scooping me up This book provides another opportunity to reassure your children that they are loved. The digital download of this book is on sale for one week for .99 on Amazon.
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Don’t forget to hug your kids tonight and read them a bed time story!