Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rant #119: Baby Love, Not Baby Smarts

Oh, how I cringe when I see something that is pitched to parents to make their little toddlers into something that they aren't. Evidently, I am not alone in my cringing.

The New York Times reported Thursday that Disney is offering a refund to buyers of its “Baby Einstein” videos, which did not turn babies into little geniuses, as Disney claimed that it would.

In a letter threatening Disney with a class-action lawsuit for "deceptive advertising," public health lawyers hired by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood cited a study which found a link between early television exposure and later problems with attention span.

Well, I don't know about that, but why do so many parents go out of their way to try to create their own little Frankenstein monsters?

Television is polluted with numerous ads (especially when there is time to fill on Sunday mornings) for videos and other devices to make babies smarter. Rather than let kids develop on their own, these things claim to make your kids smarter than the average kid--giving them the tools so they can think like a Harvard graduate at a few months old or begin reading Kafka before they can say "Mama."

Yes, I am pushing it a bit here, but the fact of the matter is that these devices are really nothing more than babysitting tools, so that mom and pop can do other things and not watch--or interact--with their toddler at certain times during the day.

A baby will absorb everything--even TV--to a certain extent, but these devices guarantee that your child will be smarter than the average kid who doesn't use these things.

Are today's parents so stupid that they buy into this? Why do little kids need to be able to read at a 12th grade level before they are fully toilet trained? I don't know. I guess the allure of being a "genius" really strikes these parents as an attribute that they want for their kids.

For me, give me your standard, spit-and-dirt-and-piss-and-poop little baby who will learn at his or her own speed. I had two of these types of kids, and they both have worked out fine.

Sure, we used the TV for entertainment purposes--my daughter loved "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" to the consternation of my ex-wife, who claimed our daughter would turn into a lesbian if she continued to watch the show (I kid you not--this is absolutely true, and is in the record at Family Court in Nassau County, New York!), and who has had a couple of boyfriends since, and my son was into Barney as a very small child--but that is all the TV was for, entertainment. And never did I plop my kids in front of the TV for many, many hours at a time.

I guess everyone is so busy today that they just do not have the time to play with their kids for hours on end. I know that I didn't have this luxury either, and the same can be said for my wife (not my ex, but the woman I will spend the rest of my life with, the mother of my son). But mixed in with the TV was playtime. I can't tell you how many hours I spent playing with my daughter's Turtle figures and playing with my son's wrestling figures when he got older. Sure, like most parents, there was only so much I could take--and I often reached my limit--but I did it as much as possible.

So to all of you parents who want little geniuses--just play with your kids, it's the smartest thing you can do for them.

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