Analyze This!

Analyze This!

Danny Quinney

So I’m at a restaurant recently, minding my own business, when I look over at a young family.  What caught my eye was not the cute little kids (two or three years old), who were adorable, but the iPad that was propped up on the table so the kids could watch Toy Story 3 while they ate.

THE IPAD THAT WAS PROPPED UP

So I tried to put the password into my iPad so I could jot down some thoughts, when I realized I don’t own an iPad.  I was trying to put a password into an “Etch-a-sketch.” I admit I’m not as technically advance as most.  But I do know that kids growing up today have NO CLUE how awesome this time really is.  When I was a kid I felt cool if I had a 72 piece Crayola crayon set, especially if it had one of those cool crayon sharpeners in the back.  Those were really cool.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging those young parents (well, yes I am, just a little.)  I’m just as guilty as anyone of putting my kids in front of the TV.  It is the perfect built-in babysitter. The problem is if you do it all the time, like, oh, I dunno, at a restaurant, your kids will never learn proper “restaurant behavior.”  Can you imagine how frazzled the parents will be if their iPad isn’t charged up, or, heaven forbid, forgotten next time they want to eat out?

Again, I’m not judging.  I get it.  Using an iPad is SOOOOOOOO much easier than parenting.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal told about a group of professors from the University of California, Los Angeles.  This group includes anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and archeologists who want to understand America’s middle class, to understand “what the middle class thought, felt and what they did.”  Their goal is to “publish two books this year on their work, and say they hope the findings may help families become closer and healthier.”

They are using research from ten years ago where 32 Southern California families were videoed at home for one week.

On the surface I don’t have a problem with the research.  A group of academics getting together to analyze isn’t always a bad thing, just ask the team of psychiatrists I have following me around, analyzing, having meetings, discussing me.  I didn’t think they were very professional when they smirked at my Etch-a- sketch. Part of my problem is how the research was done.  First of all they recruited families from ads.  Then they videoed them, for one week.

So?  I hear you say, what is wrong with that?  One of the problems I have with reality TV is that it isn’t really “reality.”  The people you are watching have applied to be there.  They sent in tapes, filled out forms, and when they are being recorded they KNOW the camera is there.  So how “real” is it?  (On a side note, I wish they would make a TV show called “Prancing To Their Cars” because, as silly as it sounds, I’d probably win.)  My second problem is they only watched them for one week.

Let me give you a scenario:

A kid comes in crying because he skinned his knee and is bleeding a little bit. My reaction without a camera in the kitchen:

Pfffff….What are you crying about?  Just rub some dirt in it and keep playing.

My reaction with a camera in the Kitchen:

OH NO!!  (knocking everything off the counter to lay the now panicked child on it) Honey call 9-1-1, I’ll make a tourniquet.  Stay with us son.  Whatever you do, don’t go toward the light!!!

Now it could be I have problems.  Believe me – I KNOW I have problems.  I’m not sure what my problems are called.  I just know they are really hard to pronounce.  (On a side note, I’ve decided to upgrade my ADD to ADHD because the picture quality is so much better.)

In the article anthropologist Dr. Elinor Ochs says the American children acted differently than children from other cultures she has studied.  The article says, “Young children were expected to contribute substantially to the community.” It went on to describe “a girl around 5 years of age in Peru’s Amazon region climbing a tall tree to harvest papaya, and helping haul logs thicker than her leg to stoke a fire.”  The article continues, “By contrast, the U.S. videos showed Los Angeles parents focusing more on the children, using simplified talk with them, doing most of the housework and intervening quickly when the kids had trouble completing a task.”  Well isn’t that cute?  I could have told you a kid from Peru’s Amazon region would behave differently from a kid from Southern California without funding.

It is probably true many American kids don’t contribute.  I know my kids would never, “serve food to their elders, waiting patiently in front of them before they eat.”  They have never harvested a papaya tree and they certainly have never hauled logs thicker then their leg.  But they also have other responsibilities the Amazon Peruvians don’t.  The article described “about 75% of the families, the mothers came home first and began to “gyrate” through the house, bouncing between the kids and their homework, groceries, dinner and laundry, according to the group’s analysis published in the Journal of Family Psychology in 2009.” Do the Peruvian kids have homework?

My biggest problem with the research is they are comparing American families to those of Samoa, Peru, and in one case Italy.  Just because they don’t have “Family night” in Italy, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it here.  Personally, I think a big group of American parents aren’t too bright.  I think we make a lot of mistakes, but as a whole we are doing alright.  All-in-all this is just another example of anti-America / American self-loathing that has been permeating throughout the media the past decade or so. That is a topic for another day (note to self.)

Also, if you think about it, ten years was a long time ago.  I just looked and in the last 48 hours I have communicated via text with one of my four kids eight times.  I love parenting by text.  Ten years ago I wouldn’t have.  My friend Dave Young said it best when he said, “So a point could be made that technology is changing our world so rapidly that unless studies on home life and interpersonal relationships don’t take into account the recent influence of social media and personal technology for communication, they will most likely be missing a substantial component that significantly affects our home and community interactions.”

I KNOW…how cool was that?  To tell the truth, I don’t even know what half those words mean.  I’m just thrilled to have a smart friend who thinks enough about me to say  such fancy words.

The more I think about it I don’t see how analyzing ten-year-old videos, of 32 families, from Southern California is going “help” my family.

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2 Comments
  • G.M
    Posted at 14:14h, 09 April Reply

    Children need to be taught that life is a learning curve in order to cope with their life when the time comes to stand on their own feet and be independent
    They should be taught slowly by example, how to cook clean & know that money has to be earnt, it doesnt grow on trees How ever well of their parents might be
    My two daughters were told by their unworldly but high earner father They would never have to work .That they would marry rich men and until then, he would always look after them If I asked them to help prepare dinner, tidy their rooms up, hed say what have we got a cleaning lady for ,I could do nothing to prevent it
    Well ,when they were fifteen & seventeen he ran off with a young girl, close to their own age
    claiming he had no money End of story No more holidays in Barbados Dinners in swanky restruarts No lovely cloathes bought They were left helpless as to what direction to take My mother had a major Stroke, and I had little time to give everyone my Mother helpless now liveing with me, and going through my devorce. I had next to no money at all to cope
    Now, both almost 50 years old Neither married the rich men / One remained single, No children for either The other has lived for twenty years with a man made an invalid after a motor accident on social security They had no further education given them No Trust fund .
    Now, without any hope of ever owning their own homes One given in to poverty The other bears a a terrible grudge ,and cant be civial to me blames me Always asking for moneyI havent got
    They were the most beautiful bright children ever, with perfect drawing room manners
    Their lives ruined, because they werent brought up to cope Their Father was their God Charming Funny and totaly irresponsible lwas left to pick up the pieces, but all too late I never remarried. I live alone Now 77 yrs old. and no grandchildren brothers or sisters Moneyis short Lonliness my worst enemy I love my girls and bleed for them
    I hope my story helps even one family making the same mistakes
    We all ,and everyone, must remain self sufficent no matter what We never know what life has in store

  • Meagan
    Posted at 21:33h, 10 April Reply

    I read the article and actually found it mostly positive and insightful. It provides some interesting comparisons, and it could be used for good like encouraging self-reliance, good manners, and responsibility. I personally gleaned interesting insights, even if you thought the article was a waste of time. I don’t like it when people compare countries simply for the sake of making a nation look like a can’t-do-anything-right place, but I didn’t get that with this article–sometimes comparisons are a good thing. UFI just had an article comparing France’s court to US decisions on whether same-sex marriage was a right. You never complained that UFI was taking a USA-hating jab. I’m from the US and I didn’t see the Wall Street Journal article as an American-hating thing at all, granted at the end the wording almost made it sound like family nights in the US are a negative anomaly–but I’m not convinced that’s what they meant. I was never asked to do chores growing up, I know of plenty of people who wipe up every little spill, do their children’s homework, and even a person who named their daughter “princess”, on the news there was a family that gave their daughter presents every day of the year–this is all without a camera. Not to be rude, but not everyone tells their children to get over their bruises like you. They reported true pitfalls in some America–and I say that with plenty of love, not loathing, for my own country 🙂

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