Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: What Ever Happened to Ozzie and Harriet?

Category: Positive Parenting


      My, how things have changed in the past generation with the American family.  The 50's and 60's model was LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, DONNA REED, FATHER KNOWS BEST, AND OZZIE AND HARRIET.  Now, the 90's father is not so sure about his role as breadwinner and part time "Mr. Mom".  Men are encouraged by books such as IRON JOHN to join men's groups, assert themselves and seek their "other selves".  Many men have problems with these changes because almost all of them grew up in a home where their father was the sole breadwinner.  He was cared for and somewhat pampered by a loving, full-time housewife who did most of the parenting chores as well.  Today most women (about 80%) work full or part time.  Many would like to be housewives but with financial pressures in today's world and high taxes on the family, it is not always a viable option.  These same "super moms" do most of the housework and parenting chores.  It is no surprise that they are tired, frustrated, and, along with their husbands, sometimes struggling with their parenting chores. 

      Are these drastic role changes of mothers and fathers in the present generation connected in any way with some of the problems we see with today's youth?  The problems, I mean, include a marked increase in crime including serious and violent crimes such as murder.  They also include a steady increase in school drop outs, teen suicides, drug use, teen pregnancies, abortions, sexually transmitted diseases (including AIDS) and several other negative trends.  I personally believe that the role changes and the overall change in the character of the American family over the past 30 to 40 years is at least in part to blame for these dismal statistics.  Some surprising recent studies in the Journal of Pediatrics are suggesting the same findings.

      I think there are many other culprits we can place the blame on, too.  These, in my opinion include a very fast paced society which is high tech and high stimuli and not always "high touch".  By that I mean, everyone in the home is busy doing something but very infrequently are they doing it together as a family.  Far more kids are spending a third of their lifetime in front of a TV set or listening to loud rock music on a Walkman radio or watching music videos.   Less and less kids are seen playing in the yards or neighborhoods, school grounds or church grounds of our communities.  There is a lot less reading and good old fashioned conversations and slow neighbor to neighbor visiting going on in most of America today.  Contrast this with the 50's model when most children's lives were very centered in and around their home, neighborhood, school and church.  I can remember in the 50's, as young as age six, waking up at the crack of dawn to jump on my bike and ride all over town in Opelousas with a whole gang of boys from around our neighborhood.  Can you imagine that today?  Today most parents are afraid to let their young children out of their sight.  The tremendous increase in crime over the past 40 years has certainly restricted a lot of the neighborhood, school ground and church yard activities which were routine before.  Kids are spending more and more time in cars being shuttled from one activity to another, especially a high diet of movies and mall visits.  Many children don't know how to amuse themselves or simply play games in the neighborhood with other kids unless they have a rented video or movie. 

      How can we change these dismal trends?   I believe it is up to us as intelligent parents to choose to put quantity and quality time for our family above materialism.  This may mean that one parent may choose to give up a full time job for staying home full time, or, for a part time job, when the children are young.  It will certainly mean financial sacrifices and living within one's means and probably mean delaying attainment of certain material things.  I believe we must as a society support and get more involved in our neighborhood schools, churches, and neighborhoods to make them a safe and welcome place for our children.  We must choose to control video and TV viewing by our children who have the highest appetite in the world and set good examples ourselves by not being couch potatoes.  We must set an example for our kids of reading and bring them to the libraries, museums, parks and many other wonderful cultural opportunities which are free and available to everyone in our society.  We must slow down enough in our own lives to find the quality time to spend with our children and make that a priority in our lives.  Ultimately, these choices are ours and the consequences of our decisions will probably determine the future of our present generation of young people.  I hope that we all make the wise choice.  In upcoming weeks I will review many findings from some recent pediatric studies on these scary statistics and their direct link to heavy TV and video watching as well as share some tips on encouraging your children to be active readers.