Think about the Dowager Countess of Grantham, marvelous Maggie Smith. When she doesn’t like something, she gets a face like a cat that’s smelled something bad. And you get the message.
If you read authors like Edith Wharton and Jane Austin, you know there’s not a lot of bellowing and stomping around. Hearts are broken, fortunes lost, people became ill, or bereaved, despondent or angry, and through everything, they all use their inside voices.
Compare that to, say, the last week on this blog, in which the volume on everything was turned up to 11 (although the comments remained civil and I thank you all for that). Daughter had to rant in public to make her point, Dad had to shoot a computer to make his point, I had to “hate” Dad to make my point. And I’m not generally a hater. But I got swept into what seems a trend of our time: anger that becomes superheated, superfast.
It’s not necessarily just that America is getting less civil. For some reason these days, it seems we need the volume on all our emotions cranked way up. Even negative emotions. Maybe especially negative emotions. We need to watch screen violence that is increasingly extreme, we need to fight our battles publicly and with insults and vehemence, and we need to grieve extravagantly, where everyone can see us.
I popped off at Laptop Dad, like he popped off at his daughter, like his daughter popped off at him. Interesting, huh? See how that works? Chain of fools.
I regret the tone but stand behind the content of my last post. So here’s a voice of reason to say it all better. Today’s guest post is by my friend Dr. Lara Mayeux, a developmental psychologist who studies kids’ peer relations at the University of Oklahoma, and mother of two young daughters (read about her wishes for them here).
If you want to read original research into parenting styles and child outcomes, Lara suggests looking for Nina Mounts (parenting and peer relationships); Joan Grusec (parenting and social and emotional development); Robert Larzelere (discipline and research methodology); Laurence Steinberg (adolescent development). Diana Baumrind is one of the pioneers in the study of parenting styles; a lot of subsequent research has been based on her work.
By Lara Mayeux
I have to get this off my chest: I’m really, really tired of seeing parents celebrated for their bad parenting choices.
Parenting is hard. I get that — I have two kids under the age of five. And none of us is perfect, and we shouldn’t expect each other to be. But there’s a big difference between allowing parents some room to screw up, and actually cheering them on when they’ve made a mistake. And I’m telling you, this laptop-shooting dad—he made a mistake.
This is a family with plenty of dough. The boy is well-educated and has been well cared for, despite some dysfunctional family fun, which few of us escape in this world. My friend complains that he’s lazy and over-entitled. He hasn’t been knocking himself out to find a job, and he’s drinking too much.
What’s a mother to do? she asked me, wondering if research might hold some answers.
Is tough love the answer? Is this a predictable developmental stage? Were we all like that at 22? When did we finally grow up?
I’ve been hearing lots about boomerang kids, who are of an age to be independent but can’t seem to get out there and do it. Of course, the lousy economy and unemployment rate don’t help and can’t be downplayed. But is there something more?
Don’t you wish I were about to give you the answers? I’m not and can’t. But here’s some food for thought.
The whole thing unfolded in the comments section of my blog and concluded (along with the friendship) when she spluttered that I am “…WEAK! And I MOCK weak people!”
Wow, I thought. Your future clients are in for a treat.
This incident came to mind when a Twitter buddy sent me a note wondering if any research had been done into “potential damage done by therapists who tweet/blog judgmental, hurtful views, jokes…?”
This person, a retired counselor, first noted a former mentee doing it. “I talked to her about it and she thanked me, stopped it.”
But that young counselor was the exception. When my friend noticed a couple of others doing the same, “I gently pointed out to both of them the problems both career wise and client wise with some of their postings (fat put down jokes, sharing very personal info about their own issues, sarcastic misuse of words like crazy and psycho etc) Both ignored me; one posted to mind my own business.
“All of this was done with their full names and locations and accessible to any of their clients with a quick google search,” my friend said.
“I know how hard it is for most clients to trust and how vulnerable they are to being judged,” she continued. “I can just image how crushing it would be for a desperate, suicidal client to read something demeaning/too revealing written by the person they expect to be compassionate, stable and on their side.”
The Internet strikes again.
Well, say good-bye to that. Warren had to close down the app because people were behaving so badly, his screeners couldn’t keep up with the screeds.
In a post explaining the decision, he wrote,
99% of the secrets created were in the spirit of PostSecret. Unfortunately, the scale of secrets was so large that even 1% of bad content was overwhelming for our dedicated team of volunteer moderators who worked 24 hours a day 7 days a week removing content that was not just pornographic but also gruesome and at times threatening.
Why are people so hateful online?
(What’s Festivus? Watch the video here.)
Perhaps I shouldn’t admit to having anything in common with Frank Costanza. And I’d rather skip the Feats of Strength part of the holiday. And I haven’t put up a Festivus pole this year.
But the Airing of the Grievances? I’m all over it.
I’m not good at being a little ray of sunshine. I’m a pessimist and enjoy what I call recreational bitching and moaning. And I have found some good that can come of negative conversation—I wrote about it here.
So to air a grievance, I have to admit that I do get a little weary of people whose Facebook updates are relentlessly upbeat. And this is especially true during holidays.
It’s Anti-Bullying Week and this year’s theme is Stop and Think—Words Can Hurt.
Interestingly, for all our focus on how to stop kids from bullying each other, we have precious little research addressing what parenting styles are likely to produce bullies. Because, let’s face it, if your nine-year-old child is a bully, chances are very good you and/or the child’s other parent can take credit.
It was from my old friend Meryl. I hadn’t spoken to her in decades. A few weeks later, we met for coffee.
Later I received a Facebook friend request from a mutual friend. Within three days, we had located three more people from that old gang of ours. Then we were four. Then six. Then nine. Then eleven.
We were far-flung but we formed a Facebook group and shared photos of our childhood summers together. We reminisced about the people, the places, the sounds, the smells. For a couple of weeks, our group spent every spare moment in a memory cloud, remembering together things we had forgotten individually. Memories came to us in dreams and flashbacks as we moved through our days. We gathered in Facebook in the evenings, to reminisce.
The fever eventually passed, but we remain in touch and friendships have been rekindled.
Since I wrote this post, Frank Warren has had to withdraw the Post Secret app because people just couldn’t play nicely.
When Frank Warren launched the Post Secret blog in 2004, it was a lark. “A creative prank,” he calls it. He gave out 3,000 postcards to strangers around Washington D.C., and asked each person to write a secret on it and mail it to him. And they did. And people still do.
To date, Warren has received more than half a million secrets. Enough to fill four bestselling books (and then some). Once a week, he posts a carefully curated selection on the blog. Sunday Secrets is a highlight of my week.
Some of the cards are scrawled, many are works of art. The secrets are sad, funny, shocking, about love and sex, loneliness and anger, moral slips and personal habits.
The sleaziness of women’s (and little girls’) Halloween costumes has become an annual gripe for mommies and feminists.
But my friend Jeannine Gailey, PhD, a sociologist at Texas Christian University, clued me in on what might be the most appalling costume ever created: Anna Rexia, the sexy side of a life-threatening eating disorder.
The model dressed as someone starving herself to death is slender, yes. Even skinny. But her breasts strain to escape the bodice that barely contains them. Her skin glows, her hair is shiny, her eyes have a come-hither sparkle. She doesn’t look the least bit like a woman with anorexia. She looks like a woman ready to take control with her womanly wiles.
Gailey also sent me a 2009 article she published in Critical Criminology, titled ‘‘Starving Is the Most Fun a Girl Can Have’’: The Pro-Ana Subculture as Edgework.”