My wife and our children had the opportunity last year to live in southern England for almost five months while I worked a few projects for my Washington, DC based government relations consulting firm. Being in the UK and spending significant amounts of time in London allowed me to read the multitude of daily newspapers offered in the city. Besides being very open about the ideological and partisan leanings of the publisher/editors, I found the content a refreshing alternative to the stifling political correctness so prevalent in the US.
An excellent example is in the London Daily Telegraph article (entitled “Why DVDs are no way to raise a baby”) concerning the unwelcome explosion of “educational materials” marketed to middle class parents with formal higher educations. As much as anything in life, parenting is difficult, it takes focus, concentration, consistency and daily effort to be successful. My wife and I are blessed with five children and they are generally very well behaved. Often times people will ask us how we have been able to get the children to behave well, or to be polite, and generally well mannered. The answer is straightforward, but not what most would like to hear. Just like weight loss, quality parenting takes an almost relentless daily focus that often times forces parents to sacrifice when the post 1960s culture in the UK (and the US) focuses on immediate material and other worldly things to the detriment of everything else.
Unfortunately, this often involves short changing the needs of children. I have seen so often in the past 10 years of being a parent, being around other friends who are new parents and this obsessive desire to push all sorts of bells and whistles in front of infants and toddlers, as though just putting Brahms on in the background without spending quality time with the child will suffice. As I often heard my father tell me when growing up, “there are no shortcuts, son.” That rings true for life in general, but nowhere is this most acute than with child rearing.
Sitting your child in front of a screen may allow parents to multi-task and think they are doing well by their children. Unfortunately, a DVD, a virtual parent, is no substitute for the real thing.