Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Five parenting pitfalls

There are many ways parents can impose their lifestyles and predilections on their impressionable offspring, writes Shelley.
There are many ways parents can impose their lifestyles and predilections on their impressionable offspring, writes Shelley.

Thanks to social media, other people's parenting styles have never been more visible.

Family activities and images that used to be shared only with likeminded people are now posted for all the world to see. And sometimes that world is not impressed with the way certain children are being raised.

One person's hobby, belief or way of life can be considered downright strange by someone else. An activity that's commonplace for one family, can be shocking to another. Headlines were made recently involving babies on restricted diets and children glorifying in killing animals.

Here are just five of the many ways parents can impose their lifestyles and predilections on their impressionable offspring.

1. Hunting

A twelve-year-old from Utah caused controversy when she posted photographs of herself online posing alongside a dead giraffe, zebra and impala.

Needless to say, many people found the pleasure this child took in slaying beautiful animals to be repugnant. The girl, however, remains a "proud" hunter who was first taken hunting by her father at the age of seven.

Question: What's worse than an eight-year-old killing a deer? Answer: Her father posting a photograph that shows her taking a bite of its "warm quivering heart".

That's right; last week, we discovered a local father had shared just such an image involving a deer his daughter had shot in Hawke's Bay.

This "proud dad" made a lot of people feel queasy - with the heart story and also with the revelation he'd been taking his daughter hunting since she was a toddler.

2. Eating

Last month it was reported that a malnourished baby in Italy was removed from his parents who had been feeding him a vegan diet.

This "uncommon feeding regime" was frowned upon by health professionals. Diets can be complicated; also in Italy, a "court ordered a vegetarian mother to cook meat for her son after the boy's father complained about his macrobiotic diet".

Whether food restrictions are for religious, cultural or ethical reasons and whether the regime is vegan, vegetarian or omnivorous, most parents naturally feed their children the same kind of diet they eat. Even though it's done with love and good intentions, it's not necessarily in the child's best interests.

3. Sexualising

Some parents think it's cute or funny for their children (and even babies) to wear clothing with suggestive messages on them.

It was recently reported that there are children's garments selling in Australia with slogans such as "Love you long time" and "I'm only here for the ladies".

It's surprising there's a market for such clothing but clearly some parents don't have a problem with their children being associated with messages they're too young to fully understand.

4. Believing

It may be socially acceptable for parents to indoctrinate their children into their own religious beliefs but that doesn't make it uncontroversial.

When my daughter started asking about religions, I told her that various religions exist in the world and that people can choose to subscribe to different religions to varying degrees - or not at all.

I tried to convey a sense of the smorgasbord of options available. Even as I wondered what might motivate parents to shoehorn their children into their own particular brand of religion, I realised that I was doing a similar thing by expressing my own take on the subject.

Maybe most parents end up brainwashing their children in this regard even if they don't always recognise it at the time.

5. Protesting

I used to see photographs of toddlers and babies at rallies and protest marches and wonder whether it was appropriate for parents to impose their political beliefs on children too young to understand the debate.

Now I'm a parent, I figure the presence of children is likely to be less about boosting numbers for the cause and more about a lack of reliable babysitters.

Having said that, participants who involve their children are still (even indirectly) foisting their views on innocent youngsters - or, as the parents themselves might frame it, they are demonstrating the importance of campaigning for change to the next generation.

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Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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