“Parenting Well in a Media Age: Keeping our Kids Human” by Gloria DeGaetano
There has been much discussion recently about the connection between the amount of time children spend sitting in front of screens and the growing problem of childhood obesity in our country, but what about the influence of “screen time” on other areas of our children’s development and on our ability to parent well? Seattle author, Gloria DeGaetano, addresses these issues in her book, “Parenting Well in a Media Age”. DeGaetano argues that mass culture is a significant external force affecting our parenting today, and that we must understand and abate this force or lose our power to parent well. She describes the mass culture as being “industry driven”, one which is seeking what it can get from the people, rather than what it can give to the people. Although she acknowledges the many positive contributions of technology, she addresses the darker side of our screen-saturated culture and the discrepancies between some of the messages it delivers and what we want as parents for our children. Hitting very close to home, she questions the thinking behind the National PTA’s decision to list Coca-Cola Enterprises as a “proud sponsor” even though the National PTA has also been a long-time advocate for good childhood nutrition. She cites this partnership with Coca-Cola as an example of “a dangerous blurring of boundaries” between a service organization and a giant corporation. In “Parenting Well”, DeGaetano offers a plea and recipe for “turning parental attention away from the industry-generated culture and back to where it belongs.” She advocates for the creation of a “personally-generated culture” and suggests that the creation of such a culture requires that we understand how to mitigate the negative effects of our industry-driven culture and consciously work to meet our core human needs and those of our children. The chapters on how to meet core needs are particularly useful and timely considering the current emphasis on testing and accountability in schools, and how little attention is paid to “soul education”, to education of the whole child, and to the development of a rich inner life. Anne Frank taught us that the latter is one of the major keys to survival in any age, so it is commendable that DeGaetano has devoted an entire chapter to the development of an interior life, which she labels “the second essential core human need.” Parents will appreciate the practical advice throughout DeGaetano’s book and will have an opportunity to hear her speak on the topic of parenting in a media age at the Town Hall in Seattle on May 16 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. Tickets are $12. For more information, call 206-441-0191. Tickets may also be purchased at 1-800-838-3006. We are considering arranging carpools to attend the lecture, and a limited number of scholarships will be available. DeGaetano is founder and CEO of The Parent Coaching Institute in Bellevue. (www.ParentCoachingInstitute.com)
Parenting Well in a Media Age: Keeping Our Kids Human
Gloria DeGaetano's new book, Parenting Well in a Media Age: Keeping Our Kids Human, offers something parents are asking for—guidance and evidence that there is hope and aliveness for parents and educators who strive to parent well.
The author presents a sound summary of today's parenting challenges and how to reclaim our parenting identity in the face of our "industry-generated culture.” Her "Vital Five" are described as "essential needs" to feed our core values. It is no surprise then that the Vital Five provide balance and help us find ways to slow down "to the speed of life."
Utilizing the latest scientific research, DeGaetano explains how excessive exposure to screen media distorts brain development and the ability to develop healthy relationships or learn well in school. The hands-on strategies, including sample language are well thought out and utilize best practices. This book tells us how to transform our homes and our lives to make time for appreciative conversation, communication, and introspection with our children. Parenting Well helps readers learn how to be independent from corporate pressures, to reconnect with their inner lives and their love for their children.
I believe the book is a must read for all parents and all would-be parents. Parent educators, early childhood professionals, and family advocates need this book in their tool chest if they are looking for ways to help parents break free from media-induced dis-ease!
Comments from Dr. Diane Dreher, author, The Tao of Personal Leadership and Inner Gardening, Associate Dean, School of Education, Santa Clara University
America is a nation founded on dreams–the dream of democracy affirmed by the Declaration of Independence, which has evolved over the years, becoming more inclusive with emancipation, women’s suffrage, and the civil rights movement. From the beginning, Americans have defined themselves as citizens, actively committed to the realization of their dreams and the education of their children, which Thomas Jefferson saw as the foundation of our democracy.
But our changing technology has dramatically transformed how we see our families and ourselves. With lives too often divided by economic stress, distant jobs and long commutes, families and communities have been diminished and mass media has rushed in to fill the gap, replacing human relationships with television and the Internet. In a profit-driven culture that substitutes products for the process of active participation, the citizen has become a consumer.
This change has undermined our relationships and the education of our children. Instead of spending time with their families, many parents collapse in front of TV sets at the end of the day, too exhausted for anything but industry-generated entertainment that has become a surrogate parent, the new neighborhood, the custodian of our culture. The consequences are devastating: rising rates of childhood obesity, diabetes, and attention deficit disorder; reading and math skills so weak that the Scholastic Aptitude Test was “renormed” in the 1990s to compensate for lower performance. The industry-generated culture has undermined our nation’s health, producing escalating levels of youth violence and an epidemic of depression among teenagers and college students. We can only overcome this crisis by reclaiming our role as citizens, actively committed to the education of our children and the health of our culture, beginning in our hearts and homes. That is the vital message of this book.
Offering new hope to parents and educators, Gloria De Gaetano presents powerful strategic advice. As a parent, teacher, and founder of the Parent Coaching Institute, she writes from years of experience, demonstrating how the industry-generated culture has produced a systemic imbalance that has led to diseases of body, mind, and soul. Drawing upon the latest scientific research, De Gaetano explains how excessive exposure to screen media distorts brain development in young children, undermining their ability to develop healthy relationships or learn essential lessons in school. At present, nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight, including an increasing number of children who sit passively in front of screens for hours each day, bonding to television and computers instead of other human beings. Without opportunities to develop empathy and impulse control, their emotional growth is stunted; without human interaction and physical exercise, their bodies and brains cannot develop.
Philosopher Martin Buber once defined human relationships as either intimate, “I-thou,” or utilitarian, “I-It.” In other words, we either relate to others with loving respect or we objectify people, treating them as products to be used and discarded. Although our country produces many useful consumer goods, our invasive advertising and obsessive product orientation have usurped our children’s dreams and hijacked their imaginations. In one of the saddest examples in this book, a third grade teacher says that many of her students cannot play creatively. Unable to make up their own stories or imagine their own futures, they can only repeat stories about cartoon characters or the exploits of the latest action hero. With their natural aliveness and curiosity extinguished, they have become merely reactive. Their backpacks, their lunch boxes, and their minds are so filled with industry-generated images that there is no room for creative imagination. What will become of a country when its young people can no longer dream?
Moving from the industry-generated culture to the living values within and around us Parenting Well provides positive alternatives to the compulsive consumerism that litters our lives. De Gaetano shows us how to cut loose from media “quick fixes,” in order to listen to our own inner wisdom, to relate to ourselves and our children more authentically, creating a healthy alternative culture. The book tells us how to transform our homes into quiet havens that nurture our children and ourselves, simplifying our lives to make time for appreciative conversation, reflection, interaction, and introspection. Each chapter offers practical solutions, strategies that work, supported by research and reinforced by real life stories of parents who have reclaimed their lives, rediscovered the sacred joys of parenting and restored balance to their homes and families. We learn how to declare our independence from mindless mass conformity to reconnect with our inner lives, our love for our children, and our own deepest values, producing positive change in our families and our culture.
Resisting the industry-generated culture requires the courage to be ourselves. Yet creative individuals such as Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Pablo Picasso, Margaret Mead, and Mohandas Gandhi have always had the courage to transcend the commonplace. In Parenting Well, Gloria De Gaetano shows us how to live more courageously and more joyously, embracing our daily choices as creative acts. In so doing, we can overcome the artificial values that have infected our culture and renew our vocation as parents, helping our children develop as healthy, creative human beings. By upholding human values instead of industry-generated counterfeits, we can reclaim our essential role as citizens, restoring vital balance to our lives, our families, and our collective future.