By Amy L. Hatch
If I had to pick a fictional character to discipline my kids, Elmo might not be my first choice.
While adorable, I don’t really see him as a hard ass, if you know what I mean, and a hard ass is what I’m looking for when my kids won’t go to sleep at 10 p.m. on a school night (Henry, Mama’s looking at YOU).
Now, I’m no novice when it comes to out-sourcing. Just ask me sometime about how I sent my son to preschool in order to have him potty-trained by someone else (shut up, I was traumatized the first time around).
But I’m not sure having my kid’s favorite red monster give him a buzz when it’s time to clean his room is really … appropriate.
Just as I’m not above outsourcing, I’m also in agreement that some subtle terrorism can definitely work wonders on a child’s attitude.
I remember when my husband was teaching music in an elementary school, long before the days of texting and mobile phones (and long before we had kids), I would occasionally call his classroom.
One afternoon I called and was put through to his room. When he picked up the phone he said, “Oh, hi Santa! What? You wanted to know the second-graders are behaving today?”
Actually, I wanted to confirm our dinner plans. But later he told me that, all of a sudden, everyone was walking the straight and narrow. “You should have seen their faces,” he crowed later. “They were terrified! So much for being all big and bad!”
But Elmo is a character designed to reach a very specific age group, young preschoolers. Is this really an audience that needs to take a phone call when it comes time to put their shoes on? Shouldn’t parental authority really be enough to make that happen?
I get that plenty of parents are exhausted, and fighting those battles can wear a mom and dad down to a nubbin. However, ceding your parental authority to a fictional character on a regular basis erodes the respect your kids have for you—and the respect they have for other grown-ups, too.
I mean, what are you going to do? Send your kindergartner to school with your iPhone so Elmo can give her a buzz when she cuts in front of her friend in the lunch line?
Parenting in the age of technology is really a miracle. So many technological advances are helping so many kids communicate and learn in ways no one ever thought possible, but defaulting to a device to discipline seems like a great big cop-out.