A thirty-second radio Public Service Announcement (PSA) caught my attention recently. In the audio version, a dad is talking with his son about the importance of good manners … though the actual intent of the ad is to encourage children to develop good oral health care habits. The website (2min2x.org) provides entertaining videos to encourage children about brushing their teeth for two minutes twice daily. The radio PSA differs just slightly from the video below.
In both audio and video versions, Dad gives his son a run-down of all the mannerly qualities he wants his son to emulate in anticipation of becoming a grown-up gentleman. Essentially, the list goes:
1. Say yes, please.
2. Always say: please, thank you, you’re welcome and excuse me.
3. Sit up straight; hold doors open for ladies.
4. If a door is shut, knock first.
5. Don’t: burp, swear, stare, use foul language, reach across people’s plates.
6. Do: keep your elbows off the table, share your toys, play nice.
7. Don’t: speak with your mouth full, interrupt, call people names.
8. Do: remember people’s names, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
9. On the bus, give up your seat to anyone who has trouble standing.
10. Summary: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
There’s one final admonition the audio covers but the video omits, for obvious reasons: Stop picking your nose. It’s a cute ad, possibly because it has such universal identification. Hasn’t every parent (at one time or another) verbally tossed out a list of dos and don’ts to remind a kid what’s acceptable behavior?
Gotta admit, though, this Children’s Oral Health campaign has me scratching my head. Almost anywhere one looks online, there are a multitude of other concerns / dangers / perils / causes for alarm (the exact level of seriousness depends on where you look) that seem to take precedence over everyday oral health management. In fact, consider some of the other PSAs I’ve heard today: keeping firearms locked up, potential for local waterway pollution, driving while distracted and/or texting, buzzed driving … to name a few. Venturing away from the PSA focus, there are numerous child-welfare organizations addressing issues including childhood obesity, autism, exposure to tobacco smoke, child poverty, asthma, diabetes, proper school lunches … do I need to continue?
When I was a little girl, I’ll admit it; I didn’t always brush my teeth – apparently, this is common for children. (How about you?) My motivation to brush increased when, at age twelve, the dentist discovered my first cavity! This added impetus may have had less to do with my specific concern for oral care than with my desire to avoid additional visits to the dentist’s office (see my previous post here)! I wasn’t exposed to cute little videos that entertained me for the two-minute drill. I don’t even recall my parents resorting to punishment and nagging (though they may occasionally have docked my allowance for failure to brush). All in all, I learned the importance of internal discipline and what actions were desirable and/or necessary to strive toward being a grown-up.
In reality, I don’t have a problem with the above PSA by itself, but more the mindset behind it. This It Takes A Village philosophy has so permeated our culture that parents often swallow (hook, line and sinker) the ridiculous notion that they’re (we’re) all nincompoops, incapable of cogent independent thought without some “expert” organization or degreed individual(s) scripting our every action! What shall I do? What shall I do?!!
Let’s get one thing clear here, okay? If you’re a parent, YOU are (or should be) the expert on your child or children. How do you do that? By spending focused time with them from the moment of birth. Granted, some parents have a better handle on being expert with their offspring. (It’s no different in the world at large … there are some so-called experts who are less reliable than others. If you’re a science expert but you don’t know the difference between biology and paleontology … well, I don’t want to be unkind, but your lack of expertise will be glaringly obvious.)
Being an expert on your children doesn’t mean you never place a call to the pediatrician or some other professional. Consulting a professional won’t absolve you of the responsibility to be an expert about your children. You recruit professionals to be part of your team, but you’re the coach and you call the plays. This is what parents throughout time have done … whooping cough, a snake bite, scarlet fever … these were common childhood maladies for previous generations that parents learned to cope with, without the reassuring backstop of a quick phone call to a physician or hospital ER. Believe it or not, their parenting was accomplished without one single PSA providing its solicitous oversight!
I had to chuckle a bit when the dad urged his son to “hold doors for ladies” and “give up” his seat on a bus. I definitely appreciate these niceties (and my little four-year-old grandson has the door-holding lesson down), but I’ve been witness to situations where individuals have been thoroughly castigated for such kindnesses! Whenever someone opens a door for me, I’m profuse with my praise and thanks (just to make up for the times someone rails at the gesture).
My final chuckle came with the dad’s summary statement: treat others the way you want to be treated. Great advice that covers almost every human interaction. When I was growing up, we used to call it the Golden Rule. It is, in fact, an essential part of the Biblical Beatitudes, words directly from the lips of Jesus Christ. Hmmm.