The Likes That Matter - An Opinion Editorial

Let me start by saying I do not claim to be a perfect parent, I do, however, claim to be an advocate for kids, and this blog post is my opinion.

In my 30 years in the classroom I have learned a lot about kids and a lot from kids. They want to be loved & respected no differently than adults do. They remember meanness. They remember kindness. We are not raising littles that will forget. We are raising littles that learn what they live, and they will only be littles for a short time before they are grown up and acting out the life we have modeled for them.

Parenting is the hardest job in the world. It takes every bit of all you have 24/7.
These are trying times to be raising kids. Parents have so much to contend with these days.  My kids are young adults now, in their twenties.  We didn't have a computer until they were in about first and second grade. We didn't have cell phones until they were older than that. They didn't have cell phones until high school. I believe we had it easier in this regard, less distractions, ironically, more time because we were not distracted.

Social media was just getting started. I joined in a bit, just to monitor and provide guidance as needed for our teenagers. We wanted our son and daughter to know how to intentionally interact and exist on the internet, that seemed like it would be a part of their future. I was learning with them. I thought Facebook was such a great way to connect with my family and friends in other parts of the country, see pictures of little ones and share good times. I still think that. There is good. So much good. But... I've noticed a growing trend that as an educator, parent and human being, I find alarming, disturbing, and just so sad.

I remember first seeing it around 10 years ago when someone was showing a video clip from a late night  show where the parents would pretend to have eaten all of their kid's Halloween candy. Honestly, I thought it was awful. Mean-spirited, sarcastic, and disrespectful. Not only did they pretend to take the candy, they filmed them, at their worst. For a laugh. 

Fast forward 10 years and now those types of video clips are all over the internet. Thousands and thousands of parents filming their kids during all kinds of moments. Happy, cute, funny, embarrassing, sad, tantrums, and everything in between. Kids are cute. They say and do so many hilarious things! There is such a fine line here. 

So many views, so many likes. In some cases, dozens, or hundreds, or, viral.

Imagine a day in recent memory when you had a really bad day. You know those days, nothing goes right. It goes from bad to worse. You can't wait for it to be over so you can go home, curl up on the couch and be left alone. We all have those days.

Now think back, and imagine yourself during that same day. The stress, the pent up feelings you were fighting past, just to get through the day.

Now imagine someone you trust holding their phone up in your face, filming you. Maybe smiling, maybe laughing, maybe speaking sarcastically about what you should or shouldn't have done. Maybe not, maybe they're just filming you. At your worst. At your most vulnerable. At your most embarrassed.

Try it on for size. How does it feel. What does it teach?
Does it teach love?
Does it teach empathy?
Does it teach trust?

Emabarrassment and humiliation are undoubtedly the most raw of emotions. 
We feel belittled, exposed, we feel we don't belong.

How could anything at all ever be worth evoking those emotions to arise in our children?
The world will conjure emotions like that plenty of times in their lives, certainly without our help.

I suggest,  it's fair to ask ourselves, whose "like" matters the most?

Is it the video gone viral because watching it for a moment will entertain lots of people we don't know, and will never know, and prompt them to also make a "funny at someone else's expense" video?

Or,  is it our child. Is it the quiet, private "like" of our child because they know that their vulnerability, their pride; their feelings are safe with us. We will not expose, embarrass or disrespect them by selling out their privacy. We will not humiliate them by putting a camera in their face when they are just trying to grow up and learn how to be a good human.

When we show empathy, we teach empathy.
When we show love, we teach love.

I wonder what my kids would be like as adults today, if we would have put a camera in their face during their unflattering moments. What would any of us be like? Would we have deep seeded feelings that would be revealed in our relationships? What about teachers, or parents or doctors? Would they possess the level of empathy we would expect them to in order to compassionately and competently carry out their jobs? I wonder if the late night show hosts would think it as funny on their own kids?

I've read the comments. Many are sarcastic if anyone tries to defend the child. Or they say things like:
"Can't anyone have fun without the perfect parent police butting in?"

The answer is no. Not because people are the perfect parent police.
Because kids are human and the price is too high.

We want our kids to learn to laugh and not take themselves too seriously, but  that is not what they learn when they are the butt of a joke, particularly in front of a camera.

Our kids, our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, all of us deserve to have kids who have been raised to be loving, respectful people. If you think it doesn't matter, visit a school, visit a playground, see how kids are treating each other these days. At a minimum it is dismaying, and many times it's straight up shocking.

Our kids will only know better if we teach them better.
It starts with modeling, it starts by putting our phones down. We don't need a video of everything.
We don't need to share everything. I know some will think I'm taking this too seriously, "it's just a joke".

I have known a LOT of kids. Happy kids, angry kids, needy kids. One thing I know is that every kid deserves to be respected. Whether they are having a good day or a bad day.

They need us. They need us to model love, and kindness, and respect, and empathy.

And we all need the quiet "like" that will happen in their heart and mind when they know
we have their back, and we will never sell our place in their corner for a view or a like.