Have you heard the stories of various children who drove off in the family car headed to McDonald’s or grandma’s? Or have you experienced your child telling you what to do, as if she is the boss of you? How can a young child honestly come to believe they are the same as an adult?
One recent night I couldn’t sleep and for some reason I spent time recalling my favorite cartoons from my youth and then contrasted them with what my kiddos watch nowadays. As I kept analyzing in my head, I noticed some disturbing trends in today’s cartoons.
I realized that cartoons are increasingly establishing role reversed parent-child relationships or don’t even imply a parent is present. ‘Role-reversed’ means that the child acts like the adult. Cartoons increasingly display young characters as the lead characters, most probably since that is so appealing to young children viewers. While this might make for good television ratings, I think this translates to young children who are being taught, or at least getting the implied lesson, that young children have to be in charge. This incorrect belief then might cause a child to feel anxiety. It also further fuels and reinforces the potentially annoying behavior of a young child who tries to boss around adults or won’t believe what an adult tells them.
While young children will try to control others as a stage of their normal development, I wonder if role reversed cartoons help add to the insistence with which a child continues that behavior instead of gradually realizing and coming to accept how roles are in real life.
Is all hope lost, and should we as parents just accept a new level of sass in our children? Or do we have to abolish all cartoon watching? I suggest that those two extreme responses are not necessary. It is more realistic to choose some middle ground. In my next blog I will suggest criteria to help parents choose cartoons that are less likely to contribute to role-reversal or underlying anxiety.