While visiting with one parent, the topic of my “Mean Girls” blog came up. Her insight brought an AHA moment to me. She mentioned how dysfunctional children’s TV has become, that even the Disney channel highlights “sassy” kids. Could this be where the meanness and condescension is stemming?It’s no surprise that most TV content is rife with dysfunctional relationships. Gone are the civil and entertaining shows of 2 decades ago; shows like Happy Days, The Bill Cosby Show and Lassie, for example (well, ok Lassie is older than 2 decades) But you get the idea.
Garry Marshall, producer and director of Happy Days during a recent interview, said he made it a point that his show, Happy Days, showed people having dinner together and always hugging when saying goodbye. Even in the 1970’s, Mr. Marshall recognized that families ate fewer meals together, and that relationships were becoming fractured. He recognized the benefit of showing families enjoying time together. He went on to note that today’s TV shows opt for an edgy approach. Edgy? Is that what we want for today’s youngsters to model?
I can think of only one current TV program offering a good model of family interaction – “Blue Bloods”. Each episode ends with a Sunday family dinner. Their family dinners have a rule: all are encouraged to weigh in on the conversation, children and adults alike. Siblings, parents, grandfather, great grandfather, uncles and aunts all participate in discussions. Every show closes with laughter and smiles around the table. Who wouldn’t want to model that?
Once the ‘safe harbor’ for children’s TV. I am shocked that the Disney executives decided to place programming that encourages children to misbehave! In my opinion, TV offers nothing beneficial for children. Today’s “edgy” TV spotlights adults behaving abysmally – they argue, swear, gossip and display all kinds of ugly mannerisms, and children behave no differently on TV. How can we influence the producers to highlight people with healthy relationships?
In our dance school we encourage students to support one another. To applaud after solo dance rehearsals, to offer support when challenges frustrate and to speak highly of one another. We ask older students to behave appropriately — to stand quietly and to follow instructions. For example, when the 6 year olds watch the 10 year olds, they copy their every move. When reminded of their important role, the “older” students snap to attention, followed by the “littles”. I marvel at the phenomenon every time it occurs.
In my ballet school, we mistreat no one. One dancer’s success does not ruin someone else’s triumph. RAD Examination results attest to that fact. Exam candidates are evaluated on an international scale of achievement – not each other. There are no “winners” and no “losers” in the exam room. Each student receives their score based on their performance that day against that international standard. It certainly keeps them all humble. That humility breeds respect for others.
Our acceptance of poor behavior of others seems to have occurred over many decades, spurned on by the “edgy” style of TV. movies and games. Maybe by beginning in small steps, such as keeping a close watch on our dancers’ behavior in class, dressing rooms and in performances.
So I ask, “Can we reverse this tsunami of meanness to each other?”