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Most Controversial Parenting Stories of 2010
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Two tragic high-profile teen suicides brought bullying and cyber bullying to forefront this year. In January, 15-year-old Phoebe Prince committed suicide after enduring months of torment at her Massachusetts high school and online. Months later, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from a bridge after a roommate secretly taped and streamed video of Clementi having sex with a man in his dorm room.
Their untimely deaths shed light on the disturbing trend of bullying and teen suicide, and have resulted in increased awareness among parents and stricter anti-bullying laws in many states.
Photo Courtesy of Penguin Press
Yale law professor and mother of two Amy Chua made headlines after her polarizing views on the virtues of Chinese parenting appeared in an article in the Wall Street Journal. The article, excerpted from Chua's book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, detailed Chua’s strict parenting style—her daughters are not allowed to attend sleepovers, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, or not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama. Critics bashed the extreme demands the “Tiger Mom” puts on her children, and took offense to her claim that Chinese parenting is “superior” to Western parenting.
Parenting Post blogger Denene Millner argued that no specific style of parenting is the right way. Denene’s husband interviews prospective students for Yale, where successful students “are the children of families who parented in all kinds of ways—with too much discipline and not enough, with hugging and with slapping, with encouragement and ridicule, with Helicopter Parent-styled attention and hands-off, Free Range Kids-styled parenting,” she wrote. “None of these kids are better than the other. None of them worse.”
A slew of scary baby product recalls had parents checking (and rechecking) their medicine cabinets, nurseries, and toy boxes. Johnson & Johnson alone issued several major recalls throughout 2010, including recalls on varieties of Children's Tylenol, Infant and Children's Motrin, Children's Benadryl, and other over-the-counter adult and children's remedies.
After seven major drop-side crib recalls, including Kmart, Ethan Allen, and Pottery Barn brands, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced new guidelines that would ban the sale, manufacture and resale of all drop-side cribs.
Fisher-Price recalled more than 11 million tricycles, high chairs and toys, prompted by reports of injuries and possible choking hazards.
Catch up on past and current recalls by checking our frequently updated recalls section.
Too Hot for Sesame Street?
Sesame Street producers pulled Katy Perry's guest appearance from broadcast after angry parents and viewers deemed Perry's low-cut mini dress too sexy for kid TV. The singer had taped a kid-friendly remix of her radio hit "Hot N Cold" with Elmo as part of the show's 41st season. The pop star went on to poke fun at the whole debacle, in a low-cut Elmo tee, during a hilarious SNL skit.
Skies Not So Friendly for Kids
Kids and travel were an oft-debated topic this year, thanks to controversial new TSA regulations requiring pat downs for adults and children, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)'s call to end "lap child" policies, and increasing support for the idea of kid-free flights.
In July, an Australian woman sued over an in-flight toddler tantrum that she said caused deafness. Then in August, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant made headlines after she took a baby girl away from her parents after the mother slapped the child during a flight. The baby was eventually returned to her parents after police questioning.
Anyone up for a road trip?
The Smoking Toddler
A shocking video of an Indonesian toddler casually puffing away on a cigarette burned up the blogosphere in May. The viral video exposed 18-month-old Ardi Riza's two-pack-a-day smoking habit--a full-blown addiction that his parents said tamed his terrible tantrums.
The resulting public outcry captured the attention of Indonesia's National Commission for Child Protection, who arranged for the child to attend intensive rehabilitation treatments. Ardi has--phew!--since kicked his butts habit.
Bundles of Joy?
In July, a buzzy New York Magazine cover story explored "why parents hate parenting," citing numerous studies that suggest parents are less happy than adults who don't have children.
Months later, author Erica Jong slammed "attachment parenting," a hands-on parenting approach that involves keeping a child close (baby-wearing, co-sleeping) and carefully attuning oneself to a baby's physical and emotional needs. Jong argued that this extreme attentiveness is "prison for mothers," and puts unreasonable demands and stress on parents.
Whether you're glad someone finally said it, or can't stand anyone talking smack about the joys of motherhood, both pieces definitely got people talking.
Kiddie Pole Dancing
A Canadian workout studio made headlines for their, ahem, unique fitness classes for kids, including group and private pole dance instruction. Studio owner Tammy Morris called her pint-sized pupils (some as young as 5) "naturals" and argued that kids have "no (erotic) association with the pole whatsoever."
Class offerings include Bellylicious, Sexy Flexy, Pussycat Dawls, and Promiscuous Girls (really?), with a Mommy and Me pole dancing class in the works.
Nursing: It Should Be the Law
Supermodel mom Gisele Bündchen ruffled feathers when she proposed that all mothers be required to breastfeed for at least six months.
''Some people here (in the US) think they don't have to breastfeed, and I think 'Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?'" she told Harper's Bazaar UK. "I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.''
Gisele's comments didn't sit well with moms who couldn't or chose not to breastfeed, who found them offensive and judgmental. Gisele later semi-apologized. (The outspoken mom also caused a stir with her comments that some construed as a dig against single moms.)
World's Oldest Moms
How old is too old to have a baby? The heated debate captured media attention after Indian woman Bhateri Devi gave birth to triplets at 66 via in vitro fertilization. Though many medical experts warn of the various health risks of post-menopausal birth, including high blood pressure, strain on the heart and lungs, increased potential for premature birth, and difficult postpartum healing, older moms around the world continue to turn to fertility treatments to get pregnant.
Kids Not Welcome
A North Carolina restaurant stirred up controversy when the owner posted a sign as a stern warning to patrons with kids: "Screaming Children Will NOT Be Tolerated!" Echoing similar sentiment, a writer for The New York Times ranted about the practice of bringing babies to bars.
The push for kid-free zones has outraged many parents. "You do not have a right to child-free spaces," Maia, a blogger for Feministe wrote. "I simply don't believe that my mamahood means that I must be shunted away from the rest of society." But many other disagreed. Said one commenter: "I never understood why some parents seem to NEED to inflict their brats on the general public at large. Are they too cheap to hire a baby sitter, or do they actually enjoy the screaming? And then they are SHOCKED when no one else is enjoying the antics of their little darling monsters."
Poll: Should We Keep Our Baby?
"Vote and choose whether we abort or keep our unborn child," website birthornot.com offered to visitors. The site, which chronicled the pregnancy of Minneapolis couple Pete and Alisha Arnold, caused a firestorm of controversy. The pair posted ultrasound images and baby health updates, and tallied more than 2 million votes. The Arnolds later admitted the poll was a hoax--the couple was never considering abortion, and instead wanted to spur political discussion.
The perennial hot-button issue fueled even more heated debates after news broke that, come next November, San Francisco residents may be voting on whether or not circumcision should be illegal there. Some celebrated the possible ballot as a welcomed step toward ending the procedure, while others took issue to the state ruling on a personal parenting decision.
Mom Defends Preschool Son in Drag
In October, Mom blogger Nerdy Apple Bottom's son decided to dress up as Daphne from Scooby-Doo for Halloween, drawing stares and nasty comments from parents at his daycare. The mom took to her blog to vent her frustration in a post titled "My Son is Gay."
The post was unexpectedly picked up by countless other blogs, resulting in media attention and thousands of retweets and comments. Some praised the mom for accepting and standing up for her 5-year-old son; others criticized her for "outing" him (she wasn't actually saying he was gay) and posting his photo online.