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The Odd Life of Parents Who Laugh at Their Children

by on Aug.27, 2012, under Character traits, Child development, Communication, Environmental influences, Parent modeling, Parenting, Sensitive Topics

The viral video of the two boys emoting after seeing The Odd Life of Timothy Green made my blood boil.  In the video two boys, perhaps 7 and 9 years old, are crying as they try to discuss the movie they had just seen, and the parents, filming the scene, can be heard laughing.

I saw the film last week.  My husband and I might have been the only adults in the theater unaccompanied by children. No matter to me.  Is this really a kids’ movie? I wondered. Seated right next to us were a dad and his son, maybe 6 years old. The boy’s questions were nonstop. Half way through, they left.  When the lights came on, my shirt was soaked. I had come to the theater without tissues, unprepared for the poignant, sad story. I thought to myself, I sure hope all these parents are prepared to have the “death discussion.”  I doubted they were.

The following day the tears for Timothy video went viral. I am not sure which part of the video bothers me more—the incredible disrespect the parents showed for their young boys, that the whole country found humor in boys’ genuine expression of emotion, or that the parents missed such a perfect opportunity for a meaningful discussion about many different questions raised by the film, death included.

How our boy children are raised in today’s culture continues to be a hot topic. Countless books on the subject point to the importance of helping boys to tune into their feelings and learn to express them honestly and unselfconsciously.  After all, for years boys have borne the burden of having to “be brave,” to “buck up” and hide their feelings. Boys don’t cry, though a cliché, is still believed, I’m afraid. If we want to raise our boys to be sensitive, thoughtful, caring men, laughing at their expressions of feelings isn’t a very good start.

Taking a child to see an (age appropriate) movie, one that tackles real issues (like death) and raises questions,  comes with responsibilities, like actually talking to your kids.  Children count on their parents to help them navigate life’s big questions (What is death? What is sex? What is God? What is war?—to name just a few biggies) whenever they come up. The answers to those questions can render a parent tongue tied. The ostrich school of parenting—head buried in the sand, throwing off phrases like We’ll talk about that later or That’s for when you’re older— doesn’t work.  (One of the reasons that I wrote Just Tell Me What to Say, was to give parents the help they need in addressing these important questions.)  And laughing at your child who asks, “Why did Timothy have to die?” through his tears and captured in the video, is just plain outrageous.

One more thing. What about the responsibility of knowing if a movie is age appropriate?  I am not so sure young children should have even seen this movie. It was heavy.  Does the whole world not know about Common Sense Media ( wherein you can find movie reviews for age appropriateness for almost all releases?  Just because Disney says it’s a kids’ movie, doesn’t make it so!

But above all, it was the parents’ laughter throughout the video that infuriated me. Those little boys were genuinely distraught and unbearably sad. There wasn’t a thing that was funny about that; it was heart wrenching to watch. And children only like to be laughed at when they are intending to make you laugh. Otherwise, they hate it.  Yet, not only did the parents laugh and laugh, but they chose to make a spectacle of their boys’ expression of feelings by filming it and putting it on You Tube.  Now it’s my turn to weep. I weep for those boys for having such thoughtless, uninformed and disrespectful parents.


11 Comments for this entry

  • Gina Osher

    Oh, Betsy. I hadn’t seen this video yet. That’s truly AWFUL. Those poor, poor boys. First of all, if I took my children to see a movie that gave my children such a visceral reaction, I would be there to help them through those confusing emotions. Not laugh at them! And secondly, who would take such little kids to see that movie? I (unfortunately) went to see the movie “Ted” a few weeks ago & there was a mom next to me with a little girl who couldn’t have been more than 4. I couldn’t believe it! I 100% agree with your article. Thank you for writing it!

  • Anita

    Thank you for this. I checked the website commonsensemedia, and just wanted to mention that it is “.org” not “.com”. I will use it from now on for all sorts of reviews. My daughters (5 & 7) recently saw “Brave” and it was surprisingly scary, especially in 3D. I have both of your books and I find the many tools you provide to be very helpful.

  • Betsy

    Thanks for the heads up about Common Sense Media being .org. It has been corrected. So glad not only that my blogs are useful but that in this case, many people agree. It gives me hope!

  • Geoffrey Harris

    Well, that is typical. Most people are sadists.
    The grade school, junior high, and highschool I attended were full of them. Americans, Germans, and Romans are all sadists.

  • Mary Louise

    I love reading your blogs Betsy! Especially this one with the horrific video that these two “parents” got such a kick out of making! Maybe they thought they would enter it in one of those stupid bloopers TV shows and make a million dollars! Great! Then they can spend it on the lifelong therapy their boys should have, but won’t get!!! Poor little dears! Just makes me want to cuddle them! So glad my 17 year old girls will never see a video of themselves such as this one!!! Don’t you wish you could sit down and educate those parents? Thanks Betsy…

  • Betsy

    Can’t say that I agree that “most people are sadists.” Actually, I think quite the contrary is true. But I don’t think these parents were trying to be sadistic. I think they are sadly uninformed.

  • Charlie

    First of all, thank you for your article! Episodes like this often makes me wonder what kind of childhood those parents had, not knowing how to handle this kind of situation they’d put themselves in. I mean the bigger part of life, including handle this kind of situation is actually all about common sense, and where does that come from?

  • Erica

    Oh my! Reading this almost brought me to tears. I can’t bring myself to google it because it is just too upsetting. Those poor kids. I totally agree that as a culture we don’t do enough to help boys understand, accept and express their feeling. Shame on those parents. Really indefensible.

  • Lindsay

    I enjoyed your post. I wrote something prior but I can’t read the reCAPTCHA that is required to enter my post well enough so it deleted it 🙂
    Anyways, though provoking and I agree with you.

  • Betsy

    Kind of horrifying, isn’t it?! I can’t help but wonder what kind of adults those children will be.

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