Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sugar Cereals and Other Parental Inanities

We had a rule when it came to breakfast cereals when I was growing up. Only three boxes of cereal were allowed to be open at one time, only one of which could be a sugar cereal. The three boxes of cereal I can understand, its to keep the cereal from going stale. The one sugar cereal I kinda get, you don't want to encourage your kids to always be eating sweets, but then again, we would have donuts for breakfast about once a month, and there is no way you can convince me (except when I am trying to convince my wife) that donuts are healthy.

Another completely irrational cereal rule was that we could put one spoonful of sugar on a non-sugar cereal (to make it more palatable), but none on a sugar cereal. So the other day I decided to test out my parents wisdom. I chose Corn Flakes and Sugar Pops as my two cereals. Corn Flakes has 3 grams of sugar per serving (of course the way my brothers and I pour cereal, there is probably 6 grams of sugar per serving). Sugar Pops has 10 grams (20 grams the way we pour sugar). So how much in a spoonful of sugar? I weighed a spoonful of white granulated sugar and came up with a mass of 14 grams. So even accounting for the extra large bowl of cereal we had, the way we ate it there was just as much sugar in a "non-sugar" cereal as there was in a "sugar" cereal. Why not just let your kids have whatever cereal they want? That is what I do now.

Parents come up with all sorts of crazy rules to try and reign in our kids. Growing up you recognize this and swear that you will never do that when you are a parent, and then you find yourself doing the exact thing you swore to high heaven would never happen. Turns out, kids have a mind of their own and without rules (sometimes even with rules), they would probably get themselves run over or worse. I never wore a bicycle helmet growing up, not even in the Boy Scout Road Rallies I attended. My wife is adamant about our kids wearing their bicycle helmets, I'm OK with that. She feels it makes them safer (and it probably does in a small statistical way), so I don't fight it.

Every now and then I try to purge myself of the crazy rules that my parents ingrained in me. It usually doesn't work. You could almost say that parenting is sort of like brainwashing your kids into doing what you think is right for society. Without the brainwashing, you never know how the kids will turn out. And right now, with the chaos they already cause around the house, I want to hang on to as much control as I can.

1 comment:

  1. I think there's as much merit in them learning to deal with rules they may or may not understand or agree with, as in any benefit of the rule by itself.

    In setting boundaries with kids, they get used to the existence of those boundaries and to the fact that there are consequences if they stray from them.

    This can have a huge impact on preparing them for the relatively structured life they will encounter in the future.

    It doesn't guarantee that they'll respond well to rules or abide by them...they are, after all, human and capable of acting outside their conditioning...but it does increase the chances that they'll be able to cope better in the future with a boss who sets arbitrary and nonsensical rules that they have to deal with.

    It is important not to take it so far that you brainwash them into mindlessly following whatever a person in a position of authority tells them, but teaching them to pick their battles wisely can carry them far in life.

    Parenting is always a balancing act.