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The Power of the Media Revisited

May 15, 1998

I have new information confirming our former hypothesis concerning the recent technological advances in child training and behavior control. For approximately $500.00 you can have perfectly obedient children, at home or in public. If you are budget minded there are ways to get by for under $25.00, or if you don’t mind a little deception played on your children, there are ways to get your equipment free.
Of course if you read our first article on the power of the media you know that the electronic child control equipment we are talking about is a video camera. You can get an old twelve-pounder from the hock shop for $25.00, or you can get one free from an old friend that dropped his in the fountain and shorted out all the wiring. It doesn’t matter if you are actually taking pictures, as long as the children think you are. We have discovered that a pointed camera is better than a pointed finger. Switching on a camera (or pretending to) is better than switching on the kids.
Just this past week, I purchased a new digital video camera. It is our intention, unless prevented by the rapture or Y2K, to produce a child training video. Don’t write and ask for it now, it may take us six months. I took the camera to the church meeting Sunday to get some good footage [for you laymen, that’s videographer’s language]. I was hoping to “do a take” on some kid throwing a fit. In the course of events, I explained to everyone that I would be documenting their child training, and in the process, making some of the parents infamous. After the meeting I hurried outside to try for a Pulitzer Prize winning shot.
I saw several parents seriously talking to their children while pointing to my camera. The children were all soaking it up quite seriously. Well, with fifty kids in sight I was able to capture only one little fit. And it was spoiled when an eight-year-old candidate for an overdose on Ritalin leaped in front of the screaming child, shoved his scrawny face into the wide angle lens, and commenced to scream hysterically. He was auditioning of course. You will remember him as the one that I tied up on the camping trip. The small child immediately stopped crying and stared at the older kid. She was just out-classed. He spoiled the shot of the kid throwing a fit, but he gave me great footage of a kid the state of Texas has insisted should be put on Ritalin. His mother has wisely refused and the kid continues to act like a boy. By the way, I wouldn’t have the little knot head any other way. I wandered around the churchyard, trying to get natural shots, but everyone was on guard. It looked like an IRS waiting room.
That evening, Carolyn, 3 years and five months old, was visiting the house. I offered her a piece of cake, and she readily accepted. I lifted her into a chair and served the cake. As I was walking off she called my name in a tone of supplication. When I turned around I could see that she had something serious to say. “Mike, I am a good girl now.” I had never questioned it, so I was puzzled until the next day when her mother told me of an event on the previous day. That Sunday afternoon as everyone was playing volleyball, as usual the kids were all swinging on ropes, racing bicycles, building sand castles, and swimming in the creek. Carolyn’s mother noticed that Carolyn was playing unusually well. All afternoon she had not whined, complained, cried, or hesitated to obey. Mother said to Carolyn, “You have been so good this afternoon!” Carolyn responded, “Yeah, I am afraid Mike Pearl is hiding in the bushes, trying to take my picture.” It seems I am now the editor of the infamous Cane Creek Video Tabloid. No child is safe to throw a fit or relax into selfishness. Where is the American freedom to have an emotional breakdown? Even a wrong pucker or droop of the shoulders could bring the camera instantly into play.
Now there is a great lesson in this for parents. Think about it. A three-year-old child knows that certain behavior is wrong. The child would be embarrassed to have her behavior documented on video. Parents are naive. Children convince their parents that they are helpless creatures of indulgence. “The child doesn’t understand.” It is the parent who doesn’t understand. “But the poor thing is upset; she just needs some reassurance.” Poke a video camera in her face with promise to show it to everyone, and see if she is still helpless and confused. Everything gets in focus in a hurry.
If the three-year-old can control her own emotions and responses for six hours on the fear that someone is hiding somewhere trying to get video footage of embarrassing behavior, then the child has demonstrated that she has complete control over her entire body, mind, and emotions. If she throws a fit later on, it is because she has an agenda and that momentary expression is a means to get her way. Parents stimulate and promote such behavior by treating it as normal. If you respond to fits of anger with your own fit of anger, you are giving credibility to that kind of behavior,
We have had small children in our home who made emotional displays with intentions of controlling the house. It is so completely unacceptable around here that we all just stop and stare in amazement. One of us will comment on the bizarre behavior. Someone else will laugh and comment on how silly it looks. One will turn to another and say in the presence of the kid throwing the fit, “That must work at home; she doesn’t know us very well does she?” Another one of my kids may say, “Did you see how she fell down in the floor? You know her tears even look real!” “Yeah, maybe she is going to be an actress when she grows up.” “Well, let’s all go eat while she practices her parent training skills.” “Should we just leave her in here?” “Yeah, but shut the door so we don’t have to listen.” Once or twice with a response like that and the kid is humiliated to try it again. Now understand I am talking about dealing with someone else’s kid, not my own. You can’t spank you neighbor’s kid, especially when it is really your neighbor that needs the spanking.
I will tell you something else that works well. When a child is so emotionally upset that he has completely lost control, lean over and talk in low tones to others in the room, ignoring the child. They will stop crying to hear what you are saying. I am not suggesting that you do this as a regular way of training; it is just a lot of fun. It will give you a clear perspective on what you are dealing with. Kids don’t like to be left out of anything. They will give up a good spell to hear what is going on.
Parent when are you going to grow up and act like an adult? Someone needs to be in authority around your place. Your children know exactly what they are doing, and they know what you are going to do when they start their little displays. If you come to my house, you know what I am going to do. That’s right, I am going to take aim at you with my Canon. See you on the big screen!

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One comment on “The Power of the Media Revisited”

  1. When my son was little, every time he through a fit, I would pull out a regular camera ant start taking picture. His fits stopped instantly. Every time I hear a parent say, my child cannot help themself because of tireness or hunger I laugh to my self and tell the story of my child. (he was two when I started) Kids have lots of control when they want. They are throwing fits because they want control. He no longer had fits quickly after I started using a camera.