We have a copy of the book Curious George. It was gifted to us; we did not purchase it. I’ve always really disliked the book (and the entire series in general). Then one night, as I read it to my children, I had a very different thought about it. Could the author have actually been commenting on punitive parenting? For those of you unknowledgable about Curious George, George is a little monkey who is very curious about things. He was tricked and caught from his native home and brought to New York City to live with “the man in the big yellow hat.”
The problem is that he is expected to behave like a grown adult human when in actuality, he is a young monkey. Seems like a rather unrealsitic expectation, doesn’t it? Place a monkey in different situations and expect him to be something he’s not….that’s bound to cause problems. Then, when the inevitable so-called “mis-behavior” occurs, punish the little monkey. Since punishments don’t actually teach, they don’t really phase George. He goes on being a monkey because he is a monkey. He then gets into some other form of mischief. The book continues this way until finally the man in the big yellow hat shows up and extricates him from the situation.
Unrealistic expectations of children abound in our society. Children aren’t allowed to be children. Instead, they are expected to be miniature versions of adults without any rights. Sucks to be a kid, doesn’t it? When they inevitably fail at impossible tasks, parents punish. Only, punishments don’t work, so the parents really only work to create a chasm in their relationship with hurt and angry feelings.
If a two year old is left in a room with cookie dough and told not to eat the cookie dough, aren’t you just setting the child up for failure? Two year olds do not have good impulse control. My husband is 33 years old. If I left him in a room with cookie dough, I can guarantee that there would be some sampling going on. I’m known to eat my own share of cookie dough. Why have the expectation that the two year old won’t eat cookie dough? The child is being a child. Punishment isn’t going to change that fact. Wouldn’t it be better to recognize what is developmentally appropriate for the child? Work with the child rather than doing to the child? If it is not okay for the cookie dough to be eaten, why not put it up? Don’t place the child in a position that they shouldn’t be in.
What a great way to look at material you don’t care for, and perhaps see it in a new light!
My husband recently watched an episode of “Leave it to Beaver” with our son. I knew nothing about the program whatsoever, except the idea it was family-based and antiquated. Anyway, my husband said it was rather tender in the way it treated the child in the show. He was very much a child and did childish things, and the adults around him treated him well. Also, the Beaver got to run around town all day and do what he liked (I let my kids do this but I’m a minority). So I guess there’s more to that show than I’d originally thought!
[P]unishments don’t work, so the parents really only work to create a chasm in their relationship with hurt and angry feelings.
I totally agree with this and I’m glad I learned the error of punishment early. I am sad it took me as long as it did.
I completely agree… again
I am so glad that I found your website. I love Curious George and always have, but the one thing that always irritated me was that the monkey is not disciplined for acting up.
It never occurred to me to look at it from a different perspective, to consider that punishment may not be a viable form of teaching a child (or monkey, as it were).
You and your blog have definitely given me something to think over. I hope I have more opportunities to pop in here; I’ve really enjoyed reading your archives!