by Sarah at ProgressiveKid
In the course of fighting to keep artificial turf out of a local park, I have been witness to a number of thinking errors that parents seem to make, whether those parents are blue, red, green, or in between. It’s as if, by virtue of being parents, either through lack of sleep or increased imprisonment behind the wheel, our thinking gets muddled and we can only see the forest (parenting) and not the trees (kids). (Feel free to choose your own improved metaphor.)
Here are the Eight Potential Pitfalls of Parentthink as I see them:
- My Kid Must Have It All Whatever the Cost. When the cost is lung cancer or MRSA, you might want to start taking the cost a little more seriously. Is it really more important that your kid be able to play soccer 365 days per year than that he or she not have to inhale known carcinogens?
- New Stuff Is Better Than Old Stuff. Well, this is certainly true when it comes to dental office machinery or waist height in fashion. But is it true across the board, such as when it applies to the choice between real grass and plastic grass? I grew up playing soccer on sand, and when I first met a grass field I thought I was in the part of heaven where the angels hold their pickup games. Grass fields maintained with modern knowhow are naturally bacteria-resistant and do not require the applications of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. And they’re great for field sports.
- If the FDA Says It’s O.K., Then It Must Be. Um, ever heard of Vioxx? Or Avandia? FDA approval does not guarantee the safety of anything other than the fact that FDA-run studies of short-term effects have turned up nothing and that the FDA is unaware of any major study yet conducted that shows a problem. When there is mounting evidence of the dangers of a product, give yourself permission to question the FDA’s support.
- If a Reputable Organization or a Famous Person Endorses a Product, Then It Must Be Safe. Would it hold weight for you if the NRA came out in support of sex education? Or if Ben Stiller endorsed flu shots? It’s essential to consider the authority of the endorser in the particular arena being considered. When it comes to children’s health, NFL and FIFA endorsement of artificial turf is irrelevant. Their endorsement means only that plastic grass is good for the sports business and won’t affect athletic performance.
- If Everybody Is Doing It, Then It Must Be Cool. Would you let your kid get away with saying this to you? Then why use it as an argument to support the installation of artificial turf fields? All it means it that there are going to be a lot of people in the same quandary if and when the major study linking artificial turf to cancer or MRSA infection is released. Lots of people wondering if they’re going to be sued, if their kids are going to be affected, how they’re going to remove the gazillions of pellets from parks and aquifers, and who’s going to pay for it all?
- If the Manufacturer Promises a Product Is Safe, Then I Believe Them. I’m not even going to waste my time on this one.
- I Want My Kid to Have What the Other Kids Have. Of course you do. Maybe you want them to have the X-Box or the Disneyworld experience, just like the neighbor kids. But remember to look at the whole picture. What, exactly, is included? Is there lead in the adorable little puffy-cheeked train? Is there benzopyrene in the funny little rubber pellets that just fell out of your kid’s cleats?
- If It’s Not Made in China, We’re Good. Don’t Be fooled. Whatever happens in China can happen here too. The key is to find out whether the product is regularly tested and for what and by whom. If an internationally respected toy testing organization has issued a stamp of approval after testing the paint on your kid’s action figure and continues to test every batch of the product, it doesn’t matter if it was made in China. Get the scoop. For example, you can do this with artificial turf. The manufacturers will send you a list of the studies they say show their products are safe. But be sure to actually read the studies. You’ll find that these studies recommend that artificial fields not be installed before more comprehensive studies are conducted. I know because I did this. After weeding out the sources about head injury, which no one is claiming to be a problem anymore with artificial turf, I started randomly to select studies from the manufacturer’s enormous list and read them. What I found, to some degree of astonishment (at the hutzpah of the manufacturer), was that none of the ones I checked supported artificial turf but instead cautioned against it!
Look, the only person who cares about your kids is you. Despite all the pressures of modern living and the bombardment of information, much of it conflicting, we parents have to clear our minds and ultimately rely on our built-in ability to reason and think through the situations before us. When you have to make a crucial decision—whether it be about artificial turf or immunization or the latest toy—ask yourself if you are falling into any of these pitfalls. Test your thinking. Your brain is your best ally.
Image by Solyanka, 2007. Creative Commons license.