I can recall
a program to teach manners when I was in grade school. Every student
in every grade was taught to say "please" when making
a request and not to interrupt adults when they were speaking and
if walking in front of someone to say "excuse me."
there seems to be a declining interest in teaching manners to kids.
But more troubling, there also seems to be a growing problem of
kids talking back to their teachers and parents. I see this in the
school my son attends, and by no means is he isnít removed from
I canít recall
kids in grade school ever talking back to teachers. Where did all
this sassiness and bossiness come from? God only knows.
I was mentioning
this to Mark Joseph,
father of five young girls who happens to be in the multi-media
business as film producer, talk show host, columnist, author and
media strategist. I shared with him the question of whether TV is
creating all this talk-back culture we observe with kids these days.
may not be a bad example, but part of the problem seems to be, in
those TV programs, there arenít any parents or teachers interacting
with children. There are no authority figures in most modern TV
and film programs for kids.
is part of the problem, I wondered.
called me back on the phone the next day to say that he wrote a
short article for a family publication called Discovery Years
some time back. It had to do with this very same challenge, of teaching
children to hold their tongue. He forwarded the article to me by
Here is what
Mr. Joseph wrote (referring to his children):
been very impressed with sitcom families especially the weak fathers
that so often populated them. While the Cosby
Showwas enjoyable, I never understood why such a smart
man couldn't have crafted a role that was more respectful and
more respected. Let's face it: Claire Huxtable had the brains
and she called all the shots as Dr. Huxtable yukked it up.
Ties was somewhat of an improvement but not much. Alex
Keaton's mother seemed to have more respect for his father than
Claire Huxtable did for Dr. Huxtable, but Mr. Keaton didn't have
much of a spine either. Roseanne was a different story. Though
annoying herself, her hubby was somewhat of a leader and authority
figure and in some sense commanded respect. Home
Improvement and Everybody
Loves Raymond had strong but lovable wives, but their
husbands still didn't command respect. And then there was Married
With Children, the worst offender of all.
my girls to have a window on a healthy relationship and skipping
over the aforementioned, stumbled across it in Little
House On The Prairie and the changes in their behavior
stunned my wife and I.
they began to watch it, we noticed that they began to refer to
us as Pa and Ma and the tone in their voices grew increasingly
respectful. That's when I began watching with them and
that though the girls on this TV show loved their parents and
felt secure, and there was also a respect for their parents that
I had never found in modern sitcoms.
Landon had somehow managed to inject his character Charles Ingalls
with the perfect balance of kindness and authority.
Terry Mattingly makes the case that the power of TV is not about
single and powerful messages that change lives, but about thousands
of little messages that over time impact our lives. My children's
young lives have been changed for the better by turning off contemporary
TV families and reaching back 30 years to a series created by
a man who understood the dynamic that contributed to healthy families.
Of course, I still hold out hope that Hollywood will create a
new series that will reflect a healthy family, with children who
respect their parents and parents who are good, kind and strong.
But until that happens or my kids tire of it, we'll travel back
to the Little House with the strong and kind Dad, loving and respected
Mother, and the children who learned both how to be respectful
and to have fun.
years after its last segment, it may be difficult for kids today
to imagine the hard life on the prairie in the late 1800s, which
Ingallsí books portrayed. The setting is Walnut Grove, Minnesota
where Charles Ingalls (Michael Landon) and his wife, Caroline (Karen
Grassle) rely on their devotion to each other and their family to
see them through the daily trials of early settlement life. All
nine TV seasons and three TV movies can be purchased as a package.
Here is a short segment entitled The Troublemaker where one of Charles
Ingalls daughters, Laura, adjusts to a new teacher in the country