I consider myself a fair connoisseur of Internet Drama; I’ve been following Fandom Wank for years. If it updated more often and with more fandoms that I recognized, I wouldn’t need cable! So you can imagine my mixture of delight and awe when the author showed up to PhD in Parenting’s post "The Bible of Parent Blame: “Your Kids Are Your Own Fault” by Larry Winget."
It has to be said that I have a bias, or at least an opinion; you could dig through the comments and find me something like half a dozen points, and I’ll summarize here so that my bias is clear: I do not believe that shaming and blaming is an effective means of helping parents. I understand that for some people this is an effective means of motivation, but I’m not down with it. Also, I believe entirely that everyone involved on both sides believe that we should parent responsibly and teach our children to be confident and productive. That’s not the issue. The issue is the tone and concepts applied — that it is all the parent’s fault, every single little thing.
And there are, at this time, something like 190+ comments on the post. There are a lot I agree with. There are a lot I don’t agree with. But I’m just talking about the blogger (PhD in Parenting) and the author (Larry Winget).
Now, the blog post isn’t really about Mr. Winget’s book, at least not as I interpreted it. I figured it was about the PR team’s response; I mean, it’s clear that they did not, at least initially, read what she wrote. She shared the content of her original post so that we would have the context of her email. It was funny — PR teams not paying attention! My original comment reflects this, because I think all I said was, "LOL, too crazy," or something to that effect.
Something like 25 comments in, Mr. Winget makes his appearance. He has some points — some commenters are rude and assumptive, but that’s not the responsibility of the blogger by any means. He also pitches his book. A lot. And that’s fine; writers have to promote however possible! But reading his comments, I find him off-putting. I don’t feel like he understands what we’re saying — that we find the narrowness of his approach (literally, that we can fix the world if we fix the parents — no, really) lacking, and that we don’t agree with parental shaming. (I say we, like I’m totally involved! I’m just peripheral but agree.)
He comes back and confirms that he is, in fact, trying to shame and blame parents. He says that the argument is "laughable." He thinks that saying that children are predisposed genetically to… I don’t know, it’s not said, but apparently genetics are a "cop out for lousy parenting." (By the way: note at the end of this comment, he says he’s done with this post: don’t forget that.) At this point I went from thinking that the guy had a parenting philosophy I didn’t agree with to finding his comments, philosophy, and overall style completely off-putting. (I love Dionna’s reply, by the way; it’s exactly what I wanted to say, that I don’t think children need to be controlled so much as guided.)
It becomes apparent that a good number of supports are coming from his Facebook page (I checked and confirmed earlier today, because that’s how I roll with my Internet Drama), both because PhD let’s him know that she is not, in fact, sending him private emails. (And glancing through his comments on the Facebook page, I believe her; the things he reference are things that I see right there in the comments.)
Around this times things have exploded; Mr. Winget’s fans from Facebook are coming around to tell everyone who disagrees how disrespectful, ignored, and personally irresponsible we are; some of us (unfortunately) reply in ways that aren’t so classy as they could be. Godwin is invoked in a comment that I actually thought was in defense of Mr. Winget, but everyone else seems to take as, "OMG You compared him to Hitler!" As of this writing, I’m still not sure whose side that guy is on, haha.
The "don’t judge a book by it’s cover!" comes up a lot on the Winget side, though I tend to fall on the side of, "When the cover (in this case, press release) gives me the content of the book, yeah, I’m gonna make a judgment." A couple people even pretty much say everyone who isn’t interested in this book/doesn’t like it based on the press release is a bad parent, teaching their kids to judge the book by it’s cover.
There’s some "OMG!" and snarkiness because of the title of the blog; apparently "PhD in Parenting" is not obviously tongue-in-cheek; I remember hearing the blog title something like six months ago and finding it sort of cute and clever. I didn’t assume that the owner was getting a PhD or had a PhD.
Then we get an anonymous post — presumably by a Winget fan, as I doubt Mr. Winget would not attach his name to it (and, of course, he’s "done") letting us know the book i on Google Books. (Note: he quotes Lois McMaster Bujold on one page! Bonus points for cool — we named our son Miles after Miles Vorkosigan — but not enough to convince me to read this book.) And at this point we learn a portion of the things that he believes are the result of bad parenting. Included: bad grammar and bad customer service. I still can’t reply to that. I’ve been trying since I read it.
He calls out "stupid" parents, and calls their children "stupid." At this point I cannot be convinced that the tone of this book isn’t offensive and insulting. Again; if that’s what helps you get motivated, all for it, but I don’t think it’s how people should be treated.
Then Mr. Winget replies to a comment that, granted, is inaccurate; I think it became a game of telephone. and somewhere along the line the idea that the author didn’t write the press release gets misinterpretted as the press release doesn’t reflect the book. But his tone is increasingly snarky.
Then, my favorite part: The Law of Diminishing Dramatic Exits. We’ve been told twice now that Mr. Winget is done with this thread; and yet he’s back again to remind us how funny he finds all this, what a great time it is, how much he doesn’t care about our parenting style, and that this has done nothing but help his sales, so his unloved press release has done it’s job. He also says that PhD in Parenting has obviously enjoyed a boost in hits for this, which she refutes.
I gather at this point that Mr. Winget is feeling unfairly attacked, and that no one is listening to his side of the argument; I’ll say again that yes, some of the comments do toe or downright cross the ad hominem line, but I don’t feel like he quite understands why those who had looked through the excerpt of his work still disagreed, or even what we’re all disagree on.
But he’s definitely done this time. So long, and thanks for all
fish sales! I gather we’re all supposed to feel silly for debating this, and that we’re supposed to fume as he takes his money bath or something.
Except when he’s back to tell another commenter that he doesn’t care if the guy is rude, so long as he reads the book. I feel like he really, truly believes that if we all just read this book, we’ll change our minds about him, the inflammatory press release that started the whole thing, and apologize for ever disliking his "most important work." (See his first comment.)
And there are a lot of conversations here and there that I’m not covering, because it’s a big post, and I’m mostly interested in the interactions with the authors. A lot of people imply or flat out say that PhD has no integrity, and refer to her "Blogging with Intergrity" banner image; I said on the blog and will say here that in my non-expert opinion, the original blog post and none of PhD’s post do not toe that ad hominem line; she is not responsible for the commentors that do.
There’s some conversation about the difference between attachment parenting and permissive parenting; I don’t get much into parenting labels, so I’ve got nothing to say there.
There are regular readers of PhD who don’t agree with her treatment of content, no matter how much she dislikes it; there are PhD fans who agree with Mr. Winget. There are tons of people who don’t seem to be reading the same posts/comments as the rest of us, and people who fail at effectively communicating their thoughts in writing.
There’s a blogger who gets talking about anti-psychotics in children, and keeps challenging us to "support our claims" and talk about anti-psychotics in children, and I’ve yet to understand A) what this has to do with Mr. Winget’s book, and B) exactly what his focus is. I think he’s trying to say that children need anti-psychotics because we’re inadequate parents, and I cannot even figure out how to apply earth logic to that idea.
But in conclusion: Mr. Winget’s philosophy of the entire world revolving on good or bad parenting does not sit with me — I cannot begin to understand the idea that genetics, environment, role models, and peers have no impact on the goodness or badness of a child. If there’s science behind that idea, I’d love to hear it. I don’t like the railroading taking place in the theory; that all paths should lead to one kind of productive individual, that if you’re raised by "stupid" parents you will be a "stupid" kid.
I believe the people in the comments who say they know Mr. Winget, and that he is a kind and caring individual; a true hard ass would have stayed gone and worried no more about the "stupid" corner of the Internet that doesn’t agree with him. But I don’t find his personal brand of help to be inspiring, I do not believe the shame and blame (and implicitly, guilt) are the ways to incite change, and I really, seriously, absolutely do not buy that good parenting will always result in good children, or that the child of bad or neglect parents do not grow up to become decent children, regardless of the other factors in their lives.