2015 gave parents a lot to think about when it came to parenting styles, discipline, education and school culture. American parents now face new challenges as the transgender movement makes its way into school bathrooms and locker rooms, while parents in the Middle East and Europe are confronting the threat radical Islam poses against their children’s safety and their very lives.
Here are the parenting stories we found to be most compelling this year:
10. Sesame Street Introduces First Autistic Character
Parents are throwing out the term “disability” in favor of “difference” and different is a very good thing. Confronting the statistic that children with autism are five times more likely to be bullied in school, Sesame Street has introduced its first autistic character, Julia. The character befriends children’s favorite Elmo, who helps the cast understand the different communication styles common among autistic children. Parenting a child with any difference is no easy task, but as PJ Media Parenting writer Grace L. Williams observed about her own relationship with her autistic toddler James,
I underestimate my son. All. The. Time. It is proof that his talents and capabilities are aching to be noticed, and I really need to take heed. I’m learning. Or, more, my son is reminding me that I’m learning. And he’s quite the teacher!
Parenting changes us. At times we feel completely unable to do the job. But, when we take a breath we realize that this little child hasn’t disabled us, he’s just made us different, too.
9. Parents Allow Their Kids to “Opt-Out” of Common Core Tests
Parents are questioning the public schools’ one-size-fits-all learning culture. Common Core is so hideous that a child can find its flaws in minutes. This is probably why parents stood up against Common Core’s rigorous standardized testing this year, permitting their children to “opt-out” of various standardized tests across the country. With complaints ranging from ridiculous pressure on learning disabled students, to the gross amount of time spent “teaching to the test,” parents are taking their children’s education into their own hands.
8. NFL Star Returns Sons’ Participation Trophies
Parents are second-guessing school sports. We’re finally teaming up to put an end to the stupidity of participation trophies in school sports. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison shone a spotlight on the issue after returning his own sons’ participation trophies because he didn’t want his kids to “feel entitled.” “Sometimes your best is not enough and that should drive you to want to do better,” he said.
7. Schools Implementing Transgender Policies
In a Monday, Aug. 31, 2015 photo, Lila Perry, a Hillsboro High School senior and transgender student, speaks with reporters. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)
Transgender culture is targeting our kids and parents don’t like it. Fairfax County Public Schools, one of the largest districts in the nation, jumped on the Jenner bandwagon this year, implementing a transgender curriculum for grades 7-12. The choice follows a trend of opening bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex to students claiming to be transgender. One-hundred fifty female students in Missouri said no. Parents across the country are infuriated. With pop culture marketing gender fluidity to an audience growing younger by the day, this stands to be the issue of 2016.
6. Debate Over Helicopter and Free Range Parenting Heats Up
We’re re-thinking parenting styles and wondering why the government is getting involved. Yes, we live in a culture where letting your kids walk home alone from the park can get you reported to Child Protective Services and can turn your quiet little family life into national news. The Meitiv family found this out when their 10- and 6-year-olds were reported to the police by a neighbor who questioned why the children were without a chaperone. Free Range or Helicopter parenting? Statistics show too much intervention to be harmful, but too little can land you in jail. Where’s the balance?
5. Baltimore Mom Pulls Son From Riot
One Mom had us wondering when it’s okay to smack your child in public. After Toya Graham was caught by news cameras smacking her teenage son upside the head for participating in the Baltimore riots, parents began second-guessing the no-smacking rule in public. Probably more relevant for smart-alec teenagers than toddlers who tantrum, the debate brought discipline to the forefront of American parenting conversations.
4. 160 Women and Children Rescued From Boko Haram Camp
Mothers watched in horror as women and their babies were held hostage by radical Islamists. The women and children who survived the horrors inflicted by terror groups Boko Haram and ISIS told us the raw truth of what life is like under Sharia law. Their suffering remains ignored by many in the West for political reasons. But for parents with kids who have questions, ignorance isn’t bliss. And with a growing number of homegrown terror attacks, safety is paramount.
3. ISIS Trains Children to Kill in Terrorist Training Camps
Because, honestly, do we want our kids to turn out like this? American parents are only beginning to come to terms with what Israeli parents have known for years: Radical Islamic governments train their children to kill and don’t care if they die in the process. Think it won’t happen here? Parents of third graders in one Ithaca school will tell you otherwise.
2. Schools Consider Keeping Unvaccinated Children Out of Classrooms
The debate over vaccines has left many parents wondering if you can vaccinate against fear. Vaccinations work. This is why parents with children who are unable to be vaccinated are practically begging schools to bar unvaccinated students from entering the classroom. This small percentage of children unable to physically process vaccinations depends on herd immunity to protect them against serious diseases. Thanks to fears raised by unscientific sources, the herd immunity that once protected the most vulnerable is disappearing, fast. Will diseases like polio and mumps rear their ugly heads in the 21st century?
1. Girl Chooses Heaven Over Hospital
In the midst of all these struggles, one little girl and her parents taught us that faith will keep our family together.
Julianna Snow’s decision to opt for heaven over the hospital landed her family at the center of the debate over end-of-life care. Her faith in God and a heaven where she and her parents will eventually reunite proved that the simple really do make fools of the so-called wise.
These culture wars that can, at times, feel so irrelevant to us in our daily lives, are both totally unrelated and completely relevant to Julianna’s story, which is our most poignant parenting story of the year. Simple, wholehearted trust in our ability to parent and our child’s ability to thrive, regardless of circumstance, change, opinion or threat; that’s the challenge we face daily. As we enter a new year as parents, the faith-based perspective of Julianna and her family is one that should inspire us all.