Archive for July 29, 2011

The Grocery Store Meltdown

Lately, there has been an recurring theme which parents are asking me about. Basically, what would I do when my child is acting up in the grocery store?  This is a question that is easy on the surface but has a lot of different elements to consider.

Last night, I was doing a radio interview when  a caller challenged me on the strategy my wife used to keep the kids occupied (which I am in agreement).  I love being challenged for many reasons.  One reason is that challenges make me reassess my position at a moment’s notice.

For the purposes of this blog, I am going to lay out three strategies I’ve heard lately (including the challenged one) then discuss each one’s merits/shortcomings.  Finally, I’ll give you the best answer I can muster (which I am sure will be fodder for further debate).

My wife’s strategy:  When the kids were 2-3 years of age, Lauren would walk by the bakery in the grocery store first and pick up a free cookie.

Advantage:  My children liked going to the store with my wife.  They stayed happy while eating the cookie.  Also, my wife let them know the cookie was a special treat. One could look at the cookie as a preemptive strike against bad behavior.

Disadvantage:  Though I don’t remember hearing about blatant misbehavior, I bet my children got a little squirmy once the cookie was gone.  I remember my wife would occasionally complain she had to rush to get out because behavior would start to go downhill.  One could also look at the cookie as bribery.

Brother-In-Law approach: My brother in law does a great job with his children though he and I have different approaches.  He told me recently he tells his kids to chill and move.  This occurs when his children are told “no” over purchasing a store item and they react in less than a positive way.  When he hears complaints, he looks at his kids and says, “chill and move.”

Advantage: Though chill and move are funny words to me, he’s giving directions and is expecting them to be followed.  After my years of working with children, any parent who can have their directions followed is in an advantageous position.  The children may be momentarily unhappy but the meltdown is much less likely to occur.

Disadvantage: The only disadvantage I could see is if his children didn’t want to go to the store because they never got things they wanted.  Mind you, my brother in law and I didn’t talk about how often he gives in so this may be a non-issue in his case.  For some though, a store can be an excellent learning environment so I wouldn’t want to turn children off from going at all.

Caller on the talk show last night:  His approach was to say “louder” to a kid hollering in a store or saying, “I can’t hear you yet.”  The theory is that the comment actually throws the kid psychologically and will discontinue the behavior.

Advantage: When a child is misbehaving, throwing them off psychologically is a good tactic.  When a parent can make a child “think” when they are upset, the anger can temporarily subside; thus giving time to the parent to get the situation under control.

Disadvantage: If the tactic doesn’t work, the child can actually go in the other direction.  That means scream louder and possibly throw in a few punches or kicks.  I’d have to have the strategy proven at home before I would use it in public.

So there you go- three strategies.  Which one is best you may ask?  The answer is simple with complicated undertones.  My first thought is the best solution for any parent is THE ONE THAT WORKS in the heat of the moment.  Any parent who has lost control with their child knows what an awful feeling it is.  I had many circumstances at St. Joseph Children’s Home that I wish I would have handled in another way.

Here are the undertones though.  First, why did the child misbehave to begin with?  Is it because the parent lacks authority at home and the child is merely testing in another location?

Second, did the child go to the store hungry or thirsty?  Have you ever been to a restaurant when everything on the menu looked good because you were hungry?  To a certain extent, this happens to children in a grocery store.  Sometimes when children are hungry, their behavior can slip.

I’ve gone too long on this post.  This should really be a chapter in my next book. Regardless, a parent has to have the ability to say no to their children.  When children melt down after being told no, there is a problem somewhere.  It’s up to the parent to find where the problem is and solve it not only in the store but after they return home.

My next post will be on Tuesday.  Have a terrific weekend!

Needing a Little Help

Housekeeping Notes:

If you are interested in my work outside of my blog, I will be returning to the Dr. Carol show on her Texas affiliate today at 4:30PM (EST).  You can tune into http://www.drcarolshow.com to listen.  For those who miss it- tough luck.  Just kidding, I will hopefully be able to link it to my blog.  The Texas affiliate is larger than her Nashville station in terms of reach so I must have done something right the first time.

Note 2:  I will also be interviewed on internet radio Wednesday at 7:00pm (EST) by The Writing Mama- VS Grenier.  Here is the link.  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork/2011/07/28/the-writing-mama-show I am greatly looking forward to both interviews.  Now, on with the post!

I was in the shower over the weekend when something occurred to me that made me shake my head in disbelief.  My seven year old child still watches PBS.  (I know it’s an uncomfortable visual- but I think a lot in the shower)  Please don’t get me wrong.  I like PBS and the quality of programming.  I even refer to them in the educational chapter of Tantrums, Troubles, and Treasures.  Regardless, it’s time to move on- right?

Move on to what though?  When I was a kid, there was a point I stopped watching Sesame Street.  When that happened, I occasionally watched some really great shows.  The Cosby show was outstanding for years, Different Strokes was a classic, and The Facts of Life even had its’ moments.  We could debate some controversial spots but overall, these were good family shows.  For parents a bit older, The Andy Griffith Show and  The Waltons were terrific as well.  So, here’s where I would like some help.  Can someone please tell me why family programming was destroyed and when can we expect a family sitcom (everyone can watch) to return?

It’s not that my child watches a lot of TV or I need the TV to be a glorified babysitter.  It’s that I’d like the chance to sit with my children watching a good sitcom like my mother did with me.  When I was a child, my household had only 4 channels to choose from.  Now, I have Directv and I still can’t find any family programming.  I’d be willing to bet that I am not alone in the dilemma.  I’d also bet there are thousands of families who would love to see a quality family show they could tune into weekly.

Now that the problem has been laid out, here’s where I could use some help.  I’m looking for some people (who think like I do) to pass this note of concern along.  My goal is for it to reach the hands of a network executive.  Please don’t laugh too much because I can tell you my blog has been viewed in all 50 states.  Furthermore, I have a lot of moms who read this blog weekly.  Do I need to say more?

Also, has anyone ever heard of the 6 degrees of separation?  It’s the premise that everyone on earth can be connected to each other in six steps or less.  Without going further, let me show you what I copied from Wikipedia on this matter.

Six degrees of separation refers to the idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of, “a friend of a friend” statements can be made, on average, to connect any two people in six steps or fewer. Though this is a commonly known concept, it is actually false. Because of the large amounts of social networking used nowadays, only three steps are needed, reducing the idea effectively to three degrees of separation.

How about that?  Three degrees or less is my separation on getting the answer straight “from the horse’s mouth.”  I sincerely hope, if you feel like I do, we can get an answer to this.  I have approximately 100 people who receive my blog via email, 350+ Facebook connections, and nearly 900 Twitter followers.   I’ll bet with a little help from social media, I will one day be able to print an answer for you guys.  Until then, it’s up to you as far as whether you’d like to help me (by passing this blog along) and to what degree.  Regardless of your decision, thanks for reading this and I will check in again Friday with another blog post.   All my best to you and your families!

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"This Sucks"

How do you define inappropriate language in your home?  What are the consequences for inappropriate language?  Why does inappropriate language and the consequences matter?  These were three questions I had to answer recently.  Here’s the story.

I was at my kitchen table writing an email while my eldest son was pretend playing in the television area.  Out of the blue, I heard him say, “This sucks.”  While some readers of today’s post may disagree over whether the word is inappropriate, “Sucks” is inappropriate language in my home.  On the spot, my child was placed into time out followed by a long “daddy stare.”

When I released him from time out, I asked what he did wrong and he absolutely had no idea.  Calmly, I explained what he said and why I felt it was inappropriate.  He listened, understood, and then returned to what he was originally doing.

When I mentioned it to my wife, she told me that he probably got it from the movie Madagascar 2.  Although my wife didn’t share as strong a sentiment on the word, she understood the point I was making.  I doubt if most people would use that language with their priest, a potential employer, or a client they may be doing business with. I wonder as well how many teachers would use the word in front of their class.

I feel like inappropriate language should be identified with children.  If my child didn’t learn the lesson from me, who would I expect them to learn the lesson from?  As far as giving a time out versus a warning, that was my parental prerogative.  (For the 80’s generation reading this- pun intended in reference to former pop singer Bobby Brown)

Maybe you agree with me or maybe you don’t on the word in question.  That’s fine.  We could probably debate the word all day long.  What I would say though is that I feel like lines in the sand have to be drawn with children in terms of what is acceptable and unacceptable language.  Allowing pop culture, friends, or other outside influences to dictate right and wrong is a mistake.  I would be willing to bet that any parent who does not draw these lines in the sand will be dealing with much greater issues than the word “Sucks” as time goes on.

Thanks for reading!  If you feel like I do, please pass this article along.  More of you are doing this and the added exposure to the messages of this blog is really appreciated.

My next post will be on Tuesday. Have a fabulous weekend!!!

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One housekeeping note:

My latest interview on The Dr.Carol Show is on the right side of the blog.  It’s short and sweet.  The responses have been very positive so please listen when you have an extra 15 minutes.

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Checkmate

Today, I want to teach you a lesson I learned in high school that has served me well while working with children.  It was a painful lesson at the time but one I’m glad I learned.

I went to St. Xavier High School in Louisville, KY.  St. X. It’s an all male school which is very competitive whether it is in academics or athletics.  Though we suffered from testosterone overload, it was a terrific place to receive an education.

One thing I really liked doing at St. X. before school was playing chess.  It was a great way to start the day.  I’ve joked before that I also joined the power lifting team at St. X. so no one would make fun of my love for chess.

The chess team was a group made up of players ranked 1-7.  The 1st board was a school’s best chess player and the 7th board was the lowest rated.  I was competitive but wasn’t quite good enough to be on the team so I settled for being in the club where anyone could play and learn.

One day, a member of the team came to me and said the 7th board player wasn’t able to attend a match and inquired as to whether I would take his place.  This was my chance and I wasn’t going to let it pass me by so I accepted.

As most chess players know, the games can take a long time and it takes a lot of concentration and patience to beat someone who is good.  I was a bit nervous when I started my game with a teenager from another school but I played well.  It was going to be a matter of time but I felt like I was going to win the game.

Our 1st board player had won his match and walked by my game to see how I was doing.  I remember looking at him and giving him a quick “thumbs up.”  It was right about that point when everything crumbled.

I made a series of bad moves and to make a long story short, I lost.  I was never invited to play on the team the rest of the year.

The lesson I learned from this story that I applied to parenting was to never settle or be satisfied.  I lost focus momentarily when I looked at my teammate and it cost me more than just a game.  Now, let’s fast forward to today.

One of my better parenting qualities is that I’m never satisfied.  I work really hard to continually build my children up from where ever they are.  It doesn’t matter if it’s academics, behavior, or sports.  I’m not a person who has to have my children be the best at everything.  Nevertheless, I remember the awful feeling of failure when I let down my guard.

One thing I’m cautious about is not pushing too hard.  Don’t get me wrong, I push my children consistently. But, I also keep mental notes to make sure what I am doing is appropriate and that they continue to be happy.  Keeping mental notes allows me to recognize situations when backing off is the best course of action.  There is a fine line between being consistent when you push a child and pushing too hard.

My general advice to all the parents reading this is to reflect and assess where your children are (academically, emotionally, athletically, etc) and determine how you are going to help them reach the next plateau.  In my opinion, you may lose some battles along the way but you’ll never be checkmated.  Best wishes!!!

My next post will be on Friday.  Thanks for reading and/or for passing this post around to other parents.  I really appreciate it.

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Who Let in the Joneses?

Today’s parenting question is a new one for me but one I am certain a lot of parents have.  “Sandra” is a mom of two girls (ages 11 and 7) who feels the pressures of wanting her kids to have nice things.  The problem is keeping up with Joneses and their latest trends can be very costly.  How should a parent manage this?

By the time Sandra (and the rest of you) read this, this post may be considered anywhere on the scale from brilliant to flat out no help at all.  It really will depend on your attitude about money versus the need to “fit in” with society.  As is customary, I don’t give a lot of do’s and don’ts but I like to ask questions to be considered and I’ll tell you what things are like in my home. The rest is up to you.

My first question is why do the Joneses have any power in our homes?  Don’t get me wrong.  I like nice things for my children.  But, I have a budget like most people.  Keeping up with the Joneses signifies that their acceptance is more important than the financial well being of your family.

Here’s an example.  I have Directv for the family but my children wear shoes from Target.  I could give up Directv for a while.  If I did, I could easily buy $200 shoes for my boys.  But, why would I do that?  Is it because “little Susie Jones” down the road has nice shoes?  An even worse decision, in my opinion, is if I don’t give up Directv and I buy the expensive shoes.

The Directv example hits at the heart of my point.  Many middle class families have SOME nice things.  I completely understand a child wanting nice things as well.  If a child wants an item and it fits in the budget, that’s fine.  If the item doesn’t fit in the budget, why would anyone care what Mr. Jones, Mrs. Jones, or little Susie Jones think.  Until the Jones family pays the bills in the Thomas household, their opinion means nothing to me.

Here’s another idea for that “must have” item.  Because, in this case, Sandra has an 11 year old, perhaps the child can do extra chores or save up her allowance.  If the item she wants is that important, let her buy it with her money.  Remember the goal is to allow children to earn their independence.  Over time, children who have to spend their own money learn that it doesn’t grow on trees.

Something else Sandra may want to consider is this.  How is she teaching her children to deal with the frustration of not being able to get everything she wants?

There is a modeling opportunity here for parents.  When children can see that there are limits, this will be internalized by them over time.  Conversely, maybe a parent sees something he/she can’t afford now (such as a car) but model a determination to save extra money, start a business from home, or work harder in their profession to achieve that “carrot.”  There are strong benefits to either route.

Though I can’t tell Sandra what to do, I can tell her this.  When any parent has the chance to model how to deal with an important issue, it can only benefit the child in the end.

Please have a safe weekend.  I’ve enjoyed reading the parenting questions sent to me.  Feel free to send in more questions (tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com) and we’ll do this again.

On Tuesday, I will have a new post.  You will learn how the results of a chess game I played in high school could make all of us rethink parenting strategies in new and exciting ways.

On a final note, I will be on the Dr. Carol radio show Monday at 10:00AM est.  If you live in the Nashville area, tune into WNAH 1360.  For those outside the area, you can go to http://www.drcarolshow.com and click the listen live button.  Thanks for all the support!!!

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Celebrating the Tearing of a Book

Today’s blog is meant to be much more light-hearted than the Sink or Swim blogs of last week.  But, behind the pomp and circumstance of what you are going to read, there is a serious message on how to improve a child’s ability to read, write, or perform math problems.  There’s not a better time than now to get started.  Let’s begin!!!

My youngest child who is 4 years old recently tore the cover off of a book.  Obviously, if there are any librarians reading this, you may want to hide your children.  Seriously though, the tearing of a book is a big celebration in the Thomas household and after reading this, you may seek to have your children tear a book as well.

People who have been reading my blog for a while know that I take education very seriously.  One of the ways I educate is through various activity books.  We have a quirky celebration though.  When we finish the activities of a book to my satisfaction, the front cover is torn off and placed on a cork board for all to see.  My youngest child just finished his first book.  Not only was the cover torn; but there was an ice cream celebration as well.  Now that the celebration is over, my boy has been clamoring to work on more things.  (Guess he and I have a similar sweet tooth)  I recognize though there’s much more to life than educational materials so I limit his work to about 15-20 minutes a day.  The book he finished was a simple alphabet book where he had to learn how to write upper and lower case letters.

I recently read a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers which I highly recommend.  One of his chapters deals with education.  His claim is there are glaring reasons why our educational system falls short of other countries.  One has to do with economics.  In essence, lower class families can’t expose their children to the same experiences as middle class families over the summer.  Perhaps I’ll tackle that issue in the future but another claim was that certain other countries have longer school years.  In essence, they get to practice the skills being taught longer than Americans.

Obviously, if one person practices more than another in any discipline, it stands to reason that over time, the additional practice will pay off.  According to Outliers, “Americans typically go to school on average 180 days.  The South Korean school year is 220 days long.  The Japanese school year is 243 days long.”

From what I saw as a teacher, most parents don’t do anything academically with their kids over the summer.  Therefore, anything I do in a one on one atmosphere with my child should help him in the long run.  While 15-20 minutes may not sound like a lot of time; multiplied out over the course of the summer,  it makes a big difference!

For those of you interested, the materials I use can be found at most bookstores and office supply stores.  Any small amount of additional work you do can only help your child going into their next school year.  I wish you all the best and hope one day you will email me to brag how your child ripped the cover off their first book!

This Friday, I’d like to write a blog based on one of your parenting questions on any issue you choose.  On a former blog, I used to do this every Friday and it would consistently be the most read blog of the week.  No question is too silly and I don’t use identifying information.  I look forward to reading your questions at tantrumstroublesandtreasures@yahoo.com.

Have a terrific week!!!

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Sink or Swim (Part 2)

I hope everyone is having a terrific day.  Before I get into this post, I want to welcome the readers from the Feed Me Friday blog hop.  I’m happy you are here.  I also hope you will pass the post along to others if you know parents who could benefit from today’s topic.

Last Tuesday, I discussed how important it is to be vigilant around the pool or lake.  It would be a good idea to take a quick look at the blog if you have an extra minute in order to understand the particulars of this post.  http://www.claytonpaulthomas.com/archives/378

Today, I want to discuss my extended family and how they lost track of a two year old.  My grandparents had 16 children. (No, that is not a misprint).  In the area and time they lived, having large families was commonplace.  Of those children, 12 of them had at least 3 children each.  I have about 50 cousins.  But, one of my uncles (Cliff) died when he was two years old.

Years have passed and there are some variations of this story.  Regardless, what happened was Cliff found his way to the pond on my grandparents’ farm, fell in, and was retrieved too late.  His grave is next to the resting place of my grandparents.

For years, I have been a bit cynical of his passing.  I always wondered how so many people could have lost track of Cliff.  But, on the other hand, my aunts and uncles are very responsible people.  While Cliff was going to the pond, many of them were involved in various chores that are associated with a farm.

Any traces of cynicism left my mind permanently when my youngest child fell into the pool at Calypso Cove and stared at me with eyes wide open- drowning.  The thing is accidents will happen in the blink of an eye.  When our children are near water, we really have to put down the Ipad, the book, and the phone in order to pay attention.

My grandparents raised children who turned out to be hard working, honest, and trustworthy people.  I am very blessed to call them aunts and uncles.  By all accounts, they had every right to be as proud as parents can be.  Nevertheless, losing Cliff was a heavy burden.  It’s a burden that happens to many families every year.  Simply watching the news or reading a newspaper will confirm this point.  I have heard of or read about four separate drownings over the last two weeks alone.

My message is simple and blunt.  Please pay attention to your child near water.  You’ll never regret it.

On Tuesday, I am going to talk about a topic that is much lighter than today’s post (because I can’t get much heavier).  My youngest child recently tore the front cover off a book- and I am incredibly proud of him.  I’ll tell you all about what happened and why you will want your child to rip off a cover or two as well.  You won’t want to miss this so feel free to include your email address located at the top right hand side of the blog.  The post will be sent to your email inbox as soon as it is published.

Have a terrific weekend!!!

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Sink or Swim?

I hope everyone had a terrific 4th of July.  Because it’s the summer, many parents are taking their children swimming.  I’m glad they are doing because it’s great fun not to mention wonderful exercise for the children.

I want to tell you a quick story though that I hope keeps you a bit more vigilant at the pool. A couple of years ago, I was with my youngest child (who was two at the time) at a place called Calypso Cove.  This is a pool for smaller children that have a couple of slides for bigger kids.

I was walking with my boy in what couldn’t have been more than a foot of water.  Being “Mr. Independent,” he didn’t want to hold my hand.  This was fine but I still stood right beside him.  In a flash, he slipped and fell backwards.  For a moment, he was looking up at me underwater literally drowning.  Of course, I scooped him up and everything was fine. The image though of him looking up at me from under the water is one I’ve never been able to shake.

When you’re at the pool, please watch your child closely and don’t get too caught up in conversations with others.  Tragedy often strikes when we, as parents, aren’t paying enough attention.

Although this advice is easy to understand, it’s more difficult when we are talking to our friends at the pool about the latest gossip. It’s also tempting to talk to our spouses (who we often don’t spend enough time with) and taking our eye off the ball.  For the single parents, I’m fully aware it’s tempting to people watch and take your eyes off your child.  All I’m saying is please be careful.  Remember that although nothing happened to my child at the pool, I was probably seconds away from telling you a different and very tragic story.  Let’s have fun at the pool and have a terrific summer!!!

I’ll be writing to you again on Friday.  Until then, be safe.

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Special Note

Today’s post is actually below this one.  For any new readers (who should, of course, be instant fans) I wanted to invite you to take a look at this link after you read my post.  It’s for a virtual blog tour through World of Ink.  It kicks off today at 12:00pm but you can visit anytime.  Also, on Monday July 4th, you are invited to listen to my first live radio interview.  I hope you find it entertaining, informative, and a lot of fun!  The interview will also be archived so if you can’t make it but are still interested, you’ll still have access to it.

Best wishes,

Clayton

http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/ClaytonPThomas.aspx

The Supreme Court Ruling on Violent Video Games

There was hot news this week that affects all of us coming from the Supreme Court.  In a 7-2 ruling, they said that the sale and rental of violent video games to minors is protected under the First Amendment.

While thinking about this, I have to admit some of my opinions contradict themselves.  As a parent, I feel it is my responsibility to protect my children from what I consider evils in the world. I would classify maiming people and raping women as being evil which is exactly what you have to do with characters in certain video games in order to get them to “power up” and continue the game.  The entire concept of some of these games just seems wrong.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Antonin Scalia.  It said in part “like protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas and even social messages.”

If I had the power to sit down with a member of the court, I would bring up two things. Keep in mind though that I am not a constitutional scholar (and I don’t play one on TV). The first thing I would bring up is a movie/documentary called Faces of Death (produced in the late 70’s I believe).  Basically, the movie was real life death in various capacities.  It was brutally graphic and subsequently banned in 40+ countries including the United States.  This was before the internet so, of course, there are ways to purchase it now but that’s beside the point.  My question is why wouldn’t that movie have the same first amendment protection as the violent video games?

The second point of emphasis/question I would raise to the courts is this.  Why is it illegal for a minor to purchase magazines such as Playboy or Penthouse?  Why wouldn’t those publications fall under the same first amendment protections?  I’m not saying I want my children to be allowed to purchase Miss July’s naked photos.  I just do not understand the difference.

The thing about video games this.  In order to play, a person isn’t a passive observer as he/she would be watching Faces of Death or staring at a naked person in a magazine.  In order to play violent video games, the person playing has to have the character do the raping, maiming, or killing.   This is an extremely important difference in my opinion.  Today’s video games are incredibly graphic and realistic.  This is a very serious topic no matter what side of the fence you fall.

The Supreme Court is designed to be the ultimate judicial body.  I fully respect the court’s decision.  Regardless, this decision means I will have to continue to be as vigilant a parent as possible.  I will most likely be making some unpopular decisions with my children and even appear to be a jerk because I won’t allow them to do what some of their friends do.  But wait- doesn’t that happen already?

In order to effectively deal with this problem, an open line of communication with your child is critical.  I would also suggest those who have video gaming systems to rent the games in question and play one night after the kids got to bed.  I believe you will have a clearer understanding of the games and the challenges they potentially pose.

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Please, if you liked this post, pass it around to neighbors and friends. Don’t pretend everyone keeps up with the Supreme Court.  This is an important issue and I need your help to get the message out to people who would like to listen.  Your time is greatly appreciated!

The next post will be written on Tuesday.  Have a fun and safe weekend with the fireworks!

I would also like to thank the following websites.  Their information was very valuable.

http://lomalinda.patch.com/articles/loma-linda-researcher-reacts-to-supreme-courts-violent-video-game-ruling

http://www.scholarsandrogues.com/2011/06/30/supreme-court-ruling-on-video-games-only-an-assault-on-bad-parenting/

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