Is This Bullying?

So, the other night, Jimmy Kimmel aired a segment which compiled viewers’ video responses to his latest challenge for parents to pull holiday-related trickery on their children, after his “film your kids’ reaction after telling them you ate all their Halloween candy” segment went viral last month. This challenge was to wrap up some random garbage and give it to kids as an early Christmas present.

I find this entire thing really troubling, because pranks are a form of bullying even between peers, and a prank played by someone in a position of power, especially a parent pranking a child, is bullying that can fundamentally undermine trust.

Where some people see bullying and child abuse, I see over-entitled kids who are spoiled rotten. Getting hot dogs, juice, or a book as a Christmas gift is a huge tragedy for them. I can just imagine what they will grow up into. But oh, those poor kiddies who didn’t get a mountain of expensive toys and gadgets once in their lifetimes. They are total victims of horrible, mean parents.

We all know how sensitive I am about child abuse. But giving kids a book or a carton of eggs for Christmas is NOT abusive. It teaches them a very important lesson about entitlement.

I once saw this segment on television where grandparents gave their small grand-daughter $100 wrapped in a simple white handkerchief. The kid didn’t see the $100 bill but when she got the handkerchief her face lit up. She walked around the room, showing her gift to people and looking extremely happy about it. I don’t think there is any special attachment to handkerchiefs that this child has. She just managed to retain the kind of happy, joyous attitude to receiving any gift that all children have naturally. Of course, most of them lose it because they are showered with endless expensive gifts they no longer even manage to value for more than two minutes.

These kids are old enough to know that you do not throw tantrums no matter how much you dislike any gift you have been given. Where are their manners? Where is at least a glimmer of understanding that you should not hurt the feelings of a gift-giver even if s/he failed to please you with the gift?

96 thoughts on “Is This Bullying?”

  1. We used to play practical jokes on each other all the time, as kids. It was our way of letting off steam. As for adults doing weird things — It can give children a clue that they and adults are not the same person. Beware of their motives and be a different person if you can.

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  2. It is both bullying and shameless exploitation of children. I defriended someone on Facebook for posting that Halloween video. The children were really young (under five) and all were hearrtbroken – definitely child abuse. As a technique for teaching the damn spoiled kids a lesson, as Clarissa suggests it is manipulative and cruel.

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    1. I figured they most likely did give good presents to their kids after that so I don’t see the big deal.

      Also, even if you get a freaking rock there is no reason to be throwing tantrums about not getting a gift.

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  3. It took me a long time to get when my folks were trying to be funny. For years and years I thought they were entirely serious and when they teased me I often took it very personally. I remember it hurting a lot. I remember also being unable to “get” sarcasm very well even as a teenager. Even when I was the target of jokes and bullying it wasn’t very clear to me, though looking back it happened way more than I even thought at the time. Maybe it fucked me up! Who can tell.

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  4. Clarissa, but you are overlooking the INTENT. There is nothing wrong with giving kids inexpensive gifts if they are sincerely meant as gifts. But this suggestion is to deliberately give them something they do not expect, and look at their reaction.

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    1. And then to further humiliate their child by sharing their reaction with the general public, on TV no less. By previous arrangement. yes, they planned the whole thing in advance, all for the amusement of strange adults the child doesn’t even know. I have more sympathy for a stressed out parent who loses it and hits a kid.

      One of the few times I saw Americas funniest videos I wanted to report the show for child abuse. Parents would set up their kid, videotape it and send it in. The audience laughs at all their mishaps and reactions. In one clip a particularly cruel father beckoned his 4-year-old daughter and encouraged her to reach in to a bag and take something out- you can’t hear him but he’s got her interest and more important, her trust. She looks away (he won’t let her look in) and reaches in and pulls out something that looks like a giant black spider. When she looks down and sees it in her hand her eyes widen in terror and she screams, to his and the eventual TV audience’s delight.

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      1. “And then to further humiliate their child by sharing their reaction with the general public, on TV no less. By previous arrangement. yes, they planned the whole thing in advance, all for the amusement of strange adults the child doesn’t even know. I have more sympathy for a stressed out parent who loses it and hits a kid.”

        -Do you even hear yourself? Beating children causes you to feel sympathy???

        I don’ think you have anything useful to contribute to the discussion with this attitude.

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    2. The intent is not the point. Whatever the intent of the giver, the most adequate and useful reaction is to show gratitude and joy.

      Let’s say, a colleague wants to make fun of you and gives you a crappy gift while filming you to post the video on their blog. You open the gift and act with royal politeness. How much mileage the nasty colleague will get out of it? None. They will feel like a fool that’s all.

      AS for parents, it’s their job to bring up the children. They should do things intentionally and not in any way that the chips fall.

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      1. —The intent is not the point. Whatever the intent of the giver, the most adequate and useful reaction is to show gratitude and joy.

        Disagree for two reasons.
        a) kids can “read” the intent even if they are not told later that they are on the “funniest videos” type of show and
        b) people discussing the issue KNOW the intent was not genuine gift-giving, so it is completely appropriate to discuss this intent (and not just reactions of he kids as if they occur out of context) and the problems with it.

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  5. My main feeling about this story was, “wait, the kids *didn’t* think it was incredibly funny?” My parents, my brother, and I used to do this kind of thing all the time. Nicely wrapped empty box? Check. Stocking full of rocks? Check. Things that jump out at you? Check. Wrap up the blender and pretend like it was new? Absolutely! It was more fun than getting “real” presents by a long shot.

    I rather feel that if the kids actually felt bullied by this, their parents have likely failed to teach them about having even the slightest bit of a sense of humor… then again, we never made a big deal about presents anyway, so what do I know?

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    1. Clarissa I think Isabel got it from this part of the post:

      bloggerclarissa :It teaches them a very important lesson about entitlement

      Everybody knows it’s not Christmas yet, right? These kids got to open one Christmas gift early and it was the gag one. They’re still getting their awesome presents in a week or so here. They’re still going to have a merry Christmas where their love and trust of their parents will be validated materially. Fucking Grinch parents did not ruin Christmas and warp their kids permanently. In fact some of those kids reacted pretty well to the joke, the girl who ate the banana and the girl who said she’d rather have a Hot Pocket in particular. It was a dickish prank–dickish pranks are what Kimmel is about, as anyone who’s followed his career even in passing can attest–but I really doubt that this is going to have the lasting effects on the kids’ psyches that, say, actual physical and emotional abuse would have.

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      1. Abuse is abuse. Why split hairs? Plenty of people use all those arguments to defend spanking or circumcision. And whether or not kids got other gifts is irrelevant as I mentioned below. And for the last time, it is not just about the prank- it is also the recording and sharing of the reactions. I wonder if kids signed releases for those videos? Kids can’t even sign their own releases.

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  6. Totally agree with you. I found some of the kid’s responses troubling. Especially the kid who just threw away his “gift” in disgust or the fat kid who is a bit too old to be throwing that kind of tantrums.

    I gotta admit though, the ending had me laughing very loudly. Hilarious stuff.

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  7. What does gift price has to do with this social experiment? None of the kids complained about getting a CHEAP gift.

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      1. “you defended beating children on this very thread”

        Again, where did I do this? That is a terrible accusation but you keep making it. Go ahead and scream at me, Clarissa. I will keep speaking up for the kids.

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        1. Right here: ““I have more sympathy for a stressed out parent who loses it and hits a kid””

          ‘Go ahead and scream at me, Clarissa. I will keep speaking up for the kids.”

          -You are making yourself look ridiculous. A defender of child-beaters is standing up for the kids. Yeah, right.

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    1. What is it then? That the gifts are no fun? Well, that’s ridiculous because a carton of eggs can provide a normal child with a healthy imagination with a lot more fun than any battery-driven mechanical toy. I know because I played with eggs when I was a child. We weren’t rich and it was the Soviet Union, so I made my own dolls with bits of string and wire. And they were amazing and a lot of fun to make.

      My mother taught me how to make these cutest little chickens out of eggs. Plus you can paint them, decorate them any way. You can have a competition of who will remove the contents and have the best preserved shell as a result. A normal child is supposed to be thrilled to get eggs to do whatever s/he wants with.

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      1. The gifts were literally garbage. Some were things like a half empty bottle of wine, or an onion. To do his to a child, who quite reasonably expects something else, and to record it so the whole nation can have a good laugh is terribly cruel and insensitive. I can’t believe you are not standing up for the children here. And they eventually find out it’s just a trick, it is not seriously a lesson or anything even vaguely positive. And it’s not a humorous ritual that is sewn in to the fabric of the society; it’s a one-time thing promoted by some celebrity!

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      2. Yes, unfortunately it is completely legal to fuck with your kids head for the amusement of other adults. People do it all the time. However it is still sick and cruel, sorry.

        I hope your husband decides at the last moment to take you to McDonalds for your big celebration of his new job. I am sure you would not lose your composure and would enjoy your meal and would express your gratitude with grace and maturity. And if not, I hope he records your reaction and posts it to his blog, or maybe sends it in to a national TV show. I am sure you will laugh along.

        I know, I know, you’re the wonderful Clarissa! You deserve your fancy meal. Kids, on the other hand, are just spoiled brats who need a little fucking with to teach them a lesson.

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        1. “I hope your husband decides at the last moment to take you to McDonalds for your big celebration of his new job. I am sure you would not lose your composure and would enjoy your meal and would express your gratitude with grace and maturity. ”

          – I’d laugh and we’d have a smashing good time because this is, indeed, very funny. What do you think, I’d throw a tantrum? Would you?

          “And if not, I hope he records your reaction and posts it to his blog, or maybe sends it in to a national TV show. I am sure you will laugh along.”

          – Of course, I would. What’s the problem, exactly?

          “Kids, on the other hand, are just spoiled brats who need a little fucking with to teach them a lesson.”

          -These particular kids, absolutely.

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      3. Well I guess you are easily amused. No drinks at McDonalds either, btw. I think it’s stupid.

        yeah, sure, you wouldn’t have been disappointed at all to miss your dinner and drinks. You would laugh hilariously and enjoy your burger in the bright lighting and go home satisfied with the night. I can’t wait to see the pictures. I wouldn’t have thrown a tantrum, but I wouldn’t have found it at all amusing.

        You know people, cruelty to children is still wrong, even if it’s to to children you have judged as spoiled. Why the heck to I even have to explain this??

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        1. Isabel, once again, you defended beating children on this very thread. I find it hard to take you seriously when you denounce cruelty right after that.

          I’ll ask you again. Have you ever considered why beating people is a crime, while giving lousy gifts is not?

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      4. Please get a grip Clarissa, I did nothing of the kind and you know it. I said that child abuse that is premeditated takes things to a whole new level. Someone who had a fucked up childhood themselves, who may lose it as a stressed young parent – this person could arouse my sympathy as a human being. They might be able to turn things around, to break the cycle. But someone who torments their kid to fill a request from a comedian as fodder for his show, yes that person is a true sadist.

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      5. I didn’t write anything “horrible”, but you on the other hand have made it clear that your feelings about child abuse don’t apply if the child is rich, spoiled, and therefore in your opinion deserving of abuse, including pre-arranged public humiliation..

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      6. Now you aren’t even making sense again Clarissa. You can’t just say “you are projecting” at random times when you are losing an argument. YOU are the one who keeps talking (on multiple threads) about spoiled entitled kids needing a lesson, and defending adults’ right to do so as they please. So exactly how am I “projecting”? And what did I write that was “horrible”?

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        1. Beating people is horrible. You tried to offer a string of ridiculous excuses as to how that might be acceptable. I fund this position disgusting.

          As for the rest, the idea that I defend the adults’ right to do as they please is ludicrous. You’ve been reading the blog for a while and must have surely noticed my posts on child abuse and the anger they always provoke. Remember the sleeping with children thread? The homeschooling thread?

          “YOU are the one who keeps talking (on multiple threads) about spoiled entitled kids needing a lesson”

          – Please provide links to threads where I talk about kids needing a lesson. Mind you, I’m not interested in what you assume I implied. I want actual posts with the expression “kids need a lesson.” Unless you can provide such links, stop projecting your weird ideas onto me.

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      7. I think this

        Isabel :I have more sympathy for a stressed out parent who loses it and hits a kid.

        is what she objects too.

        As for drawing the line on humor, “ethnic” and sexual jokes can indeed be funny. Magaret Cho joking about her mom is awesome. Michael Richards screaming epithets at a heckler is terrible. Everything’s about context. It’s jokes that actually perpetuate racist and sexist attitudes that make me feel all icky. So maybe I jumped the gun there. But somehow I think these kids will get over their Kimmel Christmas without any real damage.

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      8. You people are wacked, seriously. Are you really suggesting that I support beating of children? I made a distinction between people who are unable to control themselves in the moment, in many cases young people who have been abused themselves and are unprepared for the challenges of controlling their own emotions as a parent, and people who plan in advance to set up their kids for disappointment (watch the Halloween video) in order to share their child’s disappointment with others, for a laugh. There is no suggestion that the adult in the first example is deriving pleasure from the event, but in the second case it is the entire point! That is what makes it sadistic; that is the very definition of sadism.

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        1. “I have more sympathy for a stressed out parent who loses it and hits a kid”

          -This is a horrible disgusting statement. It’s also a statement that you made. As you can see, I provide actual quotes in support of what I say. You can’t even remember what you said, let alone what other people said.

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        1. Just like you keep discussing a video you have never seen, you keep discussing posts you haven’t read.

          Isabel, I demand proof for your assertions:

          “YOU are the one who keeps talking (on multiple threads) about spoiled entitled kids needing a lesson”

          – Please provide links to threads where I talk about kids needing a lesson. Mind you, I’m not interested in what you assume I implied. I want actual posts with the expression “kids need a lesson.” Unless you can provide such links, stop projecting your weird ideas onto me.

          Either bring these links or stop discussing things you haven’t read or watched.

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  8. Isabel :
    The gifts were literally garbage. Some were things like a half empty bottle of wine, or an onion. To do his to a child, who quite reasonably expects something else, and to record it so the whole nation can have a good laugh is terribly cruel and insensitive. I can’t believe you are not standing up for the children here. And they eventually find out it’s just a trick, it is not seriously a lesson or anything even vaguely positive. And it’s not a humorous ritual that is sewn in to the fabric of the society; it’s a one-time thing promoted by some celebrity!

    I find myself so removed from these levels of concern it isn’t funny.

    [11] “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? [12] Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? [13] If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

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  9. There’s a difference, I think, between, say, my family’s tradition when I was a child to wrap small presents up in huge boxes, etc, and this. This was just mean-the gifts weren’t actually meant to be enjoyed, whether it be as a joke or whatever the item was. Giving a gift should be enjoyable for both parties-the giver and the receipient. In Kimmel’s prank, it was one sided.

    The parents weren’t trying to teach a lesson about gratitude. They were trying to upset them, make them cry-to make them look bad-like selfish brats. And it worked. Still not nice, and I think it shows a lack of maturity on the parent’s part.

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  10. “Exactly. Gift-giving is a supremely meaningful ritual. I wonder what message was sent to the children in this case?”

    What is so meaningful about gifts for Christmas? In terms of gifts from parents to children, this ritual is pretty mechanical.

    1. Kid “wishes” for something
    2. Kid gets it

    Do that a couple of years and it seems perfectly natural that you get want you want from your parents on Christmas. And truth to be told, I see little to no meaning in this other than to give your child ridiculous expectations. What makes gifts fun and meaningful to both parties is that the recipient does not take this specific gift (or a gift at all) for granted.

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      1. How is it hilarious? Your reaction was completely predicable. It was also based on your inferior status as an innocent child. Why is it funny to see an entirely predicable confused look on a child’s face? I don’t get it. It’s sadistic.

        By the way, I do a fair amount of goofing on kids. I am familiar with the practice, and pretty good at it. But I am aware of and careful not to trample on their feelings. And I am a heckuva lot more creative than these stupid examples.

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      2. Let’s not discuss what my uncle did or didn’t do. I don’t think we really want to go there.

        Besides, what one idiot finds amusing can be ignored. What an audience of millions finds amusing is a dangerous trend.

        But why should I be surprised, when “The Hangover” is proclaimed as great comedy.

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      3. Well my uncle’s just one of those guys who thinks a rubber dog turd in a kid’s stocking is hilarious. He’d also put candy and ten bucks in that stocking so it was hard for me to be too upset.

        Thanks for calling a member of my family sadistic though! Can I say baselessly claim that your cousins are perverts while we’re playing this game?

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        1. I don’t think evaluating the quality of anybody’s sense of humor makes sense. People find different things funny. That’s normal. What is there to discuss? There is not a single person in family who appreciates the crude jokes I dig, for example. So what? Saying that one kind of humor is better than another stems from a complete misunderstanding of what humor is.

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      4. That said, that joke about how many feminists it takes to change a light bulb is pretty fucking eyerolling.

        And one of my in-laws thought it was goddamn genius to call his sister’s boyfriend a racist slur.

        The things someone finds funny can be a good gauge of what kind of jerk they are. Fake dog turd in kid’s stocking along with M&Ms and cash is harmless goofy jerkery. A My Little Pony on top of the new Call of Duty and a kid fucking freaking about it is kind of cringe-inducing, but hardly evidence of mass sadism. So before anyone starts screaming about it, racist and sexist jokes are another monster entirely, being things that racist and sexist jerks, with actual socially dangerous attitudes, crack at the expense of marginalized people.

        Also, once again, that kid who said Jimmy Kimmel can suck his balls is fucking awesome.

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      5. “So before anyone starts screaming about it, racist and sexist jokes are another monster entirely, being things that racist and sexist jerks, with actual socially dangerous attitudes, crack at the expense of marginalized people.”

        Oh, I see you are very quick to draw the line now, lol. Suddenly we are being judgmental about other people’s sense of humor after all. Big surprise. Lots of people find ethnic humor funny, including myself. Making jokes at kids expense can definitely be cruel. I’m sorry to see that teaching “spoiled” kids a lesson is so important to folks here, that concern about treating children like human beings is so easily forgotten.

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  11. So did the kids have to keep the sandwiches and eggs and whatever, or did mom and dad bust out with “aw you little dumbass it was just a joke see here’s Skyrim!” after all?

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  12. Well this topic has been beaten in to the ground but I’m procrastinating and just saw this and thought I would throw in my two cents. This is NOT child abuse. Most of the kids were puzzled–but not even upset. My favorite was the girl who went on to eat the banana. She was cute. And there was another little boy who very sweetly explained to his sister that she should be appreciative no matter what. The worst ones were the boys who received “girl” presents. (Which also suggests more that the they are internalizing troubling gender constructions at a young age.) Oh and the girl who is upset about getting a book? How is that even cruel to get a book? I adored getting books as child. My young neice asks for books and loves getting them. If that was my kid, she would ONLY get books from that point on. 😉 So no: there is no child abuse here at all. The parents did it gently and I’m sure there was laughter later. I don’t see any bullying here–and I tend to err on the side of hyper-sensitivity when it comes to the feelings of others (adults and children alike.) But to call this abusive trivializes the very real problem of psychological abuse.

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    1. I didn’t watch the video, but it was described as garbage. And the entire goal was to get a reaction to share with others for their amusement. Not cool, sorry.

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  13. Oh my goodness!!! You didn’t watch the video and you got that riled up? The kids didn’t get garbage. The closest that it came to garbage was a sandwich with a bite taken out. Many of the boys received “girls” toys. Or one kid got a potato. One girl got a book. You should watch the video and then see what you think. Maybe watching the video won’t change your mind. But it changed mine. I had visions of parents emptying trashcans in front of poor unsuspecting children. Not the case at all.

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    1. I told you, I saw the previous Halloween video. Why should I watch each and every episode? It was described as garbage, and some of the examples were an onion and a half empty bottle of wine. A partially eaten sandwich or a potato is obviously a weird, vaguely hostile gift also. If the kids actually received books and fresh fruit that is not how it was described. And I still think manipulating ignorant, innocent kids for amusement (including the funniest home videos example I recounted above) is sadistic. Maybe we should have a show where American citizens make fun of ignorant immigrants who are new to the country and don’t speak English. Just think of all the possibilities.

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      1. A bottle of WINE??? Now I know you are not reading anything.

        “A partially eaten sandwich or a potato is obviously a weird, vaguely hostile gift also.”

        -More hostile than beating a person?

        “Maybe we should have a show where American citizens make fun of ignorant immigrants who are new to the country and don’t speak English. ”

        -I knew it would come own to your hatred of immigrants. Not surprising at all. What makes immigrants so ignorant? Speaking too few languages? How many languages do you speak? I want an actual answer for once.

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      2. ““A partially eaten sandwich or a potato is obviously a weird, vaguely hostile gift also.”

        -More hostile than beating a person?”

        If it is done with intent to exploit, it is possible that it is more hostile, and more sadistic. Sadists obviously beat children also. But I think out entire justice system more harshly judges premeditated acts, for a good reason.

        “A bottle of WINE??? Now I know you are not reading anything.”

        It was in one of the links. What are you talking about? Why do you insist on defending this practice?

        “-I knew it would come own to your hatred of immigrants. Not surprising at all. What makes immigrants so ignorant? Speaking too few languages? How many languages do you speak? I want an actual answer for once.”

        Hatred?// PLEASE calm down Clarissa. I was making what is called an analogy, purposefully something that I know is close to your heart. MY hatred of immigrants? Where did that come from?

        Why are new immigrants ignorant? Because they are new to the country obviously, there was just a long thread here about all the things to learn. Just like a kid is ignorant. That is the whole reason they can be exploited for laughs.

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  14. It strikes me that maybe there’s a cultural difference here. I was born in this country but both my parents are immigrants. Christmas was a big deal in my house but when my parents were younger and didn’t have much money we didn’t receive many gifts at all. And the gifts would frequnetly be practical or learning oriented (like when I got socks one year!) Or another year my parents dug up toys that we hadn’t played with in years and had forgotten about and wrapped them. I remember having so much with toys that I hadn’t played with in a long time. Gifts weren’t the point. For me and my siblings it was about the baking cookies and decorating the tree. Gifts were fun but not that big of a deal. Maybe for a purely American child, gifts are more important?

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    1. That is so beautiful! Thanks you for sharing those lovely memories. I love hearing stories that remind us of the true meaning of Christmas. Now what does any of it have to do with adults pulling pranks on kids at the suggestion of some celebrity, recording their reactions and sharing them publicly to the embarrassment of the kids?

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    2. Well, I was and am “purely American,” and when I was a kid we got socks, toothbrushes, and other deeply practical stuff wrapped up as gifts under the tree and in stockings. Even the practical stuff was more fun when it came wrapped as a present. Even when we were older.

      I don’t think it’s a “cultural” difference unless you classify “Rich Entitled Materialistic Consumer Drones” as a culture.

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  15. Well I think the connection is that in order to think that this is cruel, that one has to place an extreme amount of importance on gifts. I just don’t. And I think Americans might care more about gifts than other cultures (which is why Black Friday is so awful here.) And for me it’s hard to see how a gentle joke is cruel. I do think that putting your child on TV (for any reason) shows questionable judgement. But that’s not really the point here. I don’t think the parents had sadistic intentions at all. Now if they had dumped a trashcan in front of their kids and said “Here’s your damn present you little brat!”, that would have been cruel and I would really be disgusted. But a beautifully wrapped potato while the parent chuckles and says “That’s your Christmas gift honey” doesn’t strike me as sadistic or cruel.

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    1. Yeah this. Personally, I would have freaked out, probably, or at least cried a little. I was a very sensitive and materialistic kid (only a moderately sensitive and materialistic adult now :P), but my family was and is still full of love. It wouldn’t have killed me to get pranked like this because I still would have had far more reason to love and trust my parents than not. If my family had been actually abusive, then yeah, maybe something like this would have been one more data point for my therapist.

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  16. It’s really funny when someone starts arguing without really knowing what they are arguing about. A rebel without cause. 🙂 If you had actually watched the video, you would realize that there was nothing cruel or abusive going on. Same with the Halloween candy prank – it was interesting to see the clearly entitled (and even explosive in one case) kids versus articulate and well-educated children.

    I personally would not tape my daughter and post the video anywhere, as I don’t even post her pictures online. That’s a personal choice, however, and can be an interesting topic for a debate. Claiming abuse or bullying, on the other hand, is dramatic and a clear exaggeration.

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    1. Again with the obsession with “entitled” children! The Halloween “prank” video was extremely painful to watch. I didn’t see any “clearly entitled” children or (vs???? wtf!) “articulate and well educated” children. I just saw a lot of crying, disappointed 4-6 year olds being exploited for the amusement of adults. All the rhetoric about treating children as people is apparently that- just rhetoric. When it comes to “entitled” children being pranked and exposed by their parents for laughs, everyone here is okay with it. Because they are “entitled”. So, “entitled” children are an exception to the rule of treating children with respect.

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  17. “-You are making yourself look ridiculous. A defender of child-beaters is standing up for the kids. Yeah, right.”

    You still haven’t explained how I am “defending” child beaters. You are the one who looks ridiculous here.

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  18. @ Isabel: You aren’t defending child beaters per se. But you are saying that child beating is somehow more acceptable than jokingly giving your child a potato for Christmas. And I am imagining that it what many of the commenters find troubling.

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  19. “But a beautifully wrapped potato while the parent chuckles and says “That’s your Christmas gift honey” doesn’t strike me as sadistic or cruel.”

    Okay, let’s break it down. The gift is beautifully wrapped, which in your view makes things better, gentler. The kids opens the present, full of eager anticipation, and sees a potato. The child is initially confused then hurt, even angry. The parent laughs. They record the event for hours of repeat viewing, probably in the child’s presence, and send it out for public consumption. Again, this is practically the definition of sadism, which is “the tendency to derive pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others.”

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  20. “And I am imagining that it what many of the commenters find troubling.”

    Well, I honestly can’t help them. Maybe people are not very bright. You are simplifying the whole trend into “giving your kid a potato” (leaving off the even worse gifts, or eating all their candy, and leaving off the premeditated recording and sharing of the event).

    I can’t even respond to your idea that I think one thing is more acceptable than the other or whatever- I said no such thing! I said something about how I might feel about a certain subset of the people who might do that, but I made NO judgements or comparisons about the behaviors themselves. I compared the motivations behind them, and how one may be loss of control in a formerly-abused, stressed out parent (I have worked with such people, and yes I am capable of feeling compassion for them, and I have seen them struggle to change-and succeed) but people who are just doing it for a lark are just plain mean. Does that help?

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    1. The potato WAS one of the worst gifts. What do you think is worse? A “girl’s” gift? A book? The only gift that was arguably worse was the sandwich and the child wasn’t particularly upset–mainly baffled. Again, I think the only way that a person can see this as sadistic is if s/he places an extraordinary importance on the culture of gifting……………To put it another way, I think food and sleep are exceptionally important for growing children. If a parent had “jokingly” given a hungry child something inedible, I would think it was unforgivable. But making a joke about a gift? I think that the only way to see this as abusive is if you think that gifts are a measure of parental love or responsibility. I don’t think that.

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  21. I do personally disagree with taping children and sending their videos out, as I already said before. But I do realize, Isabel, that you are opposed to finding any middle ground on any subject and just want to argue about anything.

    And by the way, these were early Christmas presents, amongst a mountain of other presents the kids were getting on the actual Christmas day.

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    1. Where is the “middle ground when it comes to how we treat children? Either we treat them with respect and dignity, or we don’t.

      “and just want to argue about anything. ”

      What does this even mean? I am arguing pretty specifically about a very specific thing.

      “And by the way, these were early Christmas presents, amongst a mountain of other presents the kids were getting on the actual Christmas day.”

      Whether the children received other gifts is not relevant at all.

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  22. “You are simplifying the whole trend into “giving your kid a potato” (leaving off the even worse gifts”

    Did you end up watching the video or are you just imagining that there were worse gifts? I think that the potato was actually the worst gift of them all.

    There were toy ponies and the boy was mad because it is a “gift for girls”. There was an activity book with stickers and another boy was also mad because it was a “gift for girls”. There was a carton of eggs and the little girl actually started playing with it. As did the girl who got a banana. Another girl got a half-eaten sandwich and reasoned with her mom about it in the cutest way, while get brother told her it was important to be appreciative of gifts and said that he would eat it if she did not want to. There was a girl who got pissed because she got a … book.

    Which gifts are you referring to?

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    1. I think you and I responded with the almost the exact same comment at almost the exact same time. Great minds. 🙂

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  23. From a transcript of the sadistic video on one of the blogs, Shakesville linked to in the OP. And okay, I remembered “juice” as “wine” – what can I say I’m in grading hell there too. And why shouldn’t giving a boy an obvious girl’s gift be also seen as humiliating??


    Clip of two little white boys opening presents; one unwraps a half-drunk bottle of juice and whines, “I don’t like this!”….Clip of two white girls who have just opened an onion and a battery. “Wow, a battery and an onion!” Dad says from behind the camera. The girl who opened the onion flops over and begins to cry. “What’s wrong?” asks Dad. The other little girl says, “We don’t want a onion!” Dad asks the crying girl, “Did you smell your onion? Here, smell it.” She cries. “No, I smelled it!”…Clip of three white children, a boy and two girls, opening presents. The little boy holds up a pink activity book. Deeply aggrieved, he complains, “I got a girl activity book with stickers!” Angry now, he adds: “I’M NOT A GIRL!” His sister, who got some “boy” gift, says, “And I’m not a boy!” Their sister adds: “I’m not a boy, either!” The boy begins to cry: “This is the worst present ever.”…Clip of a white girl and a white boy; the girl has just unwrapped a half-eaten sandwich…..Clip of a white boy unwrapping a half-eaten sandwich. “It’s a half-eaten sandwich!” exclaims Mom from behind the camera. “Isn’t that what you asked for?!” The little boy replies, “No, I asked for toys!”The little girl pulls out a potato. “Oh, you got a Mister Potato Head!” exclaims Mom. The other son cries and accuses Mom of giving them the terrible gifts.”

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      1. You lost me now. Why did you include the transcript of the video? Most of us seem to have actually seen the video and know what was in it.

        And sorry, did you actually suggest that it is humiliating for a boy to receive a ‘girly’ gift?

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      2. Because you asked about other bad gifts, and you doubted that I knew what I was talking about because I didn’t actually watch the stupid prank video. I didn’t watch the video but I read the transcript which Clarissa linked to in the OP. Is that clearer? You were also denying that there were any worse gifts. The transcripts also show the parents lying, and urging a crying girl to smell her onion. Charming!

        And yes it is cruel to deliberately give gifts that might embarrass the child or affect their delicate, developing sense of identity. Of course in a perfect world a pink, girly gift for a buy would be fine, but we do not live in that world, and the children did not choose their world or their circumstances. They are little kids! btw the girl didn’t like the obviously boy gift either. And the gifts were *chosen* for their often humiliating effects.

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  24. While I wouldn’t call this “child abuse,” is that would be an insult to those who have suffered from actual child abuse, I nonetheless find it very disturbing. It’s one thing to do something like this in order to create a teachable moment and teach kids about entitlement or about the true meaning of Christmas or whatever. But it’s entirely another to do it to satisfy one’s own sick sense of humor–which is what I think is happening here.

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    1. Furthermore, I don’t understand why it’s acceptable for parents to air their children’s humiliation on television. Nobody should have videos of themselves posted on the internet or aired on TV without their consent, especially not if they’re embarrassing. This is just sick to me.

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      1. Yes! This is a major factor that keeps being overlooked- literally subjecting your child to public humiliation because it is amusing. It’s sick.

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  25. Isabel :

    And yes it is cruel to deliberately give gifts that might embarrass the child or affect their delicate, developing sense of identity. Of course in a perfect world a pink, girly gift for a buy would be fine, but we do not live in that world, and the children did not choose their world or their circumstances. They are little kids! btw the girl didn’t like the obviously boy gift either. And the gifts were *chosen* for their often humiliating effects.

    That’s the unique aspect of Western culture – the idea that identity unfolds in a very delicate way. I’m not sure that other cultures share the same perspective. After all my self analysis — and it has been intensive — I find that my cultural roots still define me and that in comparison to Westerners I have a core of my personality that is rather detached and indeed impersonal.

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  26. Also (and yes, I’m someone who hasn’t watched the videos)–seems to me there’s a HUGE difference between a parent announcing to the child that they ate all the Halloween candy (message: I’m the adult, and whatever is yours I can take without impunity or permission) and giving bizarre Christmas gifts (message:…damned if I know. )

    FWIW. My opinion.

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  27. The whole point of this is for the parents to give their child a “gift” that they know the child will not like, but will generate a “funny” negative reaction that will make the parents laugh.

    Intentionally doing something to another human being to make them upset and laugh at their reaction = bullying. Plain and simple.

    I know kids should “be grateful for every present”, but that should only apply when they get a real present. A half eaten sandwich or spoiled food is not a real present. It’s an insult disguised as a present.

    A kid who receives one of these “gifts” has every right to be angry and not show any gratitude. No kid should feel like their parents are making fun of them.

    TL;DR: If you pull this crap on your own kid you deserve to have your kid yell at you.


    https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.js

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