This is me tired. This is me fed up. This is me thinking I should have a glass of wine while writing this post.
I have had it up to my eyeballs with articles insisting our children are being ruined because we’re lousy parents. To prove how bad things are, these articles often cite increases in ADHD, autism, and more. As a parent of two neurodiverse kids, I take umbrage to that. Hell, as a human being I take umbrage to that.
There are pretty clear patterns to all these articles, and I boiled them down into 8 tips for writing the next viral post about how much parents suck.
My 8 Tips for Writing Bad Parent Posts
Tip 1: Buzzwords Matter!
There are many buzzwords to choose from for maximum effect. For the kids we have: bratty, autism epidemic, ADHD, psychosis, entitled, spoiled, victims, over-medicated, obese. Then there are distracted parents, lazy parents, overprotective parents; food dyes, brain-gut connection, formula feeding, etc. Pick one.
Tip 2: Know your audience
The audience for your piece is not made up of parents of children with the conditions you portray as tragic. Nor of the parents who have diagnoses of their own, or who come from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds than your readers. That audience has probably grown jaded from being scapegoated, and aren’t buying what you’re selling.
Your audience is the new middle class parent, the scared parent, the parent ripe for instilling fears of failure if they don’t do parenting exactly right. Never mind the harm caused when you validate existing bias against those different from your readers, or introduce that bias to those who don’t have it yet. That’s not your problem.
Your problem is getting all these parents to buy into your vision of perfection, so get writing!
Tip 3: Introduce Fear Early
Introduce your big scary thing early, and then repeat it throughout your post for maximum effect. Thanks to stereotyping, the specter of autism and ADHD induce all kinds of fear in new parents. But in a pinch any other stereotype will do (millennials in the basement, learning disabilities, vaccine injuries, endless temper tantrums).
Don’t worry about pissing off the parents of neurodiverse kids, kids with disabilities or even parents with similar diagnoses. In fact, it’s probably best not to acknowledge that neurodiverse people and people with disabilities even HAVE kids. . .that might cause your readers to suspect that maybe your boogey man is just an illusion and none of these conditions are as life-destroying as you portray them. And that would be the end of your whole argument. We wouldn’t want that, now would we?
Tip 4: acknowledge evidence, and instantly dismiss it.
So what if there are peer reviewed studies refuting the connections you are about to make? Never mind that actual researchers and experts have drawn conclusions opposite those you’re about to draw. And forget about getting feedback from anyone who actually has the condition you’re using to terrify parents. You don’t have to consider their evidence or opinions; just acknowledge their existence and immediately dismiss their validity. If you can do it using short sentences, bolded text and exclamation points all! the! better!
Tip 5: Cover Your Ass
This is important. Adding a simple disclaimer like “there are children who are born with [X]. . . These are not the children I am talking about” will make it totally easy to avoid the accusation that you’re using disability to scare the bejeezus out of parents because, you can say that you acknowledged that some kids are born that way. Therefore, the fact you ignore the genetic causes of disability for the rest of your post in favor of parent shaming is totally ok.
Tip 6: Keep it Simple
Use bullet points, catchy phrases and simple declarative sentences. Throw around crap statistics like candy at a parade, but never explain them or give them appropriate weight. Parents don’t have time for thoughtful analysis. So, stick to listicles and anecdotes. Provide an over simplified cause for the problem, assume it exists in a void, and don’t even bother to address nuance.
This applies to your data too. Parents don’t have time to check sources, so don’t worry about any contradicting sources or the limits of studies. Cherry pick as much as you want. In fact, parents don’t even have the energy to draw their own conclusions, so you should do that for them too.
Also, hyperbole is awesome, and makes everything better (especially in all caps). Turn your solution into a catchy phrase if you can, and imply that anyone who disagrees with you is a terrible parent or just making excuses.
Keep the solution simple too, and make it casually ableist. Assume that everyone has the physical ability, time and income to make your solution work. Don’t worry about 60-hour workweeks, single parent families, neurodiversity, economic and social differences, physical disability, etc.
Tip 7: Don’t forget the Pictures
Imagery is easy. Try for a metaphor of some sort, an entitled looking kid seated regally while his parents lower a crown onto his head. Or maybe a picture of a toddler in a college classroom (hey, it worked for The Atlantic).
If that fails, you can always use the ubiquitous screaming child and/or exhausted parent. As long as you’re showing metaphor or misery, you’re golden.
Tip 8: Don’t quit
The work doesn’t stop once you publish. You still have to handle comments critical of your post. Don’t respond to any criticism of your article, your followers will tackle that for you (here). But, don’t discard the negative comments; those are goldmines for a follow up post about how mean your detractors are (here).
. . .And You’re Done!
That’s it! Follow those simple tips, and you can be the author of one of those viral posts solving all the world’s parenting problems in one go. Or, and I’m just spitballing here, you could write something that reflects the complicated challenges of parenting and being a kid. a post that acknowledges differences and nuance when posing solutions, and doesn’t condescend or generalize.
I know, I know, it’s a lot to ask. So, if you don’t feel like writing, here’s a bingo card to make the next post bemoaning “kids these days” more fun to wade through. I was going to make it a drinking game, but I am pretty sure we’d finish off the bottle by the end of the first article.