Linked from “Ruth has featured on…”‘,’From 1997 until 2012, I was on the British Psychological Society Media List and have been phoned by any number of journalists about all manner of things. It’s exciting and stimulating to have to update myself about all sorts of topics that don’t often fall within my remit, though of course I refuse to talk about those subjects on which I have little expertise. The list below is a very small part of stuff I have been involved in.
And because I was on the list, some people still ask me: 04/01/2013: yesterday Radio Scotland were interested in talking about whether the bad behaviour of footballers causes children to imitate them. LBC spoke with me today following an article about allowing babies to cry when they wake in the night – and we clarified exactly what was meant.
More will be added as and when: January ’11 :15 January: Discussion on TalkSport about role models for boys. Research suggested that David Beckham is second favourite after Dad, and we talked about Why. Interesting ideas. 13 January: long discussion with a journalist from The Times about the boy in Australia who pushed his brother to safety during the floods, and then drowned. We talked about the motivations of The Hero [probably an almost automatic response, and certainly not because he thought he might die] and the now feelings of the brother who survived. He must be made certain that he had no choice in that situation, but had to be rescued. This does NOT give him responsibilities, just the chance to have a happy life. hopefully.24 November: Interview with a journalist from the Daily Mirror about RIE. The most interesting part was talking with her about her twenty month old triplets! The little girls are everywhere and so very busy. AND their mother writes articles for the papers!!! 22 November – all about happiness – following the announcement that the government will check out the Nation’s Well-being next year, I did an interview on Radio Leicester about what makes us happy. It was fun and quite stimulating. 15 November: well that was fun – the Guardian and the Daily Mail picked up my words of wisdom about siblings but turned it into a discussion about only children. And today I did an interview on TalkRadio about only children – was life easier or harder for only children? easier or harder for their parents? It was curious how little I could find in the way of research on the topic, but I probably knew enough. There always feels like a drought and then some sort of flood – so the Guardian phoned to ask me to answer The Question about a bright boy and his future. And then a television company phoned to discuss an idea they are pitching to Channel 4 – all about teenage girls and their fathers: how do they get on? when should they discuss stuff? How does Dad cope with a difficult teenage girl, particularly if she has sex on her mind? And then the Observer phoned to talk about siblings – among the first results of a longitudinal research project suggest that every increase in the number of children in a family, decreases the happiness of those involved… Why??? all sorts of things, again. A discussion about the Youth Containers designed to keep young people in a particular place –so that adolescents don’t spill over into the real world, but stay safely together [Loughborough Echo].
Woman’s Hour and a discussion about sibling relationships in adulthood – exciting other speakers but I was the only one in the studio.
An article about early puberty and how hard that is for little girls and for their Mums [That’s Life]. Several discussions about the probable rivalry between the Milliband brothers for the leadership of the Labour Party.
Magazine articles for Bliss, She and others – some articles lifted from one publication and placed elsewhere. A long pho9ne-in on Radio 5 about parents’ favourites – I was shocked to hear how many parents preferred one child above others!!! etc
28 November 2008 How ridiculous – I hadn’t realised how long it has been since I have added to this. And probably can’t remember most of the stuff I have done. I know there were phone-ins on BBC Radio 5 [one, at midnight, which I did from the comfort of my own home, and another, also at midnight, which required me to go into the studio and come home through an empty town at 1 in the morning.] I am writing my regular column for the magazine That’s Life, contributing to articles in magazines like Pick-Up, Junior, Mother and etc on a fairly regular basis. The Asian Network of the BBC interviews me and I did a rather strange interview with a New York radio station, and did not do another with Connexions, apparently a station for the French Speaking Communities of the UK. As always, I am asked about an amazing range of topics to do with children, but that is tremendous fun. One of the advantages of getting older is that I have been involved now in such a range of issues with such a range of children and families that I know quite a lot about very many things.
14 January 2007 a very nice woman phoned from Junior Magazine to talk about how to socialise small children. Are some children born sociable? Yes. Does it matter? Possibly. Can you do anything about it? probably
10 January 2007 I have been terribly remiss with this column. Last year saw very many articles about Madeleine McCann, the little girl who was snatched from holiday in Portugal, and I contributed to several. They asked how she might be feeling, how her parents were feeling [!!!]. Journalists asked me how they could reassure parents to behave normally with their children on holiday and I told them. I also made a memorable contribution to Sky saying that I believed that the parents would have considered that Maddy might be dead, and had a few emailed responses saying I was cruel and heartless. Later in the year, they asked why I felt that the popularity of the name had plummeted in the baby name charts – from 77th. Other people obviously asked about other things.
Radio 5 talked to me a few times, including radio interviews in Spain. Each time this was in response to a transitory news story: children are more violent/less responsible/more anxious – discuss. This week, I have spoken to two journalists from the Times about a] why children enjoy dressing up? and is it the same for adults, and b] what to say when your 7 year old asks you what a Chav is? I wish I knew. 23 April 2007 so many contributions to the greater knowledge of the world since last time. Today was a jolly day. Some MP, energised by a letter from some 100 medics has suggested that television viewing should be reduced for children. He suggests that under threes should watch no television at all, up to 12 it should be something like 30 minutes a day etc etc. And that children should certainly have no television in their bedrooms. Real Radio came down to talk to me about it – they are the people who always do interviews live and face-to-face – and then I spoke on Asian Network. I believe quite strongly that too much screen time is not good for kids, and this followed on nicely from an earlier uproar about a) teachers are now able to physically manhandle children and b) why are kids cheeky when they use television catch phrases? I think the media has a responsibility to support their mission to entertain with some details about how to parent. If each soap just added little vignettes about a child coming in and doing homework, or getting told off for earning a detention, a number of parents would feel braver about saying the same sort of thing. So today during both the interview and discussion I said quite a bit about life being much bigger than the media, but pointing out that life is much harder since children are not permitted to go out to play so readily. My son was amused by some of the suggestions – he felt that since he had suffered by not being allowed a television in his bedroom and unlimited watching, neither should they!!!
I then did an interview for the Telegraph about exams, and how can parents help. It’s that time of year again – think lilac blossom, hay fever and revision. Poor things.
2 August 2006. There was a barren spell when I wondered whether my name had somehow been lost from the system and then it all started up again. Loads of interviews with loads of people about loads of things. I have spoken to numbers of radio stations about should teachers be given lessons in how to modulate their voices for children in order to be less boring, should Nurseries in Scotland be more structured with children being taught to read and write at pre-school, should English children be taught how to use an emotional vocabulary – how important is it for kids to be able to explain themselves when they are upset or angry? Should parents listen more? What can they do with children over the long summer holidays? I also spoke to newspapers and magazines about Twins and did something on Social Phobias. In between we have presented our research findings at one Conference and are signed up for another, and have discussed that on local television, where we have also talked about asylum issues and the ongoing trauma of asylum seekers who have seen death and destruction of a type I can not even imagine. A busy life, but making psychology accessible is fun and important.
28 April 2006 We’re moving into exam season again and I have answered a lot of questions about exam stress for a number of publications. I think my big plea is for people to get it into perspective. Exams happen and sometimes people do less well than they hoped to. BUT exams can always be taken again, or taken later. There are always adjustments that can be made if things go wrong. I also discovered in conversation that I don’t believe in paying for exam results – if parents offer £10 for each A and it is absolutely beyond the child to achieve that, then it will be unkind not to pay the child, if he have tried as hard as they possibly can. The more fun conversation was with Radio5 where we talked about a parental misunderstanding of new legislation and educational suggestion which has led parents to phone teachers in the evening to ask for help in encouraging the child to finish his tea, or get off the trampoline etc. Tee hee.
5 March 2006 Two long conversations with journalists from Top Santé this week. The first girl wanted to talk about 5 Top Tips for parents when dealing with their children. The second wanted to clarify what had been said. What was striking was that both young women were about 24 and had no real experience of children beyond their own childhood. The second was particularly keen to find some stats that would confirm that being consistent with your children would make them nice human beings. I pointed out that there are so many variables involved that its impossible to achieve a genuine, random Controlled trial – but she only believed me when I found a Meta-Analysis of similar studies that showed that of the almost 1500 studies fewer than 80 came anywhere close to meeting good scientific criteria. Possibly the only thing harder than being a parent is studying a group of them!!! But they promised me a copy of the magazine, which will be nice!
23 February 2006 Real radio interviewed me today. They are the people who like to do a Live Interview and therefore come to work or home, because it sounds more realistic. Which is fine. Apparently a report from the Netherlands says that depressed and anxious children are more likely to take Ecstasy later. Which might accurately reflect their research, but also reflect a different time. They were studying children born from about 1979, and the world is a little different now. Interesting thought though, does depression predispose to taking Ecstasy? or does taking Ecstasy possibly make you depressed? 22 February 2006 Since then, they have asked my opinions on all sorts – and I am happy to oblige. I have spoken on the radio about liars – some woman has kept her lottery win secret, is this right? well, Yes and No. It all depends really on why she has done it and whether she can keep the secret for long enough. I was asked about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and whether I believed in it? That is a definite Yes, at least as defined in Britain. We have about 3% of children with ADHD, while the Americans have 10% and rising. Our kids have brain scans which look different from those of other children suggesting a very real difference.
Then there was the interview about Independence in the Sunday Times last week. Keeping adolescents in a state of childlike innocence and dependency is a recent historical phenomenon; 200 years ago, children were not only dressed as miniature adults as soon as they could walk and talk but expected to work, and to marry in their teens. Now, though many children do not even leave home until their twenties, they regard themselves as grown up and entitled to keep secrets from the moment they become teenagers. Not telling your parents anything about your life at school, your friends or your feelings has become an act of self-definition. “Children need to keep secrets from parents because as they grow up they move increasingly towards independence,” says Ruth Reinstein, a child psychologist and the founder of www.helpmehelpmychild.com. “That’s right and proper. “However, a lot of parents are not very good at allowing their children independence. It’s partly because parents always feel guilty about not doing well enough at bringing up their children, and partly that they don’t have as much time for children as before. “And more than in the past, people protect their children from all kinds of things they regard as dangerous. In the Brownies, children of seven are expected to be able to make a cup of tea, but the world is full of people who won’t let a child go anywhere near boiling water at 11.” We have unprecedented means to spy on our children through their mobile phones, which can not only keep track of where they say they are but, as was revealed last week, can be used in conjunction with the internet to pinpoint exactly where they are on a map. Not that this is likely to do much to reassure parents: the law has ensured that we can look, but have no means of intervening in what could most affect our children’s future.
A journalist from the Observer spoke with me about the very brilliant eight year old from the USA who is writing novels and is a voracious reader. She has read Candide (!!, although she may not have absolutely understood it) and wants to share her love of reading with other children. This has apparently gone down very well in America, but I am not convinced that all children would welcome this. Perhaps the most, slightly bizarre discussion was an interview about Finnish research which says that all generations should play together on swings, roundabouts etc and is marketing family playgrounds. That sounds like fun.
9 October 2005 The WebMaster says I am adding too much here, so…. Briefly. Last week offered a very exciting day when I was, firstly, speaking on BBC Radio 5Live phone-in and the on BBC3 News. The first was in reference to the 12 year old girl who had almost killed a small boy who was annoying her, and the discussion was around what punishments were appropriate at that age. My concern was that most older criminals have some trauma in their past and we need to address the traumas of children in order to prevent disasters of the future. For this, we will need more psychologists – currently children locally are having to wait several months for an appointment after e g their father has killed himself. The BBC 3 item concerned the 15 year old girl golfer who is turning pro and how will she handle it? Good fun to do but there are, of course, no definitive answers. I also then did a live interview for Real Radio – this is a local station which had discovered Nature Deficit Syndrome. Children now are becoming increasingly isolated by their electrical toys, to the point where parents protect them by allowing them to stay at home and play, and communicate by MSN rather than by playing on real grass and in real woods. This brings up lots of issues, as well as the horrible prospect of all those science fiction stories I read when young coming true – we shall become nations of individuals living in little pods and communicating entirely by machine. No Food, no touch, no anything.
23 August 2005 I’ve been sort of losing track. There was the Journalist from Mental Health magazine, which has the same phone number as the magazine Best, surprisingly, and someone from the Daily Telegraph. Also someone from Channel 4 checking out a programme idea about the psychological development of a child – linked to celebrity anecdotes. I’m not sure it works like that. We tend to develop sequentially but no-one could say ‘at 7years 3months a child develops a certain level of empathy and won’t laugh when Luna’s knickers fall down’. I suggested they do it the other way round. Find out a lot of anecdotes, group them in ages and then add the psychology.
A lady phoned about a discussion on Woman’s Hour regarding behavioural management and techniques, but I agreed with the main speaker which wouldn’t make good radio. And today I was the interviewee for a discussion on Birth Order. A big Study in Norway suggests that First Born tend to do better – for all sorts of reasons. I am and I did, but it was fun to say so out loud!!!
July 2005 Very interesting discussion with a woman from the magazine Bliss. She was writing about Mums and Daughters and wanted to know how to reply to the girl: whose mum was her best friend, wanted to share her clothes, fancied the same boys etc. Girl 2 had a mum who didn’t allow her to do anything! at all but dictated bedtimes and homework etc, and Girl 3, whose Mum embarrassed her to bits by going into Boots and discussing her periods and what supplies would be suitable. Talk Sport 17.7.2005 Long and fascinating discussion around the girl who has admitted tieing a small boy to a tree by his neck. What makes some children do this sort of thing? how culpable are parents? what responsibility should the media take? Calendar – a local TV news programme July 2005 A discussion re bullying – what sort of people bully? is it worse than it used to be? Are things changing? getting worse? Will adults take responsibility for child behaviour?
The Guardian 29.6.2005 An article by Joanne Moorhead discussed competitiveness in childhood and beyond…. finishing thus: Ruth Reinstein, a child psychologist in the NHS, says the mantra is that we should value the child we have rather than the child we crave. “Help your child to appreciate the strengths he or she has got – it’s important to help your son or daughter do the best they can do, but you need to realise that their best probably won’t be the world-beating best,” she says. “No child who does their best is a failure, and parents should realise that. She admits, though, that few parents are immune to the bug of parental competitiveness, and confesses to having been drawn into it from time to time herself. “One of my children has just graduated and you mention degree classes and grades and so on,” she says. “Parents just are competitive. In a way, our children are the one thing we have really got to boast about. Readers Digest July 2005 An article adapted from the American version, discussed the pros and cons of older children coming home to an empty house. I am quoted as being quite in favour of giving children some independence, as long as the kids still can access their parents easily and do not feel frightened. The Vanessa programme BBC London June 2005 This began as a discussion about Happy Slapping – that phenomenon where children attack each other, film it on their phones and then pass it on. I feel strongly that this sort of thing begins with the media’s approval of bizarre behaviour – children might dream of smacking each other for fun, but the Tango adverts gave an apparent respectability. It was an interesting discussion with Vanessa quite defensive and people phoning in my support!!
I used to be the child psychologist on the Cable Channel Wellbeing. This was a joint venture between Boots Chemists and Granada. I featured every other week, talking about concerns of the viewers with the parents concerned and the presenter: depression in adolescence, Multiple births, behavioural management etc. It was fun. There were also phone-ins and this interactive ‘chat’ with parents.Wellbeing.com – Live Chat Transcript of chat with Ruth Reinstein Wellbeing’s resident Psychologist joined us to answer your questions about child behaviour as well as overcoming death and bereavement. Hello and welcome to the Wellbeing.com live chat auditorium. Today we will be chatting live with Ruth Reinstein. Ruth is a Child Psychologist who you may recognise from Wellbeing TV. She is a Child Psychologist who claims to have “far too many years of experience – and two children”. She will be able to answer your questions about your child’s mental, emotional, educational and social development. She may also be able to answer your more general questions. Lilly: How long did you have to study to be qualified? ->Ruth Reinstein replies: Three years for a first degree, and then one year for a teaching qualification and after two years teaching another degree. Then I did an advanced diploma in Educational Psychology and now I’m doing a Doctorate. Misty: Do you know makes a child so aggressive when neither of their parents or family are? He’s only 9 and so defensive and argumentative. Ruth Reinstein replies: Many children practice their language by arguing and discussing with their parents. Some parents handle it better than others, some parents find it cute and the children tend to continue. If a child realises that behaving in this way brings a lot of attention then he is more likely to go on doing it. And some children are just naturally more argumentative and aggressive than others. Janice: What do you think about smacking children? I was smacked when I behaved badly as a child and I don’t believe it did me any harm at all. Do you think the recent issues raised about this issue are extreme exhalations from the PC brigade!? Ruth Reinstein replies: Briefly smacking is a tremendous relief for parents and may be effective on a small child. I am talking of a quick smack on hand or leg rather than anything more. Bribery is usually far more effective and punishments like restricting pleasures – tv, playing out etc – work well. T: In your experience is there any link with an early childhood experiences and stammering? I have a stammer, and I have no recollection of any major occurrence, that could have triggered it? Any ideas? Ruth Reinstein replies: Far more boys than girls stammer and it seems unlikely that they all suffered major trauma. It seems to be a weakness in some people that may be triggered at a certain age by something relatively minor. bluebell: Would you say that children behave the way they do because they are born that way or is it because of the environment they are brought up in? Ruth Reinstein replies: Day old babies in hospital present very differently. Some are alert, some angry, some sleepy, some hungry etc. I believe that personalities are largely hard-wired, but modified by our experiences through life so some children are born shy and we can help them to be braver by the way they are brought up. On today’s programme, Ruth spoke primarily about death and bereavement. Although it’s an uncomfortable topic for many, it is something that we will all have to deal with at one time or another in our lives. We do have lots of questions coming in from you about death and bereavement, so we’re going to speak with Ruth about these topics for a few minutes before returning to more general questions…Ron: What are the patterns that normally occur in people, after they have suffered a bereavement. i.e. What is it normal to feel? Ruth Reinstein replies: Nothing is normal about reacting to a bereavement, we each react individually according to our own personality and experience and our relationship to who ever died. Stages are usually shock, searching, anger, depression, resolution and then sometimes guilt or regret for things not done. Harriet Walter: Do you think that a person can prepare themselves for the eventual death of a close relative and lessen the pain, and loss when it actually happens? Ruth Reinstein replies: No. My mother was dying for a month and I thought I was prepared but it was still a shocking event. It’s like when people pretend to be dead and shut their eyes, we know its not true. Imagining that somebody is not there is not genuinely possible. Sheila: My friends have just lost their father suddenly to an aortic aneurysm, and he was only 55. Do you have any advice or help I can try to instil in them to help them come to terms with this dreadful loss? Ruth Reinstein replies: A sudden death is difficult to come to terms with and sometimes people find themselves reliving the time about the death and funeral rather than remembering the person they loved and valued and the fun they had together. Give them a chance to talk, again and again, and be happy to share your memories with them. There are some inspirational poems and writings which some people find helpful. Chyna: Do you ever get depressed, due to dealing with people’s problems all the time? Ruth Reinstein replies: It can be depressing to be made aware of things some people have been through – it makes me sad – but it is wonderful to be able to help and make a difference. Thank you for joining our live chat with Ruth Reinstein. We only have time to answer a couple more questions. We’re sorry if we haven’t been able to get to your question today, but Ruth has just told us that she would love to do more of these in the near future – so hopefully she’ll be back soon! Helen Patterson: My child is bullied at school, as he has slightly sticking out ears? He is normally an outgoing and gentle boy, but he is becoming more withdrawn and aggressive when taken issue with. Do you have any advice? Ruth Reinstein replies: Children will always be teased for being different. If it’s a sufficiently significant physical difference it might be worth considering surgery. Otherwise your son needs to develop techniques to deal with this, humour is good, ignoring the teaser may well help and sometimes just accepting the criticism deflates the bully. ‘Big ears’ ‘yes you’re right’. Thank you for joining our live chat today with Ruth Reinstein. You can see more of Ruth on the Wellbeing TV Channel and, hopefully, we’ll get her to come back online with us sometime soon to answer more of your questions. We have time for just one more question before Ruth has to wave goodbye…Caroline: Have you ever dealt with some impossible children who were unable to be helped at all? Ruth Reinstein replies: Children live within an environment and although I can help to change some aspects of life, other things happen that are absolutely beyond anyone’s control. A parent loses a job, becomes irritable, the shortage of money, leads to a lot of arguing – I may have been able to help a child deal with his temper in the first place but subsequent events might make it very difficult for things to stay ‘solved’. Thank you to everyone who joined us today here at Wellbeing.com. Thank you, Ruth, for joining us today. Those of us here in the chat studio have found this really informative and useful. Ruth waves and shouts through the door as she runs off to the TV studio,”I hope I’ll be able to answer more questions soon and would welcome the opportunity to give longer
Ruth Reinstein http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/breakfast/3014017.stm (3 of 5)31/01/2005 23:05:32 Smacking raises its head regularly as a question for discussion, most people seem to have strong opinions about physical punishment. Tame the tantrums Nov 29 2004 By Kathryn Armstrong Evening Gazette Should parents be able to smack? The ongoing debate has been back in the news after Parliament outlawed smacking which leaves a mark or causes mental harm. But while “mild’” smacks are still OK, many parents are unwilling to use any kind of force to discipline their children. So how should parents deal with bad behaviour in their children? The key, says NSPCC parenting advisor Eileen Hayes, is preventing the bad behaviour in the first place so that punishments are just not needed. “Parenting isn’t about quick-fix punishments,” she says. “You have to try to do without punishments by catching children being good and praising them for it, rather than punishing them for being naughty.” ………………………………….. Child psychologist Ruth Reinstein says the basic principles of discipline are the same, whatever the child’s age. And one of the major discipline principles, she says, is the withdrawal of privileges. “They have to have privileges to start with, before you can withdraw any. “And you have to work out what’s meaningful to the child, as it’s no use withdrawing a privilege they’re not really bothered about.” Ruth says any withdrawal of privileges needs to be tempered – for example, only stop half, not all, of a child’s pocket money, or ground them for a week or less, rather than a month. She explains the tactic can also be used cleverly. One woman she knows was asked for a lift by her son. The mother said, of course he could have a lift, but he would have to wait until after she’d tidied his bedroom. “Nagging isn’t the answer, and you shouldn’t make threats that you won’t carry out,” says Ruth. “Always be consistent, however you choose to discipline your child.” For a copy of Encouraging Better Behaviour send an SAE to the NSPCC Public Enquiry Point, 42 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3NH.
Perhaps you recognise these dolls – I didn’t and had to go and check them out before talking to the writer. This is a heavily truncated version of his article – which was fascinating. The Times Magazine, Saturday December 04, 2004 Valley of the dolls BY DAVID ROWAN Move over, Barbie: there are some hot new kids on the block. David Rowan visits Bratz HQ to discover how these ethnically ambiguous, fashion-crazy dolls are winning our tweenagers’ hearts and minds Richard Landry designs high-end celebrity homes for the likes of Eddie Murphy and Rod Stewart. But today he appears to be winning over that infinitely more fickle customer: a streetwise eight-year-old fashionista from South London. With its Jacuzzi, private lift and sun-deck, Landry’s “deluxe three-storey high-rise apartment” has utterly charmed Robyn Henry, who stares transfixed in her fluffy pink coat and knee-length boots, a white handbag swinging elegantly in time with her beaded hair. “Wow! Look at this!” she calls across Hamleys to the two adult cousins who have brought her here this dank November Saturday. “It’s the coolest thing in the world! That’s what I want for Christmas.” At £149, Landry’s gaudy plastic dolls’ house won’t win any awards for value. But this is the official 2004 “Bratz Pad”, built for today’s hippest fashion dolls, and brand loyalty is all to consumers like Robyn.. What explains the extraordinary appeal of Bratz, beyond catwalk chic, huge expressive faces, and skin tones that cross ethnic boundaries? How have Meygan, Sasha, Jade, Cloe, Yasmin and their newer friends tapped this mysterious pre-teen psyche in a way that increasingly eludes Barbie? It cannot be price: Hamleys sells the Bratz “Formal Funk” dolls for £29.99, whereas a remarkably similar MyScene range, from Mattel, is £7 cheaper and includes a DVD. Old-style Barbies cost less than £10 – yet for some reason, the store’s Bratzworld section is far busier this Saturday afternoon than Barbie’s magical land of Fairytopia. The dolls could have been called Fashion Frenzies, Girrlz or Girlfriends, but the name Bratz was suggested by Carter Bryant, another former Mattel employee whose initial drawings Treantafelles felt “exuded the attitude and expression we wanted”. Mattel is now suing Bryant, claiming he secretly worked for MGA while still employed by them; he is countersuing, claiming that Mattel wants to “hijack” Bratz, which he says remained just an idea until after he left. Separately, Mattel is also suing Ronald Brawer, a former employee who in October took over MGA’s sales and marketing divisions. Mattel claims he took with him “highly confidential materials”; MGA describes the writ as “frivolous nonsense” timed to deflect attention from poor quarterly results. (Mattel chose not to respond to anything in this article, beyond stressing that “the Barbie brand has been and continues to be the No 1 brand for girls”.) Treantafelles never played with Barbie as a girl. “I never understood how I could aspire to be a 30-year-old mummy when I was still trying to get to be ten,” she says. This new doll, then, would be the “anti-Barbie”. “Where Barbie is completely profiled – this is my sister, this is my hobby – Bratz would be whatever you choose it to be. We give you the palette, identify with it as you wish.” She also wanted “to turn Barbie’s proportions upside-down” – hence the oversize head and huge detachable feet. “You’re not idolising something supposed to look like you,” Treantafelles says. “Instead of ‘I should look like that physically’, it’s ‘I want to identify with that’.”….Throughout the company, the lessons are drummed in: eight to ten-year-olds aspire to be 16, and so they will reject toys their younger sisters might play with; edginess and rebelliousness reinforce the independence they crave; they absorb “adult” media messages more completely than may be apparent. “All these wild emotions are playing in your head when you’re ten,” Treantafelles says. “You want to be pretty, you want to wear fancy clothes. We’re just materialising these wild impulses, no different from Beyoncé or Christina Aguilera.” “The tween is much more sophisticated than people credit,” Marcy George, US licensing director, says during a merchandising brainstorm session. “I met a designer today who was actually talking about embedding rhinestones into swimwear flippers,” says Holly Stinnett, a senior brand manager. “They’ll be pearlised with glitter, really cool and Bratzy.” Isaac Larian walks in. “Hey, let’s not give the enemy too much information,” he says. “Frankly, you’ll have a whole room that’s Bratz – her toothbrush, bedding, apparel, basically her whole life. The opposition, meanwhile, is too busy with corporate politics and suing people. Mattel’s boss comes from the cheese industry. [Robert Eckert used to run Kraft Foods.] They don’t see that selling cheese and toys are very different. “It’s kind of sad,” he continues, “that instead of innovating, the world’s top toy company is imitating. After 45 years of working, maybe it’s time for Barbie to retire.” A more serious question is whether Bratz dolls are sexualising little girls. Last January, a child advocacy group, Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children, led a protest against Bratz and other raunchy dolls outside the International Toy Fair in New York. In a letter sent to the Toy Industry Association, the group spelt out its concerns: “Bratz dolls are highly sexualised dolls with extremely high heels, eyes heavy with make-up, large puffy lips and very skimpy, tightly fitting clothes,” it said. “These dolls are at the forefront of a toy trend that promotes stereotyped and sexualised behaviour that children cannot understand. They make the way bodies look a focus of play and equate self-worth with appearance.” Another group, Dads and Daughters, is running an e-mail campaign against MGA’s “Secret Date” range of Bratz. “Is there a benefit to anyone but the manufacturer when that toy comes with a seductively dressed female doll, a mystery date, champagne glasses and date night accessories?” it asks. Kay Hymowitz, who has written widely on the commercialisation of childhood in books such as Liberation’s Children, believes that the marketing industry is deliberately sexualising girls for profit. “Marketers make it sound like KGOY is just a fact of nature,” Hymowitz argues. “The truth is, they have played a central role in making it happen. They want to sell products; they know kids who are independent and ‘empowered’ are more likely to tell their parents to buy those products. They know that the way you seize kids’ attention is to make them feel older and more glamorous – and sexier.” This “premature sexualisation” can have wider consequences. Ruth Reinstein, an NHS child psychologist based in Sheffield, says she sees the impact in 12-year-old fathers and 15-year-olds on the pill: “It’s a great commercial opportunity – but is it ethical?” Reinstein asks. “The little girl doesn’t necessarily understand the sexual connotations of the clothes she sees on television and wants to wear. She might think she’s just being fashionable, but the older people around her do pick up those sexual messages. And that erodes our respect for childhood.” The consequences, Reinstein says, partly explain Britain’s high rate of teenage pregnancy. Predictably enough, such views hold little traction back on MGA’s design floor. “We are not making a deliberate effort to sexualise these dolls,” insists Lui Domingo. “We are making them fashionable, and coincidentally the fashions these days are rather sexy.” “As soon as you put a sexy outfit on a doll, all of a sudden it’s inappropriate,” adds Paula Treantafelles. “The truth is, the celebrities these girls aspire to, the Beyoncés and the Aguileras, they’re far more inappropriate than Bratz.” Besides, Isaac Larian is smart enough to see the PR benefits of a little controversy. “You know, it’s always adults who make these claims about sexualisation,” he says. “Ask the kids, and they don’t say they like Bratz because they’re sexy. It’s because they’re fashionable.” The Times —– November 2004 Daddy won’t Die Ruth Reinstein Child Psychologist Barnsley NHS Trust CHILDREN tend to absorb what they are ready to learn and dismiss the rest. If a child is very keen to sit and watch the news with you, then let them, and answer their questions afterwards. But don’t say, ‘Come and sit with me’. If a child asks a question then they are ready to hear something about that subject, but you need to be careful what you say. If a child asks, ‘Is Daddy going to die?’ then (assuming your family is not in the military) you should start out by saying, ‘Daddy isn’t a soldier.’ Then you might say that one day Daddy will die — so will everyone — but hopefully not for a long time. Help children to be realistic. Get out a map and point out that Iraq is far away. You might tell them how long it would take to get there. But children may not be as anxious as you think. Last year I gave two classes of 9 to 10-year-olds a series of questionnaires on the Iraq war. I thought they would have more anxiety and dreams as the weeks went on, but only a couple of children showed heightened sensitivity. Like the rest of us, they knew that it wasn’t going to affect them directly.
I have spoken on many radio programmes on many stations: Radio 1 asked me about the wisdom of a mum leaving her new born baby behind when Noel Gallagher and his wife went off to New York for a few days. Radio 4asked me about many topical issues on You and Yours, the News etc, Radio 5 about adolescence, discipline, behaviour etc. The Asian Network had me talking about Nursery Schools and some dolls offering an insight into sexuality. TalkSport grilled me on Physical Chastisement and children, but also discussed David Beckham taking his children to Spain. I spoke on Abu Dhabi radio about provision for disabled children, and on any number of local radio stations about any number of current topics. Ceefax, Teletext and The Press Association interview me regularly. All has vanished into the ether. As have my starring role on BBC Watchdog, Healthcheck when I worked with the family of a small child who wouldn’t eat and another who couldn’t get her child to bed. And all sorts of small interviews on Breakfast TV, The News at 1, and the twice I appeared on Richard and Judy- they are tremendous fun. Google is quite random in what it comes across when crawling across the internet. You may note that one of the first references to me on Google is the only one to include an age – and it is very wrong! I have contributed to articles in magazines as diverse as the Saga Magazine older fathers], Family Circle [giving in to children] and That’s Life [lots of different things] and been interviewed by journalists large and small. I have been quoted in the People, the Times, the Independent, the Sun, the Mirror as well as the Observer and the Sunday Times, and many local newspapers and small magazines. This is great as it’s an opportunity to give back, and I am conscious of my good fortune in having been trained to be a Child Psychologist. The following are a very few of the articles I have been involved in – luckily a friend archived some for me. Obviously, I have edited the material as the pieces were fairly long, but otherwise this is what was written and what I said – the two are not necessarily congruent.