Moms and dads can all agree that parenting is no easy job. But ask them what's the best way to raise a kid, and get ready for an argument. Here, a list of eight parenting controversies that heated up talk at the dinner table in 2011:
1. Crotchless thongs... for 7-year-olds
A Colorado mom alerted the media when she visited a clothing store called Kid N Teen and found leopard-print, crotchless thong panties sized to fit girls as young as 7. The store's owner defended herself by saying that particular garment was meant for teens. But her critics — and there were many — said nobody should be urging teenage girls to buy underwear designed to make it easier, and faster, to have sex. "Holy triple inappropriate, Batman," said Meredith Carroll at Babble.
2. ADHD: Are we over-drugging our kids?
The number of kids being treated for ADHD with prescription drugs, such as Adderall, rose from 1.8 million in 1996 to 2.3 million in 2008. The biggest jump was among teens. Some doctors chalked up the rise to greater recognition of ADHD, while others said we're in the middle of an over-prescription "epidemic." I've prescribed these drugs to kids for more than 30 years, said Dr. Lawrence Diller at The Huffington Post. I believe in "the effectiveness and safety of these medicines." But we should all be worried about a medical system "that is so dependent on this treatment."
3. The "insane" mail-order "chicken pox lollipops" craze
One of the year's more bizarre twists in the vaccine wars came when authorities had to warn parents not to order lollipops licked by children infected with chicken pox, which are being sold online. The theory behind the candy is that you give it to your kids so the exposure will inoculate them. One doctor calls the trend a form of "Middle Ages vigilante vaccination," and health officials warn it's dangerous and illegal to send infected materials through the mail.
4. Live birth... as performance art?
A pregnant New York City artist, Marni Kotak, arranged to have her baby in an art gallery... as an audience watched. Kotak should be ashamed of the way she put her artistic vision ahead of the health and safety of her baby, said L.S. Carbonell at Lez Get Real. Her baby deserved to be born in a warm, safe place, not a public environment full of germs. But the sharing of intimate body functions is central to the history of performance art, said Ceridwen Morris at Babble, and the visceral act of giving birth certainly surely qualifies.
5. The great apple juice debate: FDA vs. Dr. Oz
TV medical expert Dr. Mehmet Oz caused a nationwide food fight when he said apple juice, which parents frequently give to their children, can have dangerously high levels of arsenic. The FDA fired back, saying "there is no evidence of any public health risk from drinking these juices." Dr. Oz's statements are "extremely irresponsible," said Dr. Richard Besser at ABC News. Maybe, said Danielle Sullivan at Babble. But remember, the FDA shrugs off plenty of things many of us "do not feel are good for our kids," like trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and meat injected with hormones and antibiotics.
6. Is Chuck E. Cheese creating tiny gambling addicts?
California mom Debbie Keller sued Chuck E. Cheese Pizza for $5 million, claiming the restaurant's arcade games transform kids into gamblers. "It's time to crown a new hero in the mom world," said Jeanne Sager at The Stir. Chuck E. Cheese's games of chance are nothing but a training ground for Vegas. Then Keller should have just stayed away, said Perez Hilton. If anyone's a gambling addict, it's her — she's "rolling her legal dice for a $5 million jackpot!"
7. Vegan breastfeeding: A deadly crime?
A French vegan couple was prosecuted for neglect in the 2008 death of their 11-month-old daughter. They fed her only breast milk, which doctors say left the baby with a vitamin A and B12 deficiency due to her mother's diet. They also ignored a doctor's advice to get the baby treated in a hospital for bronchitis, trying natural remedies instead. This should "communicate a clear message to other vegans," said Sarah Pope at The Healthy Home Economist. "Abstinence from all animal foods is a danger to one's health and most particularly, your baby!" Nonsense, said Mike Adams at Natural News. This is simply anti-vegan bias.
8. Do Chinese "tiger moms" raise the best kids?
Yale law professor Amy Chua ignited a national debate when she argued in The Wall Street Journal that strict Chinese mothers raise more successful children than coddling Western parents. "If the goal is efficiency, excellence, and success," says Henry Blodget at Business Insider, it would appear that tiger moms do have "most American mothers beat." Sorry, but there are "downsides of telling children what they can and cannot do or be," says Mike Vilensky at New York. "It's hard to imagine a dictatorial mom like Chua raising a Bill Gates or a Mark Zuckerberg."