Child neglect or smart parenting? Controversial reactions to Sheba commercial

Have you seen the Sheba Cat Food commercial where the kid says he fell and mom says to get a bandaid, he says he’s bleeding, she says to grab two? Well there are controversial reactions to that commercial, of course. I personally laughed out loud the first time I saw the commercial. After I saw it a couple more times, I still thought it was funny, but I had a sneaking suspicion that people would be all up in arms over the commercial. Guess what? I was right! Some people think it’s child neglect, I think it’s smart parenting.

I figured that one look at the comments on the Sheba Facebook page would probably tell me all I need to know. It didn’t take me long to find a post with a bunch of comments about this very commercial. And then it began…

The Sheba Cat Food commercial controversy

In case you haven’t seen the commercial, I’ve included it below. As you watch, do me a favor and answer these questions:

  • How old do you think this kid is?
  • Does the kid sound distressed when he says he fell?
  • Is the kid crying hysterically (or crying at all)?
  • Do you think that if the kid is able to walk in the house, that he would be able to walk over to mom if he were really hurt?

To recap the video: There is a mom relaxing on the couch, reading a magazine, and there is a cat sitting next to her. They are enjoying some quiet time together. A kid around 10 or so comes into the house and says from the other room, “Mom”, Mom says calmly, “Yeah?”, the kid replies matter-of-factly, “I fell”. Mom tells him there are bandages in the cabinet. Kid casually says, “I’m bleeding”. Mom says, “Grab two”. That’s it. I would assume that the kid patches himself up, heads back out to play and mom continues with her magazine. End of story, easily handled, no drama.

So back to the Facebook comments. Oh my…I saw plenty of claims of child neglect. Claims of a “lazy mother” and bad parenting. These commenters thought it was unbelievable that the mom wouldn’t get up off the couch. They said the cat was more important than her own child. That poor “baby” and on and on.
Word PUH-lease

Okay, let me preface this by saying that I completely disagree with these commenters. And for heaven’s sake – it’s a lighthearted commercial that is tongue in cheek. Why is everyone so damned serious?

People look for reasons to be offended

Someone in the comments said maybe it’s a generational thing and I think that might be true. It explains why we have so many millennials & young adults looking for something to be offended by. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but first of all, many of those commenting probably don’t even have kids. Now I have grown kids, so I’ve been around the block a couple of times. I learned early on that parents need to do a quick assessment in their head before reacting (as long as there isn’t screaming and obvious distress), then assess and act if necessary.

How should you react when your child falls down?

The problem with jumping to attention every time your little angel needs wants something, is that it just kind of becomes habit to them. “All I have to do is make a little sound of unhappiness and mom will coming storming in to make sure I am comfortable”. If a mother (or father) got up and ran to their child for every little sound of unhappiness (either real or faking), she/he would get nothing else done in life, and you can bet that their kids won’t do much for themselves in life. This is especially true with Covid and with many parents working from home. If mom was deep in thought on a work project, would people still be complaining that she is neglecting her child? Babies learn from a very early age, what works and what doesn’t when it comes to wanting mom and getting her attention.

So several people in the comment section on Facebook called this kid a “baby”. First of all, the kid sounds at least 10 years old to me – certainly old enough and able enough to get his own bandage, hence why mom said to grab a bandage.

mom hugging child

Mom hugging child – child neglect or smart parenting?

Here’s the thing – mother’s know their children. Let me repeat, Moms KNOW their children. Better than anyone. Mothers know when their children are in distress and they need to intervene, and they know when their child can handle things for themselves. Most moms know this at least. This kid did not sound distressed – he simply walked in the door and said I fell. She said get a bandage. Kid said, “it’s bleeding”, she said, “grab two”. Now, if the kid started crying at that point, no doubt mom would have jumped off that couch in a hot minute.

I have a question for those of you that are offended by this commercial. Say your young child (maybe three or four years old), falls down in front of you but doesn’t seem upset. What do you do? Do you immediately scoop them up and say “you poor baby, omg are you okay?”. The young child, seeing moms reaction, starts crying hysterically. You continue to tell the child, “you poor thing”, and go on and on about the incident (keeping it fresh in child’s mind).

OR do you observe your child, notice that he isn’t crying, upset or hurt, but he is looking at you to see your reaction before deciding what his own reaction should be. Mom’s face doesn’t show worry, so the child thinks, “Mom’s not worried, I must be okay”. Mom (or dad) says, “C’mon, I’ll help you up”. Kid gets up, Mom gives kid a quick kiss on the head. Nobody is in tears and kid goes on with what they were doing without any fanfare. Kid is FINE, and most likely learns to brush it off if he isn’t really hurt. Which means that in the future, the kid might be able to determine what is worth getting upset about that requires mom’s attention, and what he can deal with on his own.

As I stressed above, if a child is obviously injured or really upset, by all means, console and comfort said child. Nothing is better than mom’s love when you’re a child and are genuinely distraught. Heck nothing is better than mom’s love when you’re all grown up too – she and dad are the ones you turn to when you’re in a crisis, or hurting.

Here’s the alternate scenario for that same mother and child: Child falls in front of mom and IMMEDIATELY starts crying. Mom thinks to herself, “my child might really be hurt!”. Mom sees blood gushing down child’s leg and knows that this must hurt. Mom calmly says “let’s go get a bandage and get you all fixed up okay?”. Child sniffles and says “okay”. Mom holds child’s hand and she gets child all taken care of. Mom says, “I know that really hurt – you are very brave”. She gives child a big hug, child runs off to play, quickly forgetting they every fell. It’s called “falling off the horse and getting back on again”.

See the little girl in the photo below? She has a scrape and she’s cool with it. She probably got back on her scooter and went along on her merry way.

Child fell off scooter looking at knee

Are you raising a needy child or an independent child?

As much as we don’t like it, life can be rough. You will get scrapes in life. You will fall and you will get hurt – I guarantee it. The thing is though, that there won’t always be someone nearby to pick you up and make things all better. You need to save the tears and drama for the bigger stuff that life will throw your way. If you make a mountain out of a molehill often enough, everything is going to seem tragic. Life can suck sometimes, but you have to learn how to get back up and keep going. The above scenarios are teaching a child to be independent, and to not make a big ordeal about every discomfort. Kids will also learn that in life, you won’t always get immediate gratification. YOU are not the most important person in the world and the world does not stop for you.

Third scenario – child falls and screams bloody murder. Mom freaks out knowing this is very serious. She sees a huge cut and possibly a broken bone. She immediately scoops child up, hugs child and soothes child saying, “it’s okay…you’re going to be fine”. She strokes child’s hair and kisses child’s forehead. Mom knows this must hurt like hell. She tries to remain calm, but it is hard. Mom is extremely worried and almost in tears herself. She gets immediate medical treatment for her child, then when they are back home mom suggests they cuddle up and watch a movie and have a snack. Mom has work that she should be doing but this is more important and she knows this is where she needs to be. Mom and child snuggle and all is well.

Mom is smart. She knows the difference between her child falling and getting a boo boo (and not really hurt – probably just more surprised that they fell), and her child that requires her to stop what she is doing immediately and give her undivided attention to her child in need.

At what age should kids do things for themselves?

In my humble opinion, when kids know how to do something, they should begin doing it for themselves. It doesn’t mean you can’t help or occasionally do things for them, but when they are capable of putting together a lunch to bring to school, let them! Sometimes we get in the habit of just doing things, without stopping to consider that the “child” (or young adult most likely), actually can do things for themselves. And why wouldn’t you let them? If you have several children, let them all do something that is age appropriate. Take a minute and ask yourself (REALLY think about this), “What are things that I do for my child that are actually out of habit? Are they capable of handling it without my help?”. Start today – give them a few new things to do on their own.

child making sandwich

Children know how to work things, and they learn that mom will come running for every little thing if they play their cards right. This makes for NEEDY children who always get their way. They have learned that everything should go their way and that everyone should cater to them. Kids don’t become independent as soon as they should. They even feel entitled, which seems to be the norm these days. As kids get older (and many times lazier), it will only get worse, as they know how to do things, but they just don’t want to. It’s much easier to ask mom to do those things.

Don’t cater to your kids

Truly, the comments on the Sheba commercial post on Facebook says it all. When did parents become pansies? How did your own parents handle the same type of situation? Did they jump up immediately anytime you called for them? Probably not.

So what do you think about the Sheba commercial? Do you consider the way mom handled the incident as child neglect or smart parenting?

Since the child wasn’t crying and wasn’t distressed, how would you have handled it? Do you stop what you’re doing every time you are summoned by your child? What are some things you do to make your child(ren) more independent? Do you think the scenario in the Sheba Commercial is child neglect or smart parenting?

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