Is 4 year old Riley ‘brainwashed’ by her dad?

By now, you’ve probably seen the video that’s gone viral of four year old Riley complaining about the genderfication of toys.

Commenters all over the internet and Facebook are crying foul, protesting that Riley is brainwashed and being coached as she’s filmed by her father. Here’s one comment I got on SFGate:

Riley’s video would be alot more moving if her Dad wasn’t audibly coaching her from behind the lense. She’s parroting what he’s been pushing on her.

Even alternative sites like this one suspiciously speculate on the behind the scenes, manipulative influence of Riley’s father.

So often, if people witness a parent stray from social norms, buying her daughter a superhero costume or her son a toy stroller, they conclude that parent is “brainwashing,” “programming,” or “coaching” her kid away from “natural” behavior.

I won’t repeat it here, but if you think the color pink or baby dolls are “natural” for girls, please see this post.

This Christmas, my two-year-old daughter was devastated when her slightly younger two-year-old cousin received a super cool, light up, noisy truck. Oh, how she wanted that truck. What two-year-old wouldn’t? Do you think any one gave her one for Christmas? No, that would be “brainwashing.” It would be making some kind of statement.

Guess what? Parents are supposed to “brainwash” their kids. It’s called parenting. It’s our job to instill values and beliefs in our children and give our kids positive reinforcement when they show behavior we want them to practice. Obviously, kids rebel and figure out their own way, but it’s our role to give them a structure to work with. I don’t know why when it comes to toys or movies, people think we’re supposed to suddenly abdicate that responsibility. Kids learn through play. Doesn’t everyone know that by now? Everything they watch on the screen is “programming” them. That’s what a program is.

If Riley’s father is brainwashing her, if he is giving her attention, filming her for the camera, letting her be a star as she goes along on her diatribe, he’s being a good dad; he’s “brainwashing” his daughter to be open, consciously encouraging her to allow more experiences to come into her world, not less. Isn’t that the best kind of brainwashing? Isn’t it preferable to the limiting, reflex, “positive” reinforcement my daughters, and daughters all over the world, get everyday when people beam at them and say: “I love your dress, shirt, shoes, pretty girl/ princess!”

When people argue that Riley’s father, the one who is supposed to bringing her up, is manipulating her, but that standing in a chain store’s pink aisle full of dolls created and marketed by multinational companies is somehow “natural,” it shows just how backward and twisted kidworld has become.