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“When my son goes over to his friend’s house, they let him watch movies I don’t approve of and play video games I don’t like either. I love the parents but I’m how do I tell them that he is not allowed to watch certain shows or play certain games when he’s over there?”
Two weeks ago, we looked at some foundational questions each family needs to answer, ideally long before an issue like this crops up. And a number of TMI mentor moms, plus some guests, weighed in with their recommendations.
Today, let’s look at three stages of parental involvement in TV and movie exposure:
When our child’s maturity level is such that they are totally dependent on us for guidance, it’s our responsibility to get to know their friends’ parents. We must actively advocate for our child’s needs and our family’s values.
One of my child’s friends had a severe peanut allergy, and when her child was young, she left nothing to chance. She called and talked with us, reminded us regularly, and sent “uncontaminated” food for him to eat.
Likewise, when my children were too young to speak up for themselves, I talked with adults to let them know that our kids watched little TV and few movies and, thus, were easily over-stimulated by visual media exposure. We asked to always be consulted prior to TV and movie watching.
When one family member knowingly violated our expectations by showing a 10-hour TV “mini-series” start-to-finish, the consequence was that I did not trust them with my children again.
When our children’s maturity level is such that they are able to comprehend our family’s values, we need to be in natural, on-going dialogue about all aspects of media consumption. Rather than teaching a simplistic “good list” vs. “bad list” mentality, we want to equip our children with skills to make wise choices about the content of what they view and the time they invest in passive watching. Lori called this giving them “tools to go with the rules”!
Drive time can be wonderful role-playing time during which to discuss and practice hypothetical scenarios. Providing our children with simple scripts and rehearsal time helps them develop life-long skills for self-advocacy.
My children wanted to know how to stand up for their beliefs without coming across as “preachy” or disrespectful. So we worked together to craft specific phrasing that they were each comfortable using.
During this stage, we were always available as back-up, whether by phone or car. Just as my father did for me, I told my children that they could call me any time and ask to be picked up from any situation, and I’d either show up or pay for a cab, no questions asked.
Ultimately, we want our children to own their values independent of us. We want to trust them to make wise (albeit difficult!) choices even in the midst of potentially awkward situations.
This, too, requires practice. And like all practice, it will involve “failure.”
Unfortunately, during this stage, I was too quick to react without listening. My daughter was so afraid of disappointing me, she tried to cover her mistakes rather than process and learn from them.
Keeping a safe, open dialogue about what’s not working is vital. The more our children can reflect on their progress at self-monitoring, the further they will mature.
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