Dear John: Diary of a Wimpy Parent
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Is it because no one at home listens to all his good advice? Maybe. But lucky for you, he's here, he's ready to advise, and all you need to do is ask. Which you can do by writing to email@example.com.
My daughter has reached the age where she’s started listening to “grown-up” music – popular music she hears on the radio, etc. Problem is, the CDs she’s listening to have a lot of lyrics and content that I find offensive and unsuitable for a girl her age. All her friends all listen to the same things, so I can’t take them away from her. How can I handle this?
She’s 12, Not 21
Dear 12 Not 21,
This isn’t really about music or foul language as much as it is about standards – the standards you set for your daughter. I disagree that you can’t take these CDs away from her. In fact, I think you must, but when you do, explain that now that she’s almost a teen, she will be exposed to a lot of music (as well as movies, TV shows, etc.) that are not appropriate for a girl her age. Set up some ground rules; for example, before she is allowed to add something to her listening rotation, you must hear it first. I assume you have a computer at home, so if she wants to listen to a CD with a questionable song or two, perhaps you could burn her a cleaned up copy with the offending songs removed. Or if she downloads music from iTunes, make it clear that she is not to purchase anything labeled “explicit.”
Will she still hear this stuff at her friends’ houses or at school? Probably. But hearing some swearing won’t harm her, especially after she gets the message that you make the rules, what her friends’ moms allow is irrelevant, and you love her and care about what she consumes.
My two-year-old refuses to hold my hand when we’re out walking or crossing the street. When I try to hold her hand for her safety, she runs away. It has gotten to the point that walks become very anxious events with me being afraid she’ll run into traffic. Help!
To your daughter, this is a hilarious game. She runs away, and you chase her, making anguished faces in the process! What could be more fun?
You have to impress upon her the seriousness of holding Mommy’s hand when you’re walking where there are cars or other dangers. The next time you’re out with her and you want her to hold onto you, take her by the hand or wrist and get down to her level so you can talk to her face to face. (Note that you have to take her hand without her expecting it. Do not ask her to “take Mommy’s hand,” because that’s her cue that it’s time to play the chasing game.) Without letting go of her hand, explain that it’s very, very important for her safety that she hold your hand when there are cars around, so she has a choice: she can hold your hand or you can carry her. One or the other. You must be firm, consistent, and in control. Do not present this as something it would be nice for her to do; present it as something she must do unless she wants to be carried.
My young kids (second and fourth grade) love to use the computer. My husband thinks it’s a good idea for us to encourage this with educational software, Web sites for kids, etc. I, on the other hand, worry about exposing them to things online that are inappropriate if not downright dangerous. We are at a bit of an impasse. What do you think?
Not a Mac OR a PC
Dear Not a Mac,
I think your husband is to be lauded for wanting your children’s computer use to be enriching, and I think your concern for their safety is also commendable, but I think you’re both missing the point. Young children should not be spending a lot of time in front of a computer, no matter what they’re doing. In my opinion, using the computer is glorified TV watching, and it’s even more insidious because we’ve somehow become convinced that it is vaguely beneficial. It is not. Kids your children’s age should be playing outside, reading books (with real pages that require manual dexterity to turn), or doing crafts or other creative things. They should not be gaping at a screen.
Since they enjoy the computer, teaching them to use it responsibly is a good idea – clearly, some content is better than others. And they should never be using it without supervision. But don’t let yourself fall for the idea that time on the computer is time well spent. For kids (and adults), it’s usually time well wasted.
You know you've got a problem. And you need some solid advice. Send it off today to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make it interesting enough and he'll probably write back. In front of a million of your closest friends.