I couldn’t BELIEVE the things my parents would NOT let me watch when I was a kid. In my mind, EVERYONE got to see all the best movies and they basically had run of the television in their homes. I remember how badly I wanted to watch some of the coolest action movies when I was a wee lad. Well, that was a no, and now I know why.
As Renee and I continue to try raising independent kids who can confidently think for themselves, I am careful to remember that there is a balance in doing this. We want our children to grow to be strong, wise, and ready to face what life has for them. We also do not want them exposed to dangers that may permanently or irreparably harm them.
This became real to me the recently when my 12-year-old son wanted to watch a movie that “everyone else gets to watch.” I too wanted to watch these movies when I was a kid and my parents had very little sympathy for my trouble. I mean, c’mon mom and dad… the least you could do is let this sweet little 11-year-old watch Die Hard. What is this, jail? Back to my son- I thought to myself, “If we’re trying to raise independent kids, why do we monitor what he’s watching? Why do we care what he watches, but we let him decide for himself if he wears a jacket outside on a cold day?”
In this case and most others, what everyone else does doesn’t matter to us.
The answer to this question is simple: there are things that kids are ready to handle and others they are not. More importantly, there are natural consequences that are good for them to experience and there are other dangerous situations they may not understand that can have long-term or life-altering consequences. In general terms, I would split these into categories: 1. Things we decide 2. Things they decide
Things We Decide
- The adults they’re with. We expose our kids to adults of high character and good integrity. We want their grandparents in their lives. We don’t do sleepovers at people’s homes. Each adult in our kids’ lives must be trusted, not by our kids, but by us.
- The media they consume. We don’t allow video games. We are the mean parents who are strict about the movies we watch. Social media is not happening. There is no screen viewing without our consent. Media is the #1 influencer of our kids and they are not mature enough to know the dangers it can bring.
- Where they go to school. Education is the #2 influence in a child’s life. My kids may tire of a small school, or a Christian school… or a school where I’m the Principal;) However, the stakes of a good education are too great for a child to decide.
Things They Decide
- If they’re going to obey. They don’t have to listen, agree, or do what we ask. I would advise it, of course, because there are consequences for not doing so. As we know from adulthood, life goes a whole lot easier when we do what we’re supposed to.
- How well they will do in school. We won’t coerce, beg, or yell our kids into doing well in school. We also won’t stay up until midnight finishing late assignments with them that should have been done earlier. We will, however, put them in a great environment to succeed, offer them loving support, and allow the consequences of failing to run their course.
- Things with normal life consequences. We typically won’t make our kids put on a jacket on a cold day or finish their dinner. They can learn those things are good ideas when they get cold or see those same leftovers waiting for them the next morning at breakfast. Seems like a pretty small price for a great lesson.
I was empathetic to my son, but definitely would not change my mind about the movie. I told him that he can make many choices, but I am responsible to help him decide which media he allows into his head. In this case and most others, what everyone else does doesn’t matter to us. I then let him choose another movie, which he ended up loving, because the truth is that he pretty much loves any movie. I also held off from using “You’ll thank me later” on him. He will, but that’s really annoying to a 12-year-old.