July 31, 2007

Trading In My Pastel Suits

Three little factual nuggets before I get down to the point:

Fact One: I am, I believe, in good company growing up as I did in the Age of Silverstein. This Age succeeded the Ages of Milne and White and ran concurrently with the Carle Era. The Age of Silverstein was, of course, followed by the Ages Dora and Sponge Bob not to mention the Little Einstein Epoch.

Fact Two: The other day I stumbled on a rerun of Miami Vice. I remember when it was on in prime time. It was hip, cool and edgy. There were chicks in bikinis, fast boats, faster cars, chases in said cars, shootouts and, to top it all off, it looked like a box of pastels threw up all over the TV which, for some reason, was rad. Today? Miami Vice seems silly. Like a parody of itself. Didn't stop me from watching, but still...not so rad today.

Fact Three: In the late 1980's the most frequent target of my angst and scorn (besides my parents) was the PMRC, the Parents Music Resource Center. Tipper Gore represented everything that was wrong at the time, to me at least. See, Tipper heard a Prince song (Darling Nikki, if you're curious) and freaked the fuck out. She totally lost her shit and went on a crusade to censor music. She and the PMRC succeeded only in two things - they convinced the record industry to place labels on music and they got to sit in front of congress and say really uncomfortable things like "...chief among them is AC/DC's Let Me Put My Love Into You, Senator Kennedy."

I mention these three things because I've got a quandary on my hands. For her birthday, Mia was given a copy of Shel Silverstein's Who Wants A Cheap Rhinoceros? It is, like all of Silverstein's books, wonderful. With one noticeable exception. While recounting the advantages and disadvantages of owning a pet rhinoceros, Shel says, "And he is great for not letting your mother hit you when you haven't really done anything bad." This page will never be read to my daughter. It begins with the assumption that mothers hitting their kids is standard practice. That is unacceptable.

But where do you draw the line at censoring what your kids read, watch and see? At what point is shielding your kids from the outside world counterproductive?

The stuff on television these days is terrifying. To me. And I'm not a toddler or, hell, a 12 year old. We're light years beyond Miami Vice. I'm of the mind that any music is good music though I might prefer to avoid certain styles. I'll readily admit there are some terrible books out there but the act of reading can never be bad. But I really don't want my daughter tuning in to the misogynistic gangsta rap you can catch on the radio these days. Or picking up some trashy romance novel geared towards preteens. I have, in short, turned into the uptight, tie-wearing prick I so loathed in 1987. I'm not proud of that. The cause, I think, is simple - we spend too much time pushing the envelope without first considering the consequences.

So, I ask you again - at what point is shielding your kids from the outside world counterproductive?

Posted by Chris at July 31, 2007 6:23 AM

The simple answer is that shielding them becomes counterproductive when your control does not extend far enough to maintain the shield.

Protecting her from violence in the media (specifically I'm thinking about television) is something that you can only achieve as long as you have complete control over her television habits. When she's 12 and at a friend's house, you can't prevent them from showing her something you'd prefer she not see at that age. Similar arguments can be made for music and literature or books.

Initially (and in my mind our daughters are still in the initial stage), shielding on its own is acceptable and the best course of action. As children grow, they will become more and more aware of what you are preventing them from experiencing. At this time, we need to talk to them about not just what we are doing, but why we are doing it as well.

We can explain that certain ideas (such as misogyny in rap, violence in a crime drama) are things we would rather never exist. We acknowledge that the world has things in it that we are not fond of, and that we have been avoiding sharing with them since their early childhood. We can explore what makes something undesirable, and what ideals we want to encourage in the world.

By giving them the tools to identify what is appropriate and acceptable, we can teach them to be discerning viewers/readers/listeners.

Posted by: SciFi Dad at July 31, 2007 7:44 AM

SciFi Dad said it perfectly. I have all boys 10, 14 and 20 and that is exactly how I handled it and felt.

So far, they are all turning out mighty fine. Oh, and they don't resent the hell out of their parents!

Posted by: Debbie at July 31, 2007 7:47 AM

SciFi Dad explained it very well. I think you're going to get that response from a lot of parents on this entry.

As a teenager I read a great number (read: all) of Heinlein's novels. Many are a lot of fun, but rife with racism and sexism. Did I gradually become racist/sexist because I read books where it was generally acceptable? No, because my parents had raised me to think otherwise, and I was able to treat them as ideals from the past that my peers and I would never return to, without ruining my enjoyment of otherwise stellar books.

Shield your kid(s) until they're old enough to understand what it is you're shielding them from, and then educate them so they don't have to learn about it on their own.

Posted by: Ross at July 31, 2007 8:03 AM

That Scifi Dad is a smart cookie.

But seriously though..does a sidewalk end and look like a cliff that drops off to no -where? Are there really Rhino's as pets? Does a giving tree actually talk? It is all make believe and so too is the suggestion that mother will hit a child.(although that really does happen it may not with Mia) It's all Make believe. Nothing to sheild there. The book really begins with the assumtion that a Rhino is cheap and could be a pet. From there it is all imagination.

Posted by: William at July 31, 2007 8:16 AM

What I don't understand is that this country cares so much about sex and nudity (Jsnet Jackson nipplegate anyone?) and violence is just fine. A women can't show her breast on tv, but 20 pople being shot in a scene is fine.
I'm not saying nudity is ok for kids, but I'd rather my son see a breast then a mob hit on tv but maybe it's just me.
Michael will never play with a toy gun of any kind. Water gun, I don't care. Guns are not toys.

Posted by: jodi at July 31, 2007 8:28 AM

I think, as Scifi Dad said, shielding them until they begin to have more exposure to the outside world makes the most sense.
At that point, at least to me personally, I'd rather have my kids exposed to things when I am around to discuss it with them than have them off with their friends seeing things I'm not even aware of.
My 11-year-old and I have already had some pretty frank talks about sex, violence, drugs, drinking and a variety of other topics. During the talks, we've had the chance to both share our opinions on what is acceptable and what is not. It's his chance to ask questions about things, and it's my chance to instill values in him on these subjects.
There are some that may think what I'm doing is wrong - that children should be protected as long as possible. And I say to each their own. My theory is that I want my children aware enough of the real world to be able to function successfully in it when they have to, and for me, that means making them aware of what goes on in the real world and how to handle it.

Posted by: Traci at July 31, 2007 9:30 AM

In my house, there was no censorship. I could read or listen to whatever I wanted and some of it was serious crap, especially the teen novels. Fortunately for me, my parents made sure to pay attention to those things and would not hesitate to tell me that they were crap and explain why they thought so. Because of this, by the time I was 13, I would write a letter to any author of "literature" aimed at my demographic if I thought the book sucked. I wrote a scathing letter to one author that based her entire book on one female character dieting by using tricks like cutting up rubberbands in her lettuce to make her salad impossible to eat. Her friend, who was a "fat" ninety pounds, wished that she shared her friend's will-power.

Hmm, I still get riled up about that. Anyway, my point is that I appreciated the opportunity to learn first-hand what I would or wouldn't/could or couldn't tolerate in my entertainment.

Posted by: Melissa at July 31, 2007 9:38 AM

In my house, there was no censorship. I could read or listen to whatever I wanted and some of it was serious crap, especially the teen novels. Fortunately for me, my parents made sure to pay attention to those things and would not hesitate to tell me that they were crap and explain why they thought so. Because of this, by the time I was 13, I would write a letter to any author of "literature" aimed at my demographic if I thought the book sucked. I wrote a scathing letter to one author that based her entire book on one female character dieting by using tricks like cutting up rubberbands in her lettuce to make her salad impossible to eat. Her friend, who was a "fat" ninety pounds, wished that she shared her friend's will-power.

Hmm, I still get riled up about that. Anyway, my point is that I appreciated the opportunity to learn first-hand what I would or wouldn't/could or couldn't tolerate in my entertainment.

Posted by: Melissa at July 31, 2007 9:39 AM

I have always protected our children from the evils outside our walls.
And i think I've done a pretty good job of it, though they both NOW PLAY WITH TOY GUNS! GAH! Brendan wasn't even allowed to have a water gun,,,he had a "squirter" and one that was shaped like a fire house (ok...a little over the top I will admit).
BUT now when he goes to a friends house and they want to watch something like...say......SAW! (omg! who lets their kids watch SAW! I DON'T EVEN WATCH THOSE MOVIES!) he will say "I am not allowed to watch that, can we watch something else?"
If they say no (which has only happened once) he comes home.
And to him it's NO BIG DEAL.


You know what book is out of print and I have LOST?
I Am Blind and My Dog is Dead.
best. Silverstein. Ever.

Posted by: Pamalamadingdong at July 31, 2007 9:51 AM

Once again I have to say, "kids don't come with manuals"...

Ultimately you have to do what feels right to you, in your gut.

In our family there wasn't much in the way of censorship but we talked about it all. A lot. We talked openly about what was good or bad or weird or whatever about what it was they were listening to or watching. They were very good at opening up and for the most part letting me know their points of view, too.

Of course, you have to get to the point where they are really aware of what it is they are watching or listening to and capable of communicating. When they are too little I think sometimes it almost becomes subliminal when they hear music or television or words read from a book. That's the fine line you have to figure out as a parent - and, unfortunately, each child is different in their developmental speed. Trust me, I have 4 (grown) and they are each different people in every way.

Good luck. I know the fact that you even ask these questions is part of what makes you such a great dad and you'll do what is best... for Mia and for you.

Posted by: sue at July 31, 2007 9:54 AM

Good question. I used to use the following axiom when talking about Santa. "When their need to know the truth is greater than their need to believe...that's when I tell them". Is Mia at an age where the idea that parents hit their kids would be hard to understand? Then...maybe this book isn't for her right now. By the time she's four, she'll have witnessed it on her own some place and some time and you can talk to her about it. It's reality whether you/she agree with it or not. Then...here's the book. Later on, when you're watching classic tv and the "I Love Lucy" episode where Lucy tries to do a little matchmaking, you can explain why Ricky Ricardo "spanked" his wife.

Posted by: wordgirl at July 31, 2007 9:54 AM

Good question. I used to use the following axiom when talking about Santa. "When their need to know the truth is greater than their need to believe...that's when I tell them". Is Mia at an age where the idea that parents hit their kids would be hard to understand? Then...maybe this book isn't for her right now. By the time she's four, she'll have witnessed it on her own some place and some time and you can talk to her about it. It's reality whether you/she agree with it or not. Then...here's the book. Later on, when you're watching classic tv and the "I Love Lucy" episode where Lucy tries to do a little matchmaking, you can explain why Ricky Ricardo "spanked" his wife.

Posted by: wordgirl at July 31, 2007 9:55 AM

Yeah, that's a tough one. It strikes me that kids today seem so sheltered from the world that the minute they're 18 and let loose, they really have no clue how to deal with life, in general. Especially the harsher realities of disappointment and failure that they appear to be increasingly shielded from as young'ns (in t-ball, there are no losers...everyone gets a trophy). This type of parenting seems more irresponsible to me than those who punish their kids and set boundaries, teaching them that there are consequences to their actions. I believe kids are looking for those boundaries where personal behavior is concerned; they want them, but more and more, society is going out of its way to remove them.

As for books and music, I think if you teach a child the difference between what is and isn't acceptable, they'll be able to handle whatever comes their way. More importantly, they'll learn from it. Censorship restricts the asking of tough and potentially awkward questions and, by extension, closes the mind. Life requires an open mind.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at July 31, 2007 10:12 AM

I agree mostly with Scifi Dad, however, I think perhaps 12 and at a friends house is a young example. Before I read his comment, I was going to say when they hit school and get to exposed to all sorts of new things the discussions need to begin concerning your editing of the world. For my kids, kindergarten and 5 was the eye opening year.

Posted by: Kelly at July 31, 2007 10:17 AM

I shielded my boys from many, many things. Issues that I did not agree with, things that I thought were too adult for them, things that I just thought were too weird to want to try to explain. Then the oldest one went to Kindergarten. And those other kids? Lots of them weren't sheltered. And they told my boy things, many things that I would prefer that he never learned about. About parents who leave bruises on their children. About kids who don't eat breakfast unless school is in session, because their parents can't afford it. About parents who do drugs, and live in slums. About cussing, and sexual innuendo. At the age of five! Not that I wanted them to learn it from me, but it's nearly impossible these days to keep them from it. All I can do now is run interference, explain to them what I know and what I don't know, and what our family values are--and hope that they are strong enough to resist the bad and embrace the good.

Posted by: Alissa at July 31, 2007 10:28 AM

Skip the page for now. Frankly, the idea that mommies may sometimes hit might just be a little too much and too scary for her to deal with. And quite frankly, that mommies and daddies are sometimes stupid and mean to their kids is a lesson you can put off talking to her about for a very long time I think. But then, I'm irrational on this subject as we know.

Until Leslie was 12/13, I vetted everything she watched, read and listened to. That's not to say I censored all the "bad" stuff but I tried to be as aware as possible of what she was taking in. Sometimes this caused problems and there were accusations of being "unfair" not to mention my friends who thought I was being irrational and overly strict and conservative. So sue me because I didn't think The Simpsons or Beavis & Butthead was appropriate entertainment for a 7 year old. Once she reached her teens I loosened up but still kept an eye on what she was taking in because I needed to be ready to do damage control. It's amazing the information other parents tell their kids that they then pass onto their friends. Frightening really.

Posted by: patricia at July 31, 2007 10:46 AM

I think dialogue is key with kids. But with a line like parents hitting, I wouldn't want to plant that seed of doubt. It is just too awful for words. I wouldn't read it either.

I too remember hating Tipper Gore with a passion. I also remember coming home to find my dad listening to Darling Nikki. Then wanting to "talk" about it. (I am still mortified.) Then I went out and bought every Prince album I could get my hands on.

Now, that The Boy is older, now 6. Nothing gets censored. We tend to make sure TV shows and movies are relatively age appropriate. I did let him watch Pirates of the Carribean with me. And he gets that it's not real.

I think we sell our kids short if we censor too much, but, as lot of other folks have said, probably best that you skip over what offends you while she is little open things up to discussion when she gets older.

Posted by: Nat at July 31, 2007 10:52 AM

I'm with Kelly. As a kindergarten teacher, I see the need for open communication about that stuff when they hit school. You'll be surprised what some kids come in knowing (whose parents weren't as thoughtful as many of us) and they love to tell the other kids about it. I think they need to know about advertising as soon as parents let them watch broadcast tv (as opposed to downloaded/filtered/whatever and are seeing commercials) or even before that if they're watching the crap where the man always saves the woman etc. (Cinderella...) You know your kids best and it doesn't have to be serious but simply saying "That's silly. She could have done that on her own." can make an impact on a 3 year old. Ya know? ;-)

Posted by: Much More Than A Mom at July 31, 2007 10:56 AM

My oldest daughter turns 8 in about 2 months.
She is a reader. She loves to read and reads any and everything she can get her hands on. (She's reading Harry Potter right now, and I suspect she'll be done with book 4 today..) on top of reading, she loves TV.

We've always had the comfort level that if we can feel comfortable talking about what she is seeing or reading, and if it can be explained to her at a level she can understand, then its ok.

the line in the Shel Silverstien book, I'd probably skip with my 3 year old.. but the 6 and 7 year old I'd say, Yeah it used to be common practice for kids to get a swat when they did something wrong, but that doesn't make it right.. More than likely though, they wouldn't even notice the line.. or they would figure it to be "getting in trouble for something they didn't do"

I do find that I censor a lot more on TV than I do with literature.. They are not allowed to watch the Simpsons, Pokemon (just because I can't stand that cartoon!!), or Ed, Edd, and Eddy. But they will sit down and watch Dracula (the old black and white one) with us during movie night.. Whenever they do see, hear, or read something that I don't think is acceptable, I will bring it to their attention.. the series of Junie B. Jones comes to mind. My older two were hooked on these books for a while, they were fun, easy reading books.. but the language and the sentence structure in the books were AWFUL! Stupid this, Dumb that, disobeying her parents, ya know the things that Kindergarteners and first graders do.. ;) But I would take the time and say, its ok that Junie does this in this book, but it is NOT ok for you to behave like this.. seems simple but it works.

Posted by: molly at July 31, 2007 11:03 AM

I don't think I've oversheltered my kids (17, 14, and 7) but they are still pretty naive about somethings... but I would much rather they have seen/heard/discussed those things with me than with their friends who learned about it from some other friend. Was I wrong to discuss masturbation with my 14 yo? Maybe, but I would much rather she learn what it is from me than some future boyfriend or whatever or whoever she would hear about it from. My son (7) watches most things and listens to most music, and we discuss almost all of it.

I worked with a guy who didn't let his kids see or read anything unless he saw or read it first to be sure that it was in line with his thoughts and beliefs. I have a friend that uses white out in her daughters books to keep her from reading things that she doesn't agree with (Junie B Jones books-She thinks that Junie B has an attitude and is disrespectful) instead of discussing how she feels about those behaviors.

THere is much to be said for sheltering and protecting our kids from a lot of the mess that goes on in the world, but there is a lot to be said for having the lines of communication open.

I can count on one hand the total number of times I have spanked my children. I grew up being spanked, and by today's standards it was probably borderline abuse, but I think I turned out ok. My kids also know that there is abuse and that there are people who do things differently than we do, and that some people discipline by spanking. Every person, every family, every situation is different. That's what makes this world so interesting. That's what makes for some pretty intense conversations.

In the end, it's all about doing what YOU feel is best for YOUR child. How much information your child can handle at this time, and how you want to present it.

I remember when I was pregnant with my youngest, and my oldest was 10, her pediatrician said to give her the info about what was going on as she could handle it. She didn't need to know all the finer points of reproduction... I have applied that to everything. I give my kids information in chunks they can process and can understand. I don't "dumb it down" but I don't dump in all in their laps to process...

Ok, I think I have gotten way off point, and rambled way to much.

I really don't think that reading a sentence about spanking will harm her, but she may not yet grasp it, so it's all a personal decision.

Posted by: Karen at July 31, 2007 11:05 AM

We don't censor much of anything in our home, with the exception that we try not to curse too much. Music is wide open. My wife and I practically never watch TV or movies until our son is in bed, so that's not an issue. We will turn on the news, and I don't chase him out of the room (I am a "realist" after, all).

Still, imagine our surprise when, at four, the boy came home chanting, "We like big butts, and I cannot lie!".

We don't censor music, but we don't own that song and don't listen to a radio station that plays it. Where'd he get it? From another four year old. Truth is, inappropriate as it may be, it was funny as hell.

I agree completely with SciFi Dad, but it's amazing how quickly that range of control slips out of the parents hands.

Posted by: Jeff St Real at July 31, 2007 11:21 AM

once children go to school, you're screwed. :) pretty much. they hear/see/learn things you can no longer hide from them.

mia will know that there are mothers out there who hit their children. you can only make sure she knows that she's not one of them.

Posted by: ali at July 31, 2007 11:44 AM

This may be a little off topic. I work at a university and I’ve had the experience of seeing students - adults - who need to call their parents to find out what their major is or what day they have a test. It’s the parents who decide what activities they will participate in, what electives they will take, and what grad school they will attend. The parents are even at the career fairs when their students graduate, handing out resumes and negotiating interviews. These students, these “adults,” are incapable of processing any kind of critical information because it has been processed for them for their entire lives.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Mia is two, and I feel that whatever you decide is right for you and your family at this time is perfect. The fact that you care enough to put this much thought into it demonstrates that you’re a good parent. But, keep an eye on where you draw the line as she gets older. Please don’t screen her college textbooks and picket the university for offering Sociology of Sexuality to your impressionable 19 year old.

Also, I have to say I’m a little upset by the notion of withholding information from our kids to edit the world to our liking, rather than actually taking action to make the world a better place for the next generation. If you don’t want your kids to hear about violence, racism, sexism, drug addiction, poverty, etc., then what are you doing to try to stop violence, racism, sexism, drug addiction, and poverty? Maybe if we were able to work on some of these issues as a society, we wouldn’t have to edit the world quite so much. Or at least our kids would know that we were trying to make a difference.

Posted by: Rachel at July 31, 2007 12:39 PM

Okay, I hear your question, but I must first digress to a subplot.

You do not object to there BEING rap music or Darling Nikki and what she may or may not be doing in the hotel lobby, its just that you don't want your daughter to know it all too soon. I'm cool with that. Tipper is not.

Now, back to the question at hand. It is one of the hardest things in the world to let my little Z interact with kids that aren't as nice to her as she is to them. But I must let it happen up to a point. She needs to know that not everyone has good intentions and it's important to recognize that. As for the hard subjects, yeah, I stammer over the classic Disney books where they refer to the villian being killed. I read them though. And yet, I won't read "bring me her heart" from Snow White because I don't want to explain what that means. She's too young to hear about disembowelment, Walt.

As for censoring... man, I gotta hope that I just encourage her the right way. I fucking LOVED early Metallica, and I still enjoy dark music... but I'm a sissy boy daddy with my kids and that's working out just fine. I'm glad my mom never censored me once I was old enough to understand the bigger concepts.

Posted by: Brad at July 31, 2007 12:45 PM

So here's my two cents, being a non-parent and therefore fairly nebulous in advice.

Does Mia know that hitting is wrong? I'm guessing the answer is yes.

Does Mia know that sometimes people hit each other even though it is wrong? Honestly, this one is totally on you. I hope not, because she's a baby Miabean! But she might know this.

Does Mia know that, in your house, no one is allowed to hit anyone else? Yes.

Does Mia know that other people's houses have different rules than hers? See, this is where things come screeching to a halt for me.

She's two. And having a discussion with her about places with different rules will just confuse her to no end.

And her friends when she gets to school? Might have parents who hit for punishment. This might go into the realm of black eyes and cigarette burns, or it might be spanking for humilation rather than pain when the kid does something that could harm themselves or others. I'll be honest, my mom was somewhere in between those two places, and if Mia came over as a kindergartener and assumed that my mom must be a horrible, bad person, that wouldn't really help me at all. Nor would it help Mia in the future.

I think when Mia gets to the point where she can understand that you are HER parents, not THE parents, then she can talk to you about hitting and parental forms of punishment. When she's twenty, at least. Seriously, though, I can't imagine she's ready at two.

Maybe finding out whether she understands that some houses allow shoes inside while others don't is a good place to start?

Posted by: alektra at July 31, 2007 1:50 PM

At 11, 12, & 14, there isn't much the girls don't know. I spend a lot of time correcting misinformation though.

I was much more strict when they were little than I am now. Two of them are into rap but they've learned on their own (with a little coaching from me) to change the station when the lyrics turn violent. Not all rap is.

I don't know. My folks hated Bill Haley; I loved him. I read everything I could get my hands on which back then wasn't much. I read True Confessions and murder mysteries, much to their despair. We passed around a bootleg copy of Tropic of Cancer. With all that, I turned out okay.

Almost everyone else (SciFi Dad, my friend Traci) said it. I think it's more protective to teach kids about the real world than deal with the rude awakening later. Not at two years old, but certainly by the time she starts school or begins asking those uncomfortable questions.

My girls were talking about an adult (barely) family friend yesterday. Rochelle said "she's a lesbian". Elcie (14) said "no, she likes boys". Rochelle - "she likes girls too". Elcie - "she can't do that". Rochelle (12) "she's bisexual". Rebecca (11) "yep".

About that time I chimed in and asked Rochelle where she learned that word. From the kid across the street, of course. Not that I mind but it was one subject we hadn't covered extensively.

Posted by: ann adams at July 31, 2007 2:52 PM

I think a lot of these comments have hit it on the head. I can't really add much.

She'll be exposed to terrible things one way or another. It's better she hear from you and mom that some people do and say terrible things, but they aren't right.

I believe that if parents are involved, kids will ultimately be more influenced by parents than the media and peers.

Posted by: Lefty at July 31, 2007 3:31 PM

Here is the key that has worked for us so far....answer every question honestly the first time she asks. If she is old enough to ask the question, she is old enough to understand the answer.

How much information you give should be based on how old she is, but at two, most lyrics in songs and words on a page are in one ear and out the other. When she turns 4; however, the questions will start.

I had a Soul Coughing CD in the car, and she must have heard the song "White Girl" a million times, but on this certain particular day, the lyrics finally made sense to her as words she knew. She was so confuse, though, why he was calling her "White Girl." In our home, we do not identify people by the color of their skin, she didn't understand what was white about this girl that would make him call her a White Girl. Now I try to make sure I filter the music I play in the car, but I certainly do not censor.

She is turning 5 tomorrow, and starts school in just a few weeks. I fear what she will come home saying and doing, but since I have spent the last 5 years explaining why we don't call each other names, why we don't hit each other, and why we don't take food, drinks, or pills from strangers, I hope she comes home from school each day the ok.

At toys-r-us today, she pointed out a shelf of those horrid Bratz dolls, and said, "eww, there are those dolls we don't like to have." When she plays at her little friend's house, she will not play toy guns with them (even though they constantly play with toy guns at their house and is ok with their mom). She is already making good choices based on the information I have provided to her, even when I am not there.

Posted by: Jen at July 31, 2007 3:59 PM

I think you can go too far, but probably not just yet. My parents were very strict about everything that I watched, everything that I did, and everything that I read. They were a little clueless about music, thank goodness. But it led to me being very rebellious and not wanting to listen to any of their guidance. They did once make me turn off an episode of Silver Spoons, might I add. With Ricky Shroeder, for crying out loud.

So I lied to them all the time because it was the only way I got to do anything. Of course, that was when I got older. With Mia only 2, I think ruling what she sees and does with an iron fist only makes sense.

As she gets older, you guide her, but you let her start making decisions. That way she can develop her own sense of what's crap and what isn't. Except about Bratz dolls and wanting to be in beauty contests. Those I think you should always reject 100%, no matter what. At least that's what I plan to do with my kids.

Also, love Shel Silverstein, but that "mom hitting you" part is creepy. And yes, doesn't Miami Vice seem quaint now instead of dark and edgy?

Posted by: bad penguin at July 31, 2007 6:44 PM

Ahhh...the PMRC. I don't know what to say about reading books to Mia, though I sense it's ok to skip some things right now. My perspective on music is that in many cases -- at least in mine -- I don't think kids have a clue what they're really saying, they just know they love the music. Kids don't analyze lyrics the way grown ups do. This is not to say you shouldn't care or pay attention to what she's reading and listening to, of course you should. But in the end, she has to find for herself the music that touches her soul. My dad will probably never accept my taste in music or my brother's, but we are each deeply passionate about the music we listen to.

Everyone I can think of whose parents were overprotective -- and I'm talking extreme overprotectiveness -- turned out to be the ones sneaking out and doing all kinds of not so good stuff. However, and I say this not to scare you, but my brother and I were raised in the same house yet we could not have turned out more different. My parents gave us rules, but I would not say they were strict. For example, I never had a curfew really, but I always let my parents know where I was and who I was with and I had no problem with that. My brother, however, not so much.

I don't mean to write the world's longest comment, but just one more thing. At 12 years old I went to my first concert with my friends. I begged and begged. My parents had already kept me from going to previous shows, but I was DESPERATE to go to this one and they finally caved. I thought I was all grown up. Now I see 12 year olds and I think, "I will never let my kids go to concerts alone at 12!" I guess it happens to all of us.

Posted by: laura at July 31, 2007 11:18 PM

I wonder about that almost every day. Just a few weeks ago with a new lullaby CD I got Tim. Some songs were just unacceptable (even though they weren't written to be unacceptable, but times change). Even some children's books are pretty harsh. Where do you draw the line? Because harshness is part of this world. Where do you protect and where do you start screwing up. Parenting can be hard, can't it. Let me know when you find your answer!

Posted by: Nadine at August 1, 2007 5:53 AM

Chris, I don't have kids yet but we are scared to death. We are contemplating moving to Vermont, where he is from, when "the child" is about 7.

I look around my city and I am horrified. Kids, 10, smoking on the corner and doing god knows what. My sisters and brother had a wonderful upbringing and my parents are proactive and attentive (were talking cool aid mom and dinner at the table, no TV every night). Now she has two HS drop outs and its clearly because of the monkey see monkey do pheonomena.

It makes me very nervous.

Posted by: LooLoo at August 1, 2007 12:30 PM

Not a solution and certainly too verbose a comment...BUT We're dealing with this in a similar way. Sydney received "Three Little Kittens" as a gift and in it, mama kitten spanks them for being bad. As Sydney is only 1.5 years I haven't even opened it to read it to her. But I don't know when I will ever let her read it....I don't see how explaining what spanking is will educate her that it's bad. And I don't see how just saying "some mommies hit their kids" as if it's no big deal is going to solve it either.
So, I'm glad you are going through this before me. I hope you can offer me a tip :-)

Posted by: Jessica at August 5, 2007 1:29 AM

I think that line gets drawn when you realize you don't want to have to explain to your child AT THIS MOMENT that some mommies do hit their children. Everything's got a time and a place. Right now doesn't have to be that time.

Posted by: liz at August 5, 2007 10:09 AM