If you are a parent who is totally comfortable with your child growing up and following the cultural mainstream around them, read no farther. If you look around and think, "I woud love it if my child followed the trajectory of where popular culture is taking them," stop here. If you are comfortable with the value system implicit in the movies and TV shows and computer games that are big in your child's peer group, if you see the pop stars and idols and are fine with your child emulating them, then this will be of no interest to you. In fact ,it might make you mad. So, instead of reading any more, may I interest you in reading about my new book, The Kindling (click on the title)?
If, however, you feel anything from a vague sense of unease to outright discomfort at where our cultural streams are going--and carrying your child, then read on.
In my job and in my church assignment, I encounter a lot of parents and a lot of children. Because of these two parts of my life, I tend to watch parents and children anywhere I go. I have noticed in the last few years that many--perhaps even most--parents feel intuitively that they don't like where our culture is headed. They feel uncomfortable with some of the movies their kids watch, with some of the behaviors that are modelled and encouraged. They see everyone else in the culture doing things and so they go along with it, even though they feel unsettled, unsure, or uncomfortable. There's sort of this attitude of, "Well, what can you do?" Followed by a shrug and a sad smile. Good heavens! Have we sunk this low as a culture?
I have a suggestion. Fight back. Assert your authority. Most of all, say, "No."
Your child might really want to do something. That's ok. They probably would like to eat lots of unhealthy foods or sleep too much or not do their homework. I'll bet you say, "No" on those occasions, though.
So why not say "No" when your child is getting involved in something that you don't like or feel good about?
"I don't care what everyone else does. You are not going to see that movie." "You are not going to start dating at 11." "You are not going to wear that."
I am absolutely bewildered by the amount of parents who have simply surrendered to a cultural onslaught. Remember--I'm not talking about parents who have decided they are fine with it. If you are, I happen to disagree, but you're the parent and you can raise your child however you see fit. I'm not here to argue with you today (but also, I told you not to read anymore of this!). I'm talking about parents who don't like these cultural trends, but aren't really doing much about it.
You are the parent!!!! You are not helpless. If your child wanted to eat six bowls of ice cream a day, I wager you would say, "No!" And feel comfortable doing it.
I think some people don't want to seem judgmental or harsh. I understand that, but I don't buy it. This is not about imposing your morals on other people. To the contrary, it's about not letting others impose their values on you. I don't think there is anything wrong with saying, "I disagree. Or even, I believe that's wrong." Having strong values does not make you a hater.
The fact that some executive on Madison Avenue thinks clothing is appropriate for your child or my child is irrelevant. That fact that some board of industry professionals has decided that a movie is just fine for my child to watch is irrelevant. The fact that everyone in my neighborhood or school or church or community center likes the movie is equally irrelevant.
I think some parents are afraid of their children, or perhaps afraid their child will be mad or not like them. I think other parents are just not really sure what to do and maybe wonder if they are wrong to be worried--after all, everyone else is doing it.
Stand up! Be brave. You don't need anyone's permission. You don't need your child to like you or agree with you. You are there to protect them and to make choices for them while they are young and immature and unable to consider all the implications, factors, and consequences of decisions.
Honestly, I think some parents don't want to be seen as being weird, or standing out. I do get that. I am a minority religion and have lived in several places where my beliefs put me in direct opposition to common cultural practices. It's uncomfortable, for sure. Awkward. But, you probably tell your child not to be afraid of standing out, to be different and not go along with the crowd. You probably tell your child to resist peer pressure when it comes to things like alcohol and drugs and cigarettes. Why not do the same thing with cultural trends that worry you and make you uneasy?
Some parents grossly overstate their child's maturity and decision-making ability. This is something I see a great deal. Your child is a child. They are not an adult. They might be bright and organized and clever. They might even be mature for their age. It might be easier to see them as an adult, capable of making decisions that can have an effect on their lives. You might really believe they are capable of it. They aren't. I promise you.
Kids today are sophisticated. They know a lot. But they are still children, still not fully mature, even though they might seem like it. Even the most mature of them are not ready to make all their decisions. They just aren't.
Your child needs you to be the adult, to say, "No."
Be brave! They'll thank you for it later. And yes, you might lose some battles. You might even lose the war. However, I do
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