Tuesday, March 3, 2009

How Much is Too Much for Our Kids?

For a party favor from a ten-year-olds birthday party, my son received a mix of the friend's favorite music. Great idea. We did the same for our ten-year anniversary party. I scanned the list of songs before my son put it in the cd player, "Lay Down," "What is Love," "Heartless," "I was Wrong," "Dirty Little Secret," "Talk Dirty to Me," and more. What! Most of these songs my son has never heard and I told him to skip certain songs, especially the ones labeled "dirty" in the title. They might just be songs, and maybe the kids don't really listen to the words and don't know the meaning, but I was still surprised these songs were on a cd for ten year old's ears.

One morning as I was driving my kids to school, we were listening to a song on the radio which I had never heard. There was a curse word in it and I didn't catch the down volume in time and the boys heard it. I apologized for not catching it and then changed the channel. I asked them if any of their friends say that word and discovered it was rather common among the fourth graders. Although, my eldest son informed me that he had vowed awhile back that he would not cuss. I was surprised he went as far as taking a personal vow. "Oh really," I said, "how did you come about doing that?" He wasn't sure why, he just didn't want to start with any cuss words. My younger son voluntarily said, "I don't think I can take that vow." Oh geez, he is only seven and knows one day he will be saying words he knows he shouldn't.

How do we protect our kids not just from swear words, but violence and cruel behavior? When my son was in kindergarten his classmates were able to go to the movie theater to watch the newest Star Wars #3. Do you remember that one? It is rated PG-13 for violence - such as when Annikan goes to the dark side and kills all those kids or when OB1 watches Annikan suffer in the lava. Yeah, a real good one for a five year old.

I wish I could protect my two boys from exposure to swear words, violence, and "sexual" implications all over the media, but unfortunately it is almost everywhere. At ten, they become more aware of their environment and start realizing what has been going on around them all along. They can join in or decide to continue being innocent.

When my eldest son was in first grade, there was a student in the class who could not control his rage and not only did he shout out choice swear words he even knew how to put an entire string together. That is when my son learned the cuss words. Way too young to know them. Although the child was sent to Principal's office almost on a daily basis, he kept returning to school with his anger (the boy did not return the next year).

Watching a super bowl game or just a Sunday afternoon football game, the commercials are not child friendly. The billboards on the highway reveal women in their underwear. The cartoons sneak in adult only content. Not only is it difficult to draw our family boundaries of what our child can watch or hear, the media is demanding that our children hear or see these items before their time.

How do you draw the limit for your child(ren)? When is it acceptable for our children to be exposed to things we have been keeping from them to keep their innocents? Our children grow up so fast anyway, why expose them to adult themes too early in life. But, when is too early? How do we protect our kid's from in appropriate things that are visible all around them?

1 comment:

  1. Gosh, I sure can relate to this one. We had a couple bad incidents in school last year with our third grader. I almost pulled her out of school so I could home school her. I made sure to request said "nasty kids" would not be in her class this year and so far this year has been so much better. We had to have conversations (about sex) with our daughter that we weren't quite prepared to have just yet. We try to only watch G or PG movies, but at times those aren't even appropriate. For the most part we listen to country music, which isn't filled quite so much with violence and sex. But the best thing I have found that works for me, esp. as kids get older (I have 2 adult children) and you have less control is Talking & Listening. Just being there so the kids can talk to you and having open ears to listen. It's a tightrope walk as far as knowing when to shut up and listen, when to not be too strict, too judgemental, when not to pass on the info that you are hearing about their friends to their friends parents. The key, for me, is to build their trust in me (and me in them to make the right choices), to listen, not tell and not judge. And also live by example. They are going to hear things and see things that we don't like, unfortunately, but making sure they are raised with good morals does help.