A Slippery Slope
A Slippery Slope
This month, executive editor Elaine Heitman and I were discussing how easily we acquiesce to children’s requests at times. She recounted a story of an acquaintance who accepted her son’s new air-gun hobby (of which she disapproved), and how it grew into something bigger, until one day she realized she had to stop it. Even though the decision was not popular with her son.
It recently happened to me, too, and I found myself quickly sliding down that slippery slope of parenting.
My son Crawford loves Japanese anime cartoons. I restrict them, because I think these battle cartoons promote fighting to solve problems. Thus ensued our own family battle. I stood my ground bravely for years. His requests to watch them slowly wore down my resistance, though, like water eroding a rock in a stream. In the end, a cartoon character named Ash and his little yellow friend, Pikachu, defeated me. My son was triumphant. And Pokemon quietly snuck into our Saturday morning routine. And more followed.
The final frontier came in the cartoon series, “Naruto.” Crawford was relentless in his negotiations, “Please Mom. Joey’s mom says it’s OK.” And, the dreaded . . . “Dad lets me watch it.” Suddenly I found the slope getting very slippery, so I gave in. Until one day, merely by chance, I sat down to watch the cartoon with him. In less than five minutes, three characters were bleeding, one with a nasty gash above his eye that bled down his cartoon face. In my view, this was not appropriate for a 7-year-old. I had known it all along. My steely resolve resurfaced. I stood up from my chair, an empowered mom, and turned off the TV.
I don’t know why I let it go that far — why I didn’t watch the show or research it sooner. Like my executive editor’s story of the mom whose son’s air-gun hobby got out of hand, the erosion of my standards crept up on me. And in my busy world, I let other parents’ decisions stand in for my own; because I convinced myself it was not important. And I worried I might not be “right.”
We know in our gut what is right for our children, yet sometimes we let it slide. The key is to be aware of the slope and don’t slip too far. Stand up for your own set of rules. And never be afraid to reverse a decision. Little choices become big decisions that can turn into even bigger mistakes.
This month’s article “Whose Rules” by Brett Sember McWhorter gives guidelines for standing up consistently, even if separately, about rules. And if you’re suddenly resolved to get your child away from cartoons, get outdoors and discover the joy of building a tree house together with expert advice from David and Jeanne Stiles.
In my conversations with readers I hear a common question: What is the right way to parent? No one wants to be too strict. But no one is sure of the rules, so we slide a little when it comes to our children. Parents say, “After all, things are different these days for kids. It’s not like when we were growing up.”
I don’t agree. Cartoons, fashion and toys may be different, but I believe the basics of parenting are the same for us as for our parents. We simply have to uphold our beliefs and standards. It is our job — a full-time one — to teach our children those beliefs, provide guidance and enforce rules — even when it makes us unpopular. There is no ‘right’ way to parent. And if we slide down that slippery slope, we must get up and try again.
Tell me when you’ve slid a little or haven’t by writing to email@example.com. Or drop me a note at Charlotte Parent, 2125 Southend Blvd., #253, Charlotte, NC 28203.
Yours in the struggle,
Resource: A family media rating Web site, www.commonsensemedia.org that I added it to my parenting arsenal to assist with age-appropriateness for music, movies, television and interactive media. “Naruto” is rated as suitable for age 11.
CORRECTION: In the April issue, we incorrectly printed Creative Prose’s listing. It should have read:
Developed to provide writing enrichment to children, Creative Prose’s fun and entertaining writer’s workshops are designed to enhance and supplement traditional or home-based education. Committed to the Arts in Education initiative, they are available for school staff development or to speak to parents’ groups and PTAs. (704) 975-2846.
Charlotte Parent magazine’s editor, Crawford’s mom and Chip’s wife.