How do I say no in a positive way when my child wants to watch bad TV or movies?

Kids hanging on to television set. Photo copyrighted.

I'm a single parent [LUETTA] and I have my ten-year-old daughter living with me while my sixteen-year-old son lives with his dad. I need some guidelines on how to communicate my values, particularly about TV - some of the cartoons. How can I explain to her that they might look innocent enough, but they are really not good to watch? When I try, she simply says, "Oh, Mom, so what if there are some bad words? I hear this all the time at school. I don't see anything wrong with this program." I usually wind up just letting it go, and I don't know what to do about it.

RANDY CARLSON: In other words, your ten-year-old is sort of running the house.

LUETTA: In some respects, that's true. Maybe I try to take it too easy on her because of the marital breakup and all the things she's been going through. I was divorced only a year ago, so she's still hurting. I'm having a difficult time staying in control.

DR. KEVIN LEMAN: Try to look at your parenting task as being in healthy authority over your child rather than being in control of her at all times, which is impossible. As the single parent, your job is to establish boundaries that are reasonable and firm and then hold your child accountable for staying within those boundaries. It's my guess, as a single mom, you are letting guilt influence a lot of your decisions. Guilt is making you too permissive and, Luetta, you can't let guilt rule your life and then give your daughter carte blanche as far as what she wants to watch on TV.

LUETTA: I'd like to throw this in to help you understand the situation. I've always been a pleaser. I do let my kids have their way because I think that if I don't they won't love me. I know that's not true, but that's how I feel.

RANDY: So you grew up being a pleaser and now that you're a single parent it's obvious that you can't put that pleasing nature and inability to confront on a back burner. You still want people to like you, particularly your daughter. But I think, Luetta, you have to realize, as a parent, your job is to love and discipline your child, not to be liked by your child. There will be times when your daughter won't like you - particularly if you make her change the channel. But your job is to set the boundaries in love and her job is to respect you and obey you. In the long term, you hope that she will love and like you for what you did.

LUETTA: But how do I explain why I don't want her to watch certain programs and movies?

KEVIN: You have to be sure of your own values and stick to your guns. If a program has bad language, just tell her, "Look, I know you hear bad language at school, but that doesn't mean we have to hear it in our home. Let's find another program."

If there's too much violence, just tell her, "This show is too violent. The people who made this program want us to think that killing or hurting people is the way to solve problems."

As for programs that are sexy, this is a great opportunity to share your views about sex, dating, boys, men. Let her know that sex is something wonderful and these programs turn it into something cheap and dirty.

RANDY: The important thing, Luetta, is not to back off. Stand your ground and when in doubt, simply say, "No, we aren't going to watch this or do this because it simply isn't right or good. I love you too much to let you watch or do this." As a single mother who knows she's permissive, you have to keep working at being as authoritative as possible. You have no partner to back you up or provide a balancing style of discipline, so you have to provide that balance yourself. Just hang in there, Luetta; you and your daughter will be okay.

Comment received from a ChristianAnswers.Net reader:

Just a note to let you know that I really appreciate your answer (above) to the single mom who gives in to her daughter out of guilt—re: what TV shows to watch, etc.

I came from a pretty strict family (in my young eyes)—and I'm so thankful because, as a single mother of 2 daughters, repeating those strict parenting habits come surprisingly easy. I'm saddened that my children are not growing up in an in-tact family as both their parents did, but I still feel it is my parental duty to tell them right from wrong—for their own good. They need to know how to make right choices and if they don't learn at home, where will they learn?

Parenting is a serious job the Lord has laid at our feet, and I truly believe He will bless our efforts. Yes, my 14 year old gives me the deep sighs, and "oh, mom!", etc. but I explain over & over that "garbage-in=garbage-out"… My 23 year old and I are much closer than I ever thought we'd be, and now we can be friends. She calls me for my opinion, and more often than not, follows my advice. She trusts my judgment…

I could go on and on… But please let that Mom know that she is not alone in her battle. (We do feel that way sometimes.) Although it seems that folks expect less from single parent homes, I believe we need to provide a stable environment in the midst of divorce storms, and sometimes that means consistently being the "mean Mom" out of love!!

—Joan Waters

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Author: excerpt from Parent Talk by Dr. Kevin Leman and Randy Carlson
of Family Life Communications

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