Most Saturday mornings I exercise in our basement, while my boys play around me. This image reminded me of a conversation I had last week with a family member. We were discussing an article I sent her about the addictive nature of video games. To support her decision of being pro-video games, she gave me the example of her 3 kids playing Minecraft from 3 different floors of her house: the basement, the living room and a bedroom. She relayed that she could hear the kids yelling towards each other betwen floors. For her, this was an example of how interactive video games could be. Our conversation made me reflect on why we choose to hold off on putting tablets and these type of games in our kid's hands. Video games, tablets and the internet have a lot of positive features. In moderation. The main reason we hold off on putting tablets in our 7, 5 and 3 year-old hands is because what they replace. Our kids sit and built with blocks. Oftentimes, there are multiple erruptions of them yelling at each other and banishing each other from playing. This used to bother me. When they used hurtful language towards each other, it frustrated me. Now, it reassures me. When they are yelling at each other, grabbing toys from each others grasps, and ultimately resolving their conflicts, they are learning negotiating skills. These are actual prosocial conversations happening, where they are learning how to work with others. Now, I am reassured when I hear them yelling at each other. It lets me know that they are practicing how to be effective communicators. It allows me an opportunity to coach, encourage and help them shape their interactive skills. So, if you, like me, hear aruging, yelling and sad words being thrown between your children, take heart. Hear these conversations as assurance that your kids too, are learning how to work in groups, and be positive members of a community. So summing up my original thought. Video games aren't negative in moderation. For our family, what is negative is what video games replace. The face-to-face creative, negotiated play that is the platform for young children to learn how to work with others.
Our culture has been slow to realize the harmful effects of pornography, because we are relying on an outdated understating of what is today’s pornography. In yesteryears, people had to go into adult stores and interact with other people in their efforts to acquire pornography. Their eyes lowered, as their guilt and shame rose, when approaching the clerk at the register. With the privacy of computers and endless buffet of pornography, the associated feelings of guilt and shame have been leveled by the false-sense of anonymity. So much so, that the highest volume of pornography is being viewed between 9am and 5pm, during the workday. Yet spouses and parents are still clinging to an outdated view of pornography. For example, when I say, “pornography," what images come to mind? Probably a cover of Playboy, or Hustler, where a woman is half-dressed or naked, lying in wait. Or, perhaps a soft-core movie you have seen while exploring your own sexuality. Our conventional wisdom is not adequately informing us of the reality of what constitutes pornography today. To explain, there is an algorithm that has determined that the deeper you go into the world of online pornography, the deeper your need is for “hardcore” sexual fantasies. The algorithm vetted that the pornographic content of the person who is falling down the pornographic sinkhole, moves from images of two-partner sex, to multiple partner sex, to S&M, to bestiality and ends with child-featured pornography. This happens over time. It sounds extreme. However, most parents and partners are not themselves falling down the sinkhole of pornographic hell, so they really do not know the degree of disturbing content available.
Children are now viewing online pornography at the average age of 11, and report seeing images that they did not intend to, or want to see. The internet functions like YouTube for them, clicking on image after image, video after video, that eventually parades them down a path their naïve minds would never had consented to, but by that time, it is too late. They cannot un-see in retrospect. When parents think, “Oh, my child would never do that,” when it comes to online pornography, what they should realistically think is, “my child would never intentionally do that,” because it is not intentional. It just is. Which is why the average child views pornography by 6th grade. And by 12th grade, 93% of boys have viewed it. And, my guess is the remaining 7% are the small remaining children who do not have their own computer, tablet or phone by age 18.
Adults suffer from the same opportunities as children with access to pornography and lack of accompanying emotions of guilt and shame. When guilt and shame function in purposeful ways, they are intended to alert us to behaviors that are not good for our soul. Guilt and shame have gotten bad names because of the exploitation of them by faulting adults or religions, which abuse them to control or manipulate. The guilt and shame I am referencing is our bodies and minds connection, the bodies regulating system that says, “hey, this is not a good idea, we should really reconsider what we are doing here.” When viewing images of pornography that result in guilt and shame, it is the human compass alerting the captain to take a different route next time. Or, to stay at home.
There are two takeaways from this information. The first is prevention. If you are giving a child their own phone, tablet or computer with Internet access, you must believe they are mature enough to navigate the technology safely. But, with any major milestone, such as giving access to the Internet without constant supervision (which is the reality of phones, tablets, or computers that are not permanently stationed in a high traffic area of the home), there needs to be education. Just as you taught your child how to safely climb playground equipment, now is the time to teach them how to tunnel through technology safely. Part of the conversations has to be about what is possibly available to them with access to the Internet, in age-appropriate ways. Even YouTube has pornographic videos on it, so if you are allowing your child to navigate YouTube without constant supervision, you are handing your child a loaded barrel, while crossing your fingers that your child’s finger does not make its way to the trigger. Parents have to teach their child about what is available on the Internet, again in age-appropriate ways, to make them aware of what can happen if they start to mindlessly search or open window after window. I suggest reading the book,
Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids as a book place to start. The other part is making sure you know what they are looking at, or downloading. Giving your small child Internet access and headphones without closely supervising what they are doing is unsafe. Keeping technology in high traffic areas of the home encourages safe browsing of websites.
The second part of takeaway from this article is what to look for in case your child is having a pornographic addiction. The number one sign in adults, is withdrawing from sexual activity from their partners. Adults too fall down the pornographic sinkhole. Withdrawing sexually is a big sign that one partner has rewired his or her arousal template with pornography. Another sign is an inability to become aroused or climax in intimate partner sex. When people rewire their arousal templates, their imaginative sex life disrupts their intimate partner sex. But with our older children, we are rightfully blind to their sexual patterns and behaviors. We probably will not know if they sexually withdraw from their partners. What we can pay attention to are the signs below:
* Shows changes in behavior, mood, or sleep.
* Shows decrease empathy for others
* Has seemingly poor time management or misses deadlines
* Isolates him- or herself from family or friends
* Shows declining academic or work performance
* Seeks pornography when feeling stressed, anxious, or angry
* Loses track of time while viewing pornography
* Becomes angry or irritable when asked to stop
*Continues the behavior despite attempts to stop or despite being punished for it
If you are uncomfortable asking your child or loved one about their pornographic habits, seek support. Find a Certified Sex and Love Addiction Therapist (CSAT), in your area: https://www.iitap.com/therapists-search. If you are concerned about your loved one or child, getting help right away if the first step. The longer the addiction goes untreated, the more social-emotional consequences there will be and the harder-wired the addictive behaviors will become.
The first step is to start talking about it with your children and with your loved ones.
As our little people learn language, they can begin to express their wants and needs verbally. Finally, all our efforts into promoting speech production pay off! All those activities of pointing, modeling to identify objects by name, and exchanges between adult and child has culminated into…. Being bossed around by 2 year-olds. "I want milk. Give me a cookie. I need my jacket. Not that jacket!" And so it goes…. So, how do we continue to encourage positive verbal communication, without feeling like our lives are being managed by tiny drill sergeants, who follow us around all day, and belt endless orders to meet their ever-changing needs? By helping them learn how to convert their needs, problems, and wants, from statements into questions.
Michael: (a thirsty 2 year-old) Mom, get me milk.
Parent: (A patient Mommy) Sounds like you need help. Why don’t you ask me a question with manners?
Michael: Mom, can you please get me milk?
Many times, in their egocentric world, children make requests with loud volume and demanding tone. It comes out in curdling ways. The first part is teaching kids to ask with manners. Initially, whenever coaching them to use the words please, thank you, excuse me, in daily interactions; add the phrase, “with your manners.” Eventually, you can drop the first part (please, thank you, excuse me, etc), and ask them to use their manners and they can come up with which manner to use. The second part is to coach them in converting their statement into a question. Putting it all together sounds like:
Parent: Danny, we are about to leave, can you please find your coat?
Danny: (a vivacious 4 year-old) after a few minutes of looking
I can’t find my coat. Ugh. It isn’t anywhere.
Parent: Sounds like you have a problem. Why don’t you ask a question?
Danny: Where is my coat?
Parent: I am not sure. Sounds like you need help. Why don’t you ask another question with manners?
Danny: Mom, can you please help me find my coat?
Parent: Sure, let’s go look.
Coaching children to convert their demands into questions also affects their emotional state. Demands usually are saturated in a problem- lacking the item of desire, whereas questions are saturated in the solution of getting a problem solved. Once your child becomes familiar with the model, they will begin to internalize the process. Granted, it may take a
L O N G time for them to internalize the model, and even still revert back to the curdling demands from time to time. But the times when they remember what to do, stay calm, and ask for help are so validating that all that coaching is a total WIN!
If you, like me, have experience raising rowdy 2 year-olds, then you know it takes the patience of a turtle in a triathlon, to get to glory of the 3s. And it feels like a triathlon with all the running, ducking, zigging, and zagging. A lot of literature advises parents, do not tell the 2 year-old “no”; instead tell them what they can do. Now, that is great advice. But, when you have 2 year-olds like my 2 year-olds, it starts to become quite time consuming to think of what they can do for the non-stop things that they cannot do. And quite frankly, sometimes, I am not in the mood. So, for all those realists like me, who cannot always take the time to think of a replacement behavior, adopt the “No Thank You.” I find that it is just as effective in distracting the 2 year-old from the presented behavior long enough, that you can effortlessly redirect them into a more desired behavior. For example,
Michael: opening cabinet that holds all the pots and pans
Mommy: while removing Michael’s hand from the cabinet No Thank You redirecting him to another area of the kitchen.
As you physically redirect them, the verbal prompt, “no thank you,” creates a non-confrontational interaction, and eludes the power struggle. The difference in a “no” vs. a “no thank you” keeps the interaction light. Follow up with a quick physical redirection (reposition their hands, move them to another area of the room, give them something else), and keep on moving to the finish line.
In the movie Frida, there is a scene where a friend asks Frida how she could love Diego Rivera, who a philandering man. Frida’s answer is one that captures how to be happy in any relationship. The essence of the answer is that she loves him for exactly who he is; because it would be impossible to love someone (or something) for what it is not. However, many married people behave this way without even realizing it. People are creatures of habit. Regularly, we have patterns to our behavior, when we wake up, how we spend our day, what we do for leisure, etc. So, when a wife (or husband) becomes upset repeatedly for a similar behavior done by a spouse, in order to free themselves from the frustration, all they have to do is adjust their expectation. For example, if a wife always goes out for happy hour after work on Fridays and comes home at 10, the husband may want her home by 9. Every Friday, the wife says she will be home by 9, and then always comes back by 10. The husband becomes frustrated over and over again. The wife has never done anything different then come back home by 10, and yet, the husband expects her to behave differently every week. Disappointed when she acts just as she always has, the husband becomes upset and agitated, and they fight when she comes through the door. Now, what if the husband adjusted his expectation to align with exactly the way the wife behaves? What if he expected her to come home by 10 or even 11, even if they had verbally agreed on 9? How much different would her homecoming look, when she does exactly as she has always done, and come home by 10? Once the husband’s expectations align with the wife’s patterned behavior, then harmony results. It is when we expect different that we become disappointed. The same scenario could be applied to a variety of situations. For example, if you expect your spouse to put her dirty clothes in the hamper, and she always leaves them on the bathroom floor, adjust your expectation. Expect her to leave them on the bathroom floor. Then, when she acts the way she always has, your feelings are in unison with her known behavior patterns. We must love our partners for exactly who they are, in this day and time. We cannot love them for who they are not. People teach us who they are through their very routine behavior patterns. Pay attention to what people do, and we will know what to expect from them. You can be happier in your marriage immediately once you align your expectations to your spouse’s patterned behaviors.
Marriages are a lot of compromise. I have been married for almost 9 years, and it is surprising that if I did not think of an idea, my first instinct is to reject it. No matter what it is, when it comes to making a decision, if I did not come up with it, my first instinct is to take the side of “no.” Now, I might be going out on a limb here, but my guess is, that I am not the only person in this camp. And since it is my experience that the woman are more times the daily decision-makers in the home, this post will be written as such. Now ladies, hear me out. We have a tendency to be the more "opinionated," one in the relationship. We like what we like. The trouble is that if we do this too often, it may cause our husbands to withdraw. Let me cite my own example. The most recent decision was our oldest boys bedroom set. We were looking online for sets, and my husband sent me different models. The one he was felt strongest about getting, my first instinct was “no.” After investigating my own feelings, there was no real reason why a corner set (twin beds shaped like an L), would not work in the room. I just did not have experience with a set like this, where he had one growing up. (Aside: in marriages, 90% of how we do things is based on what we observed from our parents. The only merit of doing things one way over another is our personal experience. A whole other blog will address this topic). So, since I like Chris’ participation in household projects, I withheld my “no” and maintained my speculation. My speculation was maintained from the time he purchased the bed, to the time I watched him bring it into the house piece-by-piece. For me, it is best to maintain my silence while I am maintaining my speculation. Even after the bed was set-up, I voiced encouraging statements, “looks great,” while again maintaining my uncertainty. It would be rude to criticize a project that had just consumed my husband’s entire day. Knowing myself well enough, and him just as well, I stayed quiet. In this situation, I ended up loving the bedroom set. It opened up the room, and now the boys play in there three times as much as they did when they had side-by-side twin beds. What experiences like this reinforces, is that even though my first internal instinct might be “no,” my first voiced reaction can still be a “yes.” Not every time does it work out so positively, and there are still times when I do not end up agreeing on the choice (I am thinking of the cinderblock planters), but choosing to compromise, adds the variety that makes it a partnership. So, if you are the spouse directing most of the decisions lately, and you want your spouse to stay engaged (or re-engage) in the daily decisions in the home, vacation plans, issues with the kids, etc., then give them the space to make some of those decisions, and turn your instinctual “no,” into a voiced “yes,” or at least a considered “maybe”?
Have you ever turned on a movie and become unpleasantly surprised by the content? That happened to me last week. When the 2014 Annie became available on my DVR, I turned it on for my 2, 4 and 6 year-old. Both the 1982 and 2014 versions are rated PG. However, the newer version adds needless poor language, which is why I turned it off after one character used the word “ass." Later, I discovered the word hell is used twice, as well as damn, suck and son of a bitch (without finishing the phrase) but the meaning is understood. The experience reinforced our choice of TV Censorship in our home.
My children are allowed to watch shows that have parental approval. This rule developed over time, after being exposed to shows that contained language and behavior, from characters which I did not approve. For example, as my 6 year-old’s independence grew, he started turning on shows rated 6+. The humor in the shows includes a lot of name-calling, mockery and fantasy violence. The characters behave disrespectfully. So, knowing that kids learn behavior from what they see on TV, it felt contradicting to allow them to watch characters behaving badly, and then discipline them for doing the same. By giving passive approval for behavior and language, through what I allow my children to watch on television (and play on video games), presents a double standard if I then turn around and discipline them for imitating that behavior.
This how we came to start talking about TV show ratings in our home. They are a starting point for what our children might be able to watch. We use them as a guide. My 6 year-old constantly tries to negotiate shows that are out of his rating zone. I remind him that the people who give the ratings do not necessarily care about him, nor do the writers for the shows they put on TV. If they did personally care about him, they might reconsider story-mapping episodes, like one that comes to mind, where the main character learns profanity. So my answer is no, he cannot watch certain shows. Then, I remind my son that I love him. I care about what he allows his eyes to see, because they tell his brain how to act, which tells his heart how to feel. I say this fervently so he knows how much I love him.
It is hard to stand my ground. There are many times I want to give in and let my children dictate what they watch to avoid the backlash. But I do not. Because it is true, we as parents cannot entrust any Hollywood writer to come into our homes, and talk to our children just because they are packaged as cartoons. Without any background information on these writers, their standards and values may differ greatly from ours, which can be evident in the material they intend for young audiences.
Start the conversation with your own children by checking the ratings of the shows they watch, and you might be surprised by the corresponding age suggestions. And in thinking about what the content of a PG movie consisted in 1982 and what it consists of 2014, realize how loose our societal ratings have become. Use the guiding question as you approve or disapprove of the shows you allow your children to watch, “if my child said or acted this way, would I approve?” If the answer is no, then allowing them to watch it can be confusing. We are social creatures who learn from what we see. Allowing models through TV of bad behavior and then expecting children to be mature enough “to see and not do,” is a skill that most young children have not mastered. So as parents we have the sometimes painful job of filtering their eyes and ears from material that doesn't enrich their lives. You can do it. Stand your ground. Remind them how much you love them, much more then young Hollywood writers, and use that powerful force of love to press that TV control to off!