Man, it feels good when your child makes the right choices on their own.
We all know about those ‘Oh my God I’m a terrible parent everything’s falling apart’ moments, justified or not. I’ve had plenty of them.
But sometimes, just sometimes, we’re lucky enough to experience the opposite – the ‘Look, look, aren’t we great!’ moment when you catch your child doing something which vindicates your entire parenting philosophy. And it’s even better when they don’t know you’re watching.
I remember one which happened when Layla was about 5. We were at a friend and she was watching the little boy of the same age playing a skating game on the Playstation.
I like to think I have a reasonable approach to screen time and what’s allowed to be seen. I’m not one of those Mxit-Stole-My-Baby oddballs; my feeling is the devil won’t make you do it, and neither will Facebook or Tomb Raider.
But still, letting small children see continuous mindless violence for the sake of it with no comment from parents is just silly. I’ve always made my views known by simply commenting on what we’re seeing, and hoping that it will sink in. I’m not trying to protect my children from ever seeing anything bad, but rather I’m hoping to instill a feeling of uneasiness about the nasty stuff. Just that little nagging voice which says ‘This is too much’.
And if they are well-balanced in every other way, then that internal voice is enough to keep them from the axe, no matter how many movies they watch.
But back to the Playstation boy…
It seemed a harmless enough game; skateboarding tricks and so on. Then I noticed that he was earning bonus points for lobbing apples at pedestrians! Extra points for every old lady he clobbered.
It’s not even as if it was a fight situation where you’d be defending yourself, even with blood that would make more sense to me than this. Here there were no exploding heads and no death, but still… Yeeugh. You know when something just feels wrong?
I didn’t say anything because it wasn’t my house and I’d planned to mention it to Layla afterwards. She sat in silence for a while, watching.
Eventually, after the 15th apple she said ‘You know, my mommy’s not going to like this very much. I think it’s stupid to get points for hurting people. Let’s play something else.’
Yoh! Talk about proud mommy. All my carefully placed casual comments in the past had worked! My little girl was figuring things out for herself, making her own choices and making the right ones. So we must have been doing something right, yes?
As for the little boy – he didn’t have the slightest clue what she was talking about. He saw nothing wrong with it, because nobody had ever planted that little seed of conscience in his head. Nobody had ever remarked ‘Oh, that’s nasty, I don’t like that’. When they are that young, that’s literally all it takes.
Even if he never sees any onscreen violence again, without that little voice in his head, I think he will be more likely to choose badly when it really matters. Ever had a ‘I must be doing something right’ moment?
Read more by Tracy Engelbrecht