Values and Decision Making for Parents

How do you handle it when your values are different from other parents?

Last week, Mia, my 13-year-old daughter, had a friend over and they were looking for a good movie to watch. Her friend suggested they watch Zoolander (her favorite.) As I usually do in this situation, I went straight to Common Sense Media to see what they had to say about the movie. I found myself in an awkward situation. This was not a movie I wanted Mia to watch, but I also knew her friend had seen it (it’s her favorite after all) and I didn’t want to make her feel badly that I thought it was inappropriate (when it had been fine with her parents).

When I was growing up I pretty much had the freedom to watch whatever I wanted. (And I made the most of the situation.)  I was exposed to many unhealthy images and scenes that later I could not get out of my mind. As a result, I am probably more conservative about what my kids can see than a lot of moms and dads. This can be problematic.

I’m often unsure how to handle it when “everyone else” is watching movies and tv shows that I really don’t want my girls to see. I want to protect them, yet I don’t want to cut them off socially or have them sneak behind my back.

What I realize as they get older is I need to look at each situation as it arises and choose my battles wisely. If there is something Mia really wants to see, I start by asking “Why would you like to see it?” Is it because everyone else is watching it?  Is this something that is truly harmful for her to see or something we can watch and discuss?

In our classes, we teach kids how to be clear on their values and use them to make good decisions. Lately, I notice how many of my values differ from other parents and brainstorm the best way to handle this.

We all have certain parenting situations that trigger us. Maybe for you it’s whether or not your child can wear make-up, date, dye their hair or walk around the mall without an adult. When faced with these situations, I use care to parent from a place of reason rather than fear. I know these decisions will continue to challenge me but I will do my best to grow with my kids and keep myself involved.

Mia and I ended up watching Zoolander together. It turned out to really not be that big of a deal and I was glad I was there to talk about the absurd scenes and share the experience with her. In this case, my value of wanting to stay close and involved won out.

How do you handle it when other families have different values around what they allow their kids to see, do, or experience? What helps you decide what is best for your family? I’d love for you to share your stories and expertise.