The Non-Existent Rules In Our Home

There has been a lot of discussion around the intraweb about what parents will and will not let their kids watch for entertainment. I thought I’d chime in to share my “rules” for LilZ. Except that there really aren’t any. But, before I get into that, let me give a little background on those regulations (or lack thereof) by explaining key factors about how MrZ and I grew up.

1) I grew up with a few friends who were very strictly banned from watching anything rated PG-13 or higher. Even in high school. So, they simply lied to their parents. We still watched the movies either in the theater or at other friend’s houses, their parents just didn’t know. I remember one friend who told her Dad at least half-a-dozen time we were seeing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. When we never had even seen it once.

2) MrZ and I both grew up with few restrictions on what he could watch ourselves. Especially in terms of horror movies. In Junior High, the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th movies were staples for sleepovers. In my group (of girls) we watch those as well as Dirty Dancing at our slumber parties. I bet I saw Dirty Dancing 50 times before I even entered high school.

First of all – I’m fairly confident that my Junior High child is going to be seeing Rated-R movies at some point in time regardless of the rules I set. I’m sure there are parents who successfully protect their children from Rated-R movies through Junior High, but I just don’t really see that as a possibility in our lives. I don’t have the desire to call Moms before sleepovers to make sure no movies are rented that I don’t approve of. I don’t feel like escorting my child to the theater to buy tickets to a movie to make sure it’s PG and not PG-13. In terms of priorities in my parenting world? None of those things are very high. I’m too busy trying to figure out if I can wait one more week before washing the sheets on my kids’ beds before they’ll disintegrate under the filth. If I can squeeze in one more episode of Samantha Who? before I do laundry, then I consider it a good day.

Secondly – I would much rather my son see one of the Rated-R comedies in the theaters (Sarah Marshall, Superbad, Knocked Up etc.) than half of the forensic/crime dramas on television right now. To me? Sex jokes and naked bodies are way more tolerable than Bones or CSI or especially Law & Order: SVU. That show talks about rape and pedophilia and show graphic shots of abused bodies. And it’s on network television at PRIMETIME. I just have a hard time getting worked up over nude scenes and sex jokes in movies when NBC is showing a dead girl who has just been raped by her uncle.

Lastly – have you listened in on any Junior High or High School kids lately when they didn’t think you were? I sit in a line to pick up my Junior High kid several times a week and hear groups of well-dressed, well-groomed kids walking by cursing like sailors. For example, I saw a name-brand wearing kid whose Mom drives a car with a church sticker on the back say, “She’s just a fuckin’ whore. Screw her.”

There’s a lot of talk about sex and drugs in the schools as well. And LilZ attends a very well-ranked public school in town that has minimal negative reports in terms of academics or discipline. It’s kinda snobby, almost. The kids that go there dress better than I do. (Which, isn’t that hard to do, I’ll admit.) This is a “good school” with “good kids” but I’m still no longer naive enough to assume that means they’re all angels with nothing on their minds but good grades and God.

Case and Point: The other day I asked my son what a drug was because I hadn’t heard of it. Or at least, I wasn’t positive I knew what it was. And he knew the answer. Not because of some DARE program, but because kids talk about drugs at school. They talk about sex at school as well. A LOT. And the girls? Let’s just say that as I drive through the line watching the girls leaving the school I wonder how skimpy the clothes will be when NikkiZ hits Junior High if there’s already so little left to work with. There are girls with belly-baring shirts and panty-flashing skirts. And again: THIS IS JUNIOR HIGH.

I think I just have always hoped that if I’m open with LilZ about my opinions but let him make his own decisions, then in the end I’ll have an honest and well-rounded kid in my home.

Maybe I’m just jaded. Or at least the complete opposite of naive. I just feel like there’s not too much of a point in keeping my 7th grader from watching a movie he’ll probably watch at someone’s house when it comes out on video. At least now I know what he’s watching and I can watch it too. Maybe not with him (he feels uncomfortable laughing at sex jokes if I’m in the room) but at some point so that I’ll at least know what the kids are talking about.

And also? Some of that shit is really funny. And if we can’t laugh at a guy who is getting dumped while he’s completely naked – what can we laugh at?


32 thoughts on “The Non-Existent Rules In Our Home”

  1. I get what you’re saying. I’m in a different phase of parenting, of course. It’s still rather easy for me to limit what my kids view. Obviously, this is easier for Liam who watches very little tv than it is for Harry. But we’re also lucky in that Harry has no desire to see certain things. I completely agree with you about network tv. There’s some awful stuff on there! If something like that is on and Harry is still lurking around, we shoo him out of the room. It’s time for bed anyhow. ;)

    Growing up my parents weren’t too tough, but there were restrictions. I think it depending on what kind of movie the r-rated flick was. I can remember my sister campaigning to take me to see “Pretty Woman” when it came out. I was a teenager, but too young to see it myself (and my sister is 8 years older). My mom was concerned about graphic nudity and sex scenes, I’m sure. (I did end up getting to go) I also remember getting to see “Stand by Me” when it came out on video. It was a BIG deal, since it was rated r. But I watched with them there and it was all good.

    I can remember going to slumber parties with the horror movies too, but I was (and am) such a puss that I would often go into another room with the other puss’s and we’d play games or something. I just can’t handle that sort of thing.

    I let Harry watch the “Naked Brothers Band” because he loves it so and I’ve watched it and see it’s pretty inoffensive (though it makes my brain bleed so I make him watch it in another room now). But… some of the tween shows are just gateway drugs, as far as I’m concerned. So I’m hesitant to let him start watching any more without serious consideration. I’m hoping the “Hannah Montana” thing is well over before Evie gets too old because that show creeps me out. LOL!

  2. I have a GIANT crush on Billy Ray Cyrus. So I love Hannah Montana and would kill for a kid in my house to blame that on. hehe.

  3. Last night I told my 10-year-old son that there is no tooth-fairy. The money under his pillow? Put there by Mom. (Then I gracelessly handed him a buck for the tooth I had forgotten to collect..)

    He laughed and said, “I know. Seth told me when we were in 2nd Grade, but said not to say anything until you told me the truth.”

    For two years my child has listened to me prattle on about the tooth fairy visiting in the wee hours of the night. For two years he’s known it’s a bunch of bunk. Somehow he kept this knowledge from us – his parents – and his younger brother.

    At least, he assured me the littlest guy in the house still doesn’t know…

    Probably protecting mom’s feelings there.

    Anyhow, I think this is a prime example of how kids know so much more than their parents want them to or think they should. In second grade they were talking about the tooth fairy (probably Santa and the Easter Bunny, too). Who knows what they’re talking about in 4th Grade…

    I still have a hard time looking at my oldest (I know…he’s 10) and seeing an anything but my innocent baby boy. It’s so difficult to deal with the facts that he’s growing up faster than I want.

  4. I am horrified by the jokes and comments made during prime time on network TV. Maybe it’s that we live in CST so primetime starts at 7pm, but some of that is really adult, scary stuff. SVU in particular, and the jokes on How I Met Your Mother are so risque.

    My kid is little yet, but he only watches Meet the Press and Packers football. Think I can keep it that way forever?

  5. I’m totally with you on this one. I’d rather KNOW my kid saw a movie than have him sneaking around behind my back (of course, I’m sure they’re both going to sneak around eventually ANYWAY, just for forms sake). I was allowed to watch pretty much anything I wanted as I grew up, and I remember how Chuckie made me scared of my stuffed animals (I was 10 with stuffed animals still) for a long, LONG time…

  6. I completely agree with you. I had no restrictions on what I could watch as a child, and I don’t put too many on what my kids can watch either. Of course I don’t let my 3rd and 4th grader watch what my son, who is in junior high, watch.

    I also agree that you have to be honest with them. They are going to learn about this stuff anyways. I feel like it’s better if it comes from me. I’m not suggesting we hand out copy’s of Playboy, but if they happen to hear a sex joke, they won’t melt….I promise.

  7. I could not agree MORE with you on this. I think the best thing that we can do for our kids is continue to have conversations about these types of things: sex, drugs and rock-n-roll (you get my point). I’m not sure it does any good to just say, “you cannot watch X” and not have a discussion around it. I’m always thinking I want to have a good dialogue with my kids so that when something DOES happen that’s not ideal, they will trust me enough talk to me about it knowing I’ll be rational about things.

    Then, again, my kids are only 3 and 5 – what do I know!

    And PS. Forgetting Sarah Marshall was HILARIOUS. Best Apatow comedy yet.

  8. My (very sketchy) “rules” are similar: We don’t let Cole (2.5 y.o.) watch anything with violence (which includes most cartoon violence) in part because we see a direct effect on his behavior afterward. We stay away from most adult humor for now, but there are few things that I can think of that I would disallow him to see once he’s at the age to ask to see it. I think that when you make sex and nudity and those kinds of things taboo that that’s when they’re a big deal- it’s always the forbidden that is more exciting, isn’t it?

  9. There were no tv restrictions in my house while growing up. Not even when I wasa very small child.

    My father watched whatever movie he wanted, whenever he wanted. I remembering being about 4 and having him rent A Nightmare on Elm Street and watching it after dinner. I don’t think I slept in my own bed for over a week…

    My son is not even two, and my father watches CSI when my son is over. My son has yet to notice, but it really disturbs ME. I hate that show.

  10. Please, PLEASE tell me you’re exaggerating about not seeing the Turtles.

    I mean – only the bestest movie EVER and I bet you skipped it to see crap like Pretty Woman. Am I right?

    My kids have a biology teacher for a mom, they’re gonna get the sex talk down to the cellular level when the time comes…

  11. Woot zoot!

    We don’t have rules either. My kids are smart enought to censor themselves…and to choose not to watch something if they are bothered by it. They love South Park! So unsuitable, but so damn funny.

  12. Amen! I agree with you completely- possibly because I grew up in a house where we couldn’t watch shows like Saved by the Bell, or The Fresh Prince, or even Full House (once the characters became teenagers they dealt with issues that were just too “real”). Even now, if I choose to watch a rerun of Friends at my parent’s house I’ll get the evil eye from my mom. I’m 26 years old.

    So in light of all that, I’m pretty easy going with what my son watches. Granted- he’s 3 and if there’s no Dora, or Pablo or Pirate Uniqua, he doesn’t have much interest.

  13. Put me down for another “agree completely”. We watched our kids and their friends go thru high school and college. The harder the kid was restricted in high school or junior high, the harder the kid was likely to cut loose and par-tay hard as soon as they were out from under. Some didn’t recover, sad to say. Might that have happened anyway? sure, who knows? but the restrictions didn’t help and may well have hurt.

  14. You said it!

    Keep the communication lines open. Talk about what you see, and if you don’t like watching violence and decide to change the channel (I don’t blame you), let the kids know why.

    My cousins used to look down on us for letting our kids watch and listen to things they felt weren’t appropriate for their own kids. Now when I see how mine turned out and how theirs did, I just ssts. :D

  15. My two are pretty young for this topic just yet (almost 1 and 3), but I think I would be of the same mind set as you. I know that I watched a lot of “R” rated movies when I was far younger than 17 and I really don’t believe I was damaged by it and I don’t think anything would have stopped me anyway.

    And when there were some that my parents forbid me to watch, it made them seem so much cooler! I still remember, to this day, these two movies that belonged to my older sister that I assumed must be the coolest movies ever because my parents wouldn’t let me see them. One was Flatliners (which I did end up loving) and the other was Purple Rain (with Prince in it).

    So, the point is, by telling me I couldn’t watch them, my parents just caused me to want to watch them even more.

    I also remember trying to watch The Professional on TV and my dad caught me. I was in high school, so I wasn’t that young. Anyway, he told me I could watch it, but only on Mute!! That was terrible.

    And, when I did turn 17, my dad and I went out and I got to pick any “R” rated movie I wanted and he was going to watch it with me. So, what did I pick? The worst choice I could have ever made. Leaving Las Vegas with Nicholas Cage and Elizabeth Shue.

    It was all sex and drinking. I had no idea. I just knew it had won an award or something. So, my dad had to leave the room after a while. It was so bad!

  16. I like what you’re saying here and it makes sense to me. I think it is better if kids don’t think they have to hide things.

    When I was in 6th grade, at one of my first boy/girl parties, we watched Basic Instinct. I don’t think anyone really liked it, or even got most of what was going on (I totally missed the whole crotch-shot thing). We thought we were being so sneaky, but the big thing I think about now is that it kind of was no big deal. I’m not scarred for life, I don’t have a skewed view of sex or nudity or anything because of watching that movie when I was 11.

  17. Sometimes I am horrified that I even had a child…because at some point he is going to have to go high school. And that is absolutely terrifying to me. Seriously. TERRIFYING.

  18. We put limits on what my 9yo son watches only because there are only so many hours in the day and between baseball, cub scouts, and homework (not necessarily in that order) there’s little time to sit down and watch tv. He prefers his Gameboy and WebKinz anyway.

    We don’t allow stupid, mind-numbing, toilet humor (spongebob). Dora, Diego, Wonder Pets, Backyardigans for the 2.5yo are fine. Her daycare providers think her Spanish pronunciation is excellent!

    We talk about objectionable material on shows such as Big Brother and Amazing Race. The 9yo is usually on his way to bed by 8-8:30-ish so there isn’t a lot of exposure to primetime tv.

    We boycotted Golden Compass in the theaters, not for the content of the movie itself but for the books that he’d surely want to read afterward. I also had no interest in seeing it, nevermind paying to see it. He loves Harry Potter, Eragon and all that kind of fantasy stuff. I don’t have time to read it, so my husband does. I wouldn’t object to him watching the movies if he’s read the book. I think the exercise of comparing/contrasting is good for him.

    I think he is probably still too young for many PG movies, but we look at them on a case-by-case basis. PG-13 is not even on the table yet. He’s not yet old enough to go to the movies with his friends unchaperoned and most (or all) of his friends parents are somewhat on the conservative side so I’d trust their judgement.

    As far as scary tv/movies. No. It’s bad enough we have the 2.5yo in bed with us many nights. We don’t need him in there too! And I will not have him using that as an excuse for not going to bed. nuh uh.

  19. Bravo! My parents raised me the same way, and I can tell you without a doubt that it was a much better approach than my friend’s parents. There was never a NO and in fact, my parents had to talk me into seeing my first R movie! I was worried about seeing something I didn’t want to and they had to promise it was only a little violence and curse words! haha

    Meanwhile other kids I knew were sneaking and watching this stuff all the time just because it was the forbidden fruit.

    My mother always said that a “no” always makes anything a more desirable goal.

  20. girl…….just actually have a few minutes to actually comment!

    ok, so that’s it……. :)

    check your gmail…….and i love you more than life.

  21. We must have had pretty similar upbringings. I, too, had very few restrictions on what I watched, read, listened to, etc. My parents did teach me to make good choices, which I think is more important that flat out denying your child.

  22. I love your approach to parenting. I think it’ll result in closer relationships with your kids; it seems like you’re headed in that direction with LilZ. And I had a super-strict mom, but no way in the hell she knew everything I was up to. Dude, I lied my little ass off. I’d say she lucked out in that I was a naturally good kid anyway. If I hadn’t been, I could’ve gotten into a lot of trouble and I certainly wouldn’t have felt comfortable going to her for help.

  23. Recently, I was watching a R-rated movie after the 7 year old’s bedtime with the 17 y/o, when she came into the den. She was quick to tell us we needed to pause the movie because the movie wasn’t appropriate for her to see. She was right.

  24. That’s exactly how we were raised, and exactly how I’m planning on raising my daughter. She has my trust and respect until she loses it and has to earn it back. Movies with swearing and sex? So what. Kids need to learn about these things, or they will be more pressured and curious to try them out UNEDUCATED, which is a hell of a lot more scary to me than my junior high kid seeing a naked man in a movie and laughing at lewd jokes.
    Good for you.
    (and trust me, sheets can go a long time without being changed before they disintegrate :) )

  25. A. Men!

    I am so happy to know that I am not the only mom who treats her Middle School (almost High School) aged child this way.

    I figure if I am open and honest with her, she will be comfortable to be open and honest with me – and her being able to tell me ANYTHING is more important to me than keeping her from seeing a horror flick.

    It’s working so far at least!

  26. Well I lived under a very strict household. My sister and I were not allowed to listen to the radio, unless it was Christian, watch MTV, or watch anything that wasn’t rated G and my parents had already seen it. We also were rarly allowed to spend the night out or have overnight company. Of course I never wanted overnight company because I didn’t want anyone subjected to the rules that I had to follow. I was probabaly 17 years old when I finally snuck and watched Dirty Dancing. To this day I still have not seen Freddy or Jason movies.

    I think they loved us and had the best intentions in doing what they did. But here’s a little secret….it is and will always be the reason I do not want to have children. I am 30 now and I still don’t want to have a child in the slightest and I am almost posotive I made my mind up about that when I was 12. Watching my mom fret and worry and lay the rules down over every little thing made me say to myself “Who needs that?”.

    So yeah, I think your doing good my your bunch.

  27. I get what you’re saying, I’m with you 50% of the way.

    My son just turned just tuned 10 he can see SOME pg-13 movies because lets be frank some of those are borderline R movies. I’m not comfortable with my son hearing the f-bomb dropped or any nudity at all. This is also because we don’t curse at our house in front our son, or any children for that matter. I just feel that I will give him some freedom but within limits. It’s like exposing him too early to some adult matter, sure he can hear and see it but what can he really do with it, he’s not mentally geared to handle the consequences so why expose him? Also we have digital cable and he can’t see anything over tv-14 without us putting in a code.

    I’m not naïve, I know that neither he nor his friends are angles but I know that he has recently distanced himself from a boy he used to be friends with because this child had taken up cursing. I have told my son that any simpleton can use all the colorful words but it takes someone of substance to come up with something totally different. I also tell him that ANY word can be a bad word it’s the intent behind it, not the word itself.

    I will NEVER be comfortable watching sex scene or nudity with my son. EVER.

    Lastly he’s a child for 18 years, an adult for the rest of his life I want him to savor all that he can in whatever innocence is left in this world.

  28. I love your blog btw! Makes me chuckle!

    I loved Krista’s comment – I’m 22 and I remember when my cousin was born about 13 years ago even though me and my brother knew that Santa didn’t exist we had to play to Tori and then her little brother that Santa was really and that you to be really good!

    I’m of the opposite persuation of sorts. I prefer Bones and CSI cos of all the “science bits”. I used to watch Law and Order SVU but it was so twisted that it just put me off. I also like Numb3rs because of the Maths behind it. Woah! I am such a geek!

    About the films I remember when I was 11, my birthday is in April and Titanic came out in about November or December before my 12th Birthday. My friends decided they were going and that my folks would be ok if i lied to them said we were going to watch the latest disney film and we’d go see Titanic. I made up some excuse about being busy or spending time with my parents – or something like that.

    I did however see The Rocky Horror Picture Show before I was 18. I danced around my friends living room to the Time Warp

  29. I definitely agree with you on allowing humorous nudity over violence.
    My husband and I were just talking recently about how showing body parts (even without sexual context) is so taboo but violence seems much more acceptable and gets more lenient ratings. Is that skewed or what?

  30. “Secondly – I would much rather my son see one of the Rated-R comedies in the theaters (Sarah Marshall, Superbad, Knocked Up etc.) than half of the forensic/crime dramas on television right now. To me? Sex jokes and naked bodies are way more tolerable than Bones or CSI or especially Law & Order: SVU. That show talks about rape and pedophilia and show graphic shots of abused bodies. And it’s on network television at PRIMETIME. I just have a hard time getting worked up over nude scenes and sex jokes in movies when NBC is showing a dead girl who has just been raped by her uncle.”

    I am sooo with you on that one.

    My child is not quite five, so I still limit what he watches. By *limit* I mean if he’s watching kids shows in the bedroom, I’m watching what I want to watch in the living room.

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