by Becky Udman
TJP Parenting Columnist
Many of you have asked me whether they could submit a parenting question and have it answered in this column, so I would like to try that.
If you have a question, please feel free to e-mail it to me at: BeckyUdman@TDSD.org
Here’s this week’s question:
My husband and I are in conflict. I am uncomfortable with our children, who range in age from 9 to 17, having their own Facebook pages. I didn’t want them to have cell phones, either, but it seemed that they were the only ones in their class who didn’t have them, and my husband felt that we should “give in.” Now they are either always on the phone or texting. My husband feels that if we allow them to be on Facebook, we can at least check in and know who they are in touch with. He thinks that we say “no” too quickly to things. I think we usually give them what they are asking for. Is there any clear answer?
B and G of Plano
Dear B and G,
We are definitely living in exciting technological times, as well as challenging technological times.
There is much to be gained and much time to be saved from all that is available at our fingertips. Yet, at the same time, the dangers of texting and social media are very real.
I would like to break up your question into a few parts.
First, let me address the issue you and your husband have of responding too quickly when your children ask you for something.
When a child asks for something-- such as a sleepover, permission to use the car, staying home from school, having a computer in the bedroom, etc.-- the safest response is always, “Let me think about it. When do you need an answer?”
This response helps us avoid the constant “no” response and also helps us avoid saying “yes,” after which time we may speak to our spouse or friend and realize we answered too quickly.
If your child gets annoyed with that response or complains that you “always say that,” you can respond with, “If I have to give you an answer right now, it will need to be ‘no.’ I like to give things some thought before I give an answer.”
With regard to the question about Facebook, the real dangers of unsupervised communication by children (and even adults, but that is a different discussion) should not be ignored. I have spoken to numerous parents who boast that they have access to their children’s e-mails, texting, and Facebook accounts.
But when I ask them how often they actually monitor them, most parents admit that the texting rarely and the e-mail and Facebook only occasionally.
All it takes is one unsavory friend-of-a-friend contact, or even an adult posing as a minor, to get our children involved in something that we would never want. Remember, your 14-year-old can only be expected to make decisions on the level of a 14-year-old! The main point of your question that really ties the above two issues together is that it is 100% fine for you and your husband to stand your ground on something that you have put thought into and don’t want your children doing, EVEN IF “EVERYONE ELSE” IS ALLOWED TO DO IT!
When we don’t constantly throw quick “no” answers at our children, and we really think about what they are asking, weighing out different points, we can often come up with compromises to our “no” responses and ask our children questions to help them understand our perspective.
On those occasions that the answer needs to be a “no,” and you are consistent, and you can be humorous vs. angry when they tell you how ridiculous you are, you will be amazed how they will come to accept-- and even respect-- the concern and boundaries that you and your husband have set.
Good luck to you and your husband!
Mrs. Becky Udman is preschool director of Torah Day School of Dallas (TDSD), a facilitator in the Love & Logic parenting method, director of Camp Kesher, and the mother of 13 (six boys and seven girls, ages infant through 20).