“My 9-year-old daughter has several friends whom we love and who are good buddies for her. However, the rules in their homes are different from those at ours. One friend in particular, “Sarah,” eats a lot of junk food and watches more TV than we allow. When my daughter asks why she can’t have chips and ice cream after school, or why we watch movies only on weekends, I remind her that good food and exercise make her healthy, and with less TV she does better in school.
I’m not interested in critiquing Sarah or her family, who are lovely people we really like. However, I do want to make the connection between unhealthy lifestyle choices and possible consequences because this is a subject we’ll keep revisiting as my daughter grows up.
I have been trying to say things like, “Everyone makes their own decisions. This is why we do it this way,” but at 9, my daughter sees things as pretty black or white. If our way is right, then their way must be wrong. I’m totally failing at subtlety. Is there a better approach that I could take to talking about this without invoking comparisons? — LIFESTYLE CHOICES IN SOUTH DAKOTA”
Dear Lifestyle Choices,
There is no reasoning with a 9-year-old! Doi!
“Because some [children] aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some [children] just want to watch the world burn.” OK, not really, but I just like that quote from The Dark Knight and felt like playing around with it for this response.
I remember growing up I had to go across the street to my friend Thomas’ house to play PlayStation or Virtual Boy (I’m dating myself here, whatever). I had asked for a gaming system for years and years but was repeatedly denied because my parents wanted me to focus on school and playing with friends and being outside and blah blah blah. (I did have a Game Boy, by the way, so that kept me occupied)
The lesson here is that every parent parents their child’s behavior and actions differently. You need to be firm with your daughter and tell her why you are making the choices you are. Because, let’s face it, you are looking out for her best interests so that, in the long run, she can be healthy and develop good habits. You are her parent, not her friend, tell her what’s what and stick to your guns!