Challenging Ideas For Action-Oriented Dads

from Dr. Ken Canfield & the NATIONAL CENTER for FATHERING

Copyright 2000, National Center for Fathering

July 28, 2000

What's New ...
Four highly reputable health care groups made an unusual joint statement yesterday. The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry agreed that "Children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than children who are not so exposed."

The statement was released at a media violence summit organized by Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and three other senators. The senators (two from each party) hope that this strong statement from the four groups will alert lawmakers that something must be done about violent entertainment.

The joint statement sparked the usual debate about who should be responsible for children's media use. A spokesman for NBC, as one might expect, urged parents to monitor the media habits of their children. In contrast, watchdog groups pointed to the media and demanded less violent content.

To Think About ...
For years now, we have heard opinions thrown about concerning the media and its influence on our children. Now, we appear to have a wake-up call with some authority behind it. Dads, it's time to be more active in the fight for the hearts and minds of our children. Where should we direct our efforts--fighting the media, or more vigilant parenting?

Both, of course. We can all be more active about expressing our opinions and desires about the television programs, movies, video games, and music that is available to children. That's half the battle.

We must also act to protect our children from dangerous influences. Looking at TV alone, the average child witnesses 200,000 acts of TV violence (including 16,000 murders) by age 18. Children spend more time watching television than they spend in the classroom. Kids are able to recount the details of their favorite movies and TV programs, but cannot recognize the names or accomplishments of our founding fathers.

We can't stand by and let our children be swept up in the downward spiral. As you get more involved, I recommend an approach that protects your relationship with your child: listening attentively, having discussions about important issues, and confronting situations head-on when you find something potentially dangerous. A more forceful, authoritarian approach often results in rebellion.

In the Trenches ...
I've been spending some great time with my family (and some other families) this week at a family camp in the Northwest. It's been a much-needed getaway for us. I've been reminded of the importance of just spending extended time together, away from the hurried schedules that can so easily govern our lives (and, often, our vacations).

ACTION POINTS for Committed Fathers
1. Watch or listen to your child's favorite media. Find something positive to point out. Take action where necessary.

2. Model the lifestyle you expect from your children. What TV programs and movies are you watching? What music are you listening to?

3. A great first step toward protecting your child is to be more aware of his world. Talk with your child's mother about what your child cares about and enjoys, and what causes him frustration and fear.

4. Ask for your child's opinion about some controversial issue--even one that you may disagree about. Express your own views only after you have listened carefully. Make it a discussion, not a lecture.

5. Praise your child's character often; make sure you aren't only talking about rules, consequences or suspicions.

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