Q: My daughter listens to a lot of music, but we're constantly fighting over what's appropriate. I recently told her she can't download songs tagged as "explicit" or buy CDs with a parental advisory logo. Is this an acceptable compromise?
Jim: We've come a long way from the days when Elvis' gyrating hips were a scandal. Unfortunately, relying on the "parental advisory" logo or downloading only "clean," edited versions of songs is not a sufficient approach to shielding your daughter from offensive material. Why? Because the criteria for editing music is completely arbitrary and voluntary on the part of the artists and record labels. There's no way of knowing whether an "edited" album will truly be sanitized to your standards.
Bob Waliszewski, director of Focus on the Family's Plugged In website, provides a stark example of this in his book, "Plugged In Parenting."
"It's not uncommon for 'censors' to preserve a deeply objectionable theme while excluding something relatively minor," he says. "Here's an example from the 'clean' version of rapper DMX's album 'It's Dark and Hell Is Hot': 'I'm coming in the house and I'm gunnin' for your spouse/ Trying to send the (bleep) back to her maker/And if you got a daughter older than 15, I'ma (gonna) rape her.'"
Bob notes that the word "b----" was bleeped, while the references to guns and child rape remained. He mentions another song in which the word "marijuana" is bleeped but "acid" is not. Again, there's no consistency to how songs are edited, and even if certain words or phrases get axed, the harmful themes remain.
Rather than relying on record companies to haphazardly bleep swear words, a more comprehensive approach would be to help your daughter learn to discern for herself which songs are worthy of her money and attention. For more on media discernment, start with our website at www.pluggedin.com, or track down a copy of Bob's book.
Q: My husband and I are experiencing marital problems due to the way we parent our children. He's very harsh when talking to them and disciplining them. He has not maintained a good relationship with them because of the way he corrects them. How I can better communicate with my husband, and how we can we come to an agreement on discipline in the home?
Juli: Parenting is a monumental task, so very few couples agree on exactly how to accomplish it. Being on the same page with your husband is very important. Even if you disagree behind closed doors, your kids need to know that the two of you are a team. Here are some ways to help make that happen.
First, be willing to admit that you might not have it right. Yes, your husband is harsh with the kids, but he also probably brings parenting strengths that you lack. For example, you might be too lenient or inconsistent in discipline. Your husband will be much more willing to listen to your input if you can to admit to him where you need his help.
Second, identify what you already agree on as a parenting team. While you might have different philosophies of how you discipline, you probably have a lot of points of agreement, like what character traits you would like to see your children develop.
Finally, let someone else be the expert. Both of you have things to learn about parenting, so become students together. You can do this by reading a parenting book, attending a class at your church or community center, or by listening to parenting experts on radio shows or podcasts like Focus on the Family.
(Submit your questions to: ask@FocusOnTheFamily.com)