Q: As first-time parents, we've been overwhelmed by all the advice we've received from people. Though they are well-meaning, I feel like telling them to mind their own business. Is that wrong?
Jim: It wasn't long ago that I was asking this same question. What I eventually learned is that most veteran parents who share their hard-won wisdom are simply trying to help. They've already raised their own kids, and don't see why you shouldn't benefit from the invaluable knowledge they've acquired through trial and error. So try to be gracious when they offer their tips and helpful hints. For the most part, they're acting out of genuine concern and are on your side.
Of course, there are some whose motives are different -- individuals who take pleasure in boosting their own sense of superiority by pointing out your mistakes and telling you the "right way" to parent your child. Dealing with these folks is frustrating.
When responding to them, you might try saying something like this: "Thank you so much for your helpful advice. We will certainly consider it." This phrase can be particularly useful if the unwanted counsel is coming from a close relative such as a parent or an in-law. Remember to say it with a smile.
Another technique is to thank them and let them know that you are basing your parenting methods on your moral values, along with the advice of respected child-development experts. One place to find that expert advice is Focus on the Family's "Complete Guide to Baby and Child Care," an extensive volume written by 26 family physicians and pediatricians associated with our Physicians Resource Council. You can order a copy by giving us a call at 1-800-A-FAMILY or by visiting our online store (focusonthefamily.com).
Q: I'm extremely frustrated with the growing toxicity of the entertainment media, but short of moving to the Sahara Desert, I can't completely shield my children from all of it. What should I do?
Bob Waliszewski, director of Plugged In: The answer to this increasingly common dilemma lies in teaching them discernment -- not imposing isolation. By taking this approach, you'll be teaching your kids to think for themselves and equipping them to make smart choices long after they've left your nest. These ideas may be of help:
Establish guidelines for your family. Although entertainment decisions can fall into a bit of a gray area, establish a family standard for making media decisions. Our family did so -- not because we needed more rules, but because we didn't want to leave the concept of making wise choices to mere chance.
Rely on credible sources for entertainment review. Check out potential media choices before your kids make them. Focus on the Family's Plugged In Online (www.pluggedin.com) provides balanced, trustworthy reviews of what's hot in the media.
Model wise choices. One of the surest ways to derail your child's media discernment is to behave hypocritically. Your words won't be effective if you say one thing and do another.
When you can't tune it out, try teaching. When your family encounters offensive media content, turn the incident into a "teachable moment." Discuss what's wrong with the message it conveys and use the opportunity to reinforce the principles of discernment.
Keep open communication lines. Talk often about the media with your kids. When you have to say "no" to certain entertainment, help them find positive alternatives. Adopt a policy of accountability that allows all family members to read each other's texts, tweets, social media posts, emails, web history, etc. Intentionality is the best way to turn your home into a place where good habits of media discernment are caught as well as taught.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.