“But Everybody Is Doing It!” How to Say No When the World Says Yes

How can parents battle the dangers of the world threatening their children? With prayer, virtue, and a little help from friends.
by Bridget A. Seyer | Source: Catholic.net
My 6-year-old daughter asked Santa Claus for a Barbie nail salon last year. He left a note stating that he would bring it when she is 9. She’s counting the days. What’s discouraging is that she wants it so badly.

"Cool" things previously reserved for teenagers have insidiously crept into the lives of elementary school-aged children. Girl’s fashions are more sexually provocative. Preteens are allowed telephones and computers in their bedrooms. Vulgar and violent movies target the 8-to 12-year-old set.

How do parents wisely decide what to allow when children insist, "But everybody’s doing it!"?

Unfortunately, no magical list exists, nor should there be one. Rather, parents can fortify themselves by focusing on raising children with the right values and asking some pointed questions.

Values First

First, parents should determine if the latest craze is good for their children’s souls. "How strict or lenient you are is not what is ultimately important. What matters, is to have the basics down. I ask, ‘What will harm their souls?’" says Dianna Gordon, mother of seven.

How do you know if something is good for the soul? In moral decision-making, our Faith teaches us to be prudent, rely on experience and call on the Holy Spirit in prayer.

The seven virtues — faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance —are the components of character. Ask yourself, "Will this build or degrade my child’s character? Does this help my child to grow or weaken in his/her demonstration of the virtues?"

What seems like a big deal may not be; and something may actually be neutral in its effect on your child’s character. James Stenson, author of numerous books on parenting, boils it down to, "How important is this going to be five years from now, 20 years from now, when I go to the Last Judgment?"

Prayer Power

Parents feeling overwhelmed in their battle against the dangers of the world may be fighting without God. Giving a child over to God in truthful prayer that His will — not yours — be done in a child’s life will bring a child God’s blessings and the parent a sense of peace.

United We Stand

Unity may be the single most important trait of successful parents. Parents need clear and united direction. It is imperative for spouses to agree on the family’s standards.

"Sit down as parents and decide what is acceptable in your house — for example, it’s not the genre of the music, but actually the lyrics and intent. Make it clear," says Tim Sanford, a family therapist and counselor for Focus on the Family.

A Little Help From Friends

When perplexed about what is going on in the world today, parents should talk with other parents whom they trust, whose advice is respected. Help one another gain strength and feel supported — over coffee or in informal group meetings. Whether through a circle of friends or a small group, the goals are to share worries, questions and encouragement.

Keep "Child" in Childhood

A parent’s charge is to ease children through childhood. Between ages 6 and 9, children are egocentric and concrete in their thinking. While intrigued by a fad, say lip gloss for a girl, she is wondering if it is right for her personally. "Is this what kids do?" she asks. Parents should keep the "child" in childhood. A 7-year-old is only 7. Ask yourself, "Is this helping my child to experience childhood?"

Children between ages 10 and 12 become increasingly more dependent on peers for their identity formation. Ask yourself, "Will this guide my child toward the right friendships?"

You Get to Make the Rules

Choose a philosophy early in parenthood. Do not be caught off guard when Junior says, "But you let Jimmy have a phone in his room when he was my age." Experts disagree on whether it’s fair to allow one child a privilege and deny it to another when he or she reaches the same age.

John Rosemond, a well-respected author of books on raising children, says: "That’s perfectly OK. Children are different. . . . I would just be straightforward and say, ‘When Billy was 15 we trusted him. We don’t trust you. . . . Kid, I love you. And you need to hear this."

Conversely, Tim Sanford promotes more definite standards. If your family rule is "G-rated movies until age 10," then this goes for all the children. "Just because you can handle it, doesn’t make it good," Sanford asserts.

Just remember, you’re the parent and you get to make the rules. When your kids grow up and have their own children, then they get to make rules that fit their families. When struggling, it is wise to step back and consider the bigger picture, hanging in to raise them in the Faith and with the right values. For right now, just do your best — and leave the rest to God.

Some Points to Ponder

"The parents should set the standard in the home . . . based on [their] values. If the child objects, so be it. The parents should not, under any circumstances, compromise their values in order to provide the child with what [he] perceives to be a better social life. . . . It’s okay to say that the values of our family are more important than your social choices, especially when those social choices run contrary to the values of our family." — John Rosemond, family psychologist, columnist and founder of Affirmative Parenting

"In the Lord’s Prayer, ‘and lead us not into temptation’ is our request for God to not give us any greater burden than we can handle, and to give us the grace we need to handle the burdens we currently carry. There is a lesson for parents in this. A Christian parent must be careful not to give his or her child any greater responsibility than that child is developmentally capable of handling or has been trained to handle well." — Gregory Popcak, "Parenting with Grace"

"Where will your child’s soul be? This question should press on you daily. . . . He calls upon you, as his loving servant, to save your children and lead them to Him. . . . Love is another term for responsibility. God calls every parent to responsibility." — James Stenson, "Lifeline, the Religious Upbringing of your Child"

"Considerations for Growth in the Virtue of Prudence: I am not swayed by popular opinion or practice. I am prepared to swim against the current of popular thinking in moral matters and teach my children to do the same." — Stephen Gabriel, "Speaking to the Heart"

"We declare ourselves to be in full partnership with God. He shoulder(s) the heaviness of the burden and provide(s) wisdom, power, protection and ability far beyond ourselves. We do our job to discipline, teach, nurture and ‘train up a child the way he should go’ (Prv 22:6) . . . and He would see to it that our child’s life was blessed." — Stormie Omartian, "The Power of a Praying Parent"

"When parents meet informally in small groups to discuss . . . several things happen. First, a great deal of experienced advice and insights come to light, especially if the group includes some older, ‘veteran’ parents. Questions give rise to very practical details, thus providing the tactical ‘how’ answers. . . . Secondly, parents grow in confidence. Finally, these parents often become close friends." — James Stenson, "Upbringing, A Discussion handbook for Parents of Young Children"

Deciding How to Decide

1. Trust your instincts. When something doesn’t feel right, pay attention. Instincts protect us from danger, and God often speaks to us in these moments. An active prayer life and a soul open to God’s voice makes for powerful intuition.

2. Look for Underlying Issues.

A nagging issue may be rooted in personal experiences. Ask, "Why is this such a big deal for [me]?" Sometimes it has nothing to do with your child and everything to do with your own concerns. Work though your own issues first, without involving your kids.

3. Sleep On It.

Most decisions can wait a day or two. My mother would say, "I can’t make a decision about that right now. Let me think about it. If I had to answer you right now, it would be no." Her wisdom kept her from making the wrong decision hastily.

4. Stand firm.

Experts agree that parents today can be cowards. Once a decision is made, do not argue about it with a child. Don’t explain reasons to children in order to win them over, to convince themselves and/or to seek their approval. All are evidence of wavering, and compromise the parent’s authority.

5. Say, "No…but".

For a child who cannot attend a poorly supervised party, host one yourself. If your young daughter is interested in makeup, play beauty parlor at home. When a child is frustrated because you limit participation in sports or activities, show the importance of family time by allowing him/her to plan a special family weekend.

6. Take the Offensive.

Consider taking a proactive approach, like mothers in Simsbury, Conn., who formed a sixth-grade "Girls Club." They meet regularly for fun activities, such as baby-sitting classes and talks about how to live the virtues.

This article orginally appeared in Catholic Parent. Reprinted with permission from Our Sunday Visitor and Bridget Seyer. All rights reserved. 


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