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Setting a Good Example (page 2)

By — A Better Child
Updated on Sep 3, 2009

Influence of Television

Another powerful model for children resides in your home—the TV set. Many of the values and behaviors depicted on TV are not what parents want for their children: materialism (children see 20,000 commercials a year), promiscuity (children can now see up to 40 sexual encounters a week, according to one study), and the flagrant use of alcohol (on crime shows, someone takes a drink on the average of four times an hour). Violence on TV. The National Institute for Mental Health has concluded that there is now overwhelming evidence of a causal link between children watching TV violence and engaging in violent acts. Research consistently shows that children are affected by aggressive TV models who relate to others either through verbal put-downs or physical violence. Preschool children who watch violent Saturday morning TV programs are more apt to be violent than those who don't.

In a 10-year study, Dr. Leonard Eron found that the single best predictor of how aggressive a young man would be at age 19 was the amount of violent television he had watched at age eight. Research also shows that children who watch programs like Mr. Rogers are less aggressive, more cooperative, and more imaginative than kids who frequently watch action, cartoon, and game shows.

What to do about TV. The research suggests two courses of action for parents on the subject of kids' TV viewing: 1) limit children's exposure to negative models (people you wouldn't want children to imitate) by closely monitoring their viewing; and 2) help children evaluate the examples they see on TV by discussing the actions of the various characters. Children are more apt to be aware of our values and less likely to be influenced by TV models if we talk about the behavior we see and its positive and negative consequences.

Parents Aren't Perfect

None of the above comments assume that any of us are capable of perfection or anything close to it. We all lose our tempers, say things we're sorry for, are not always as kind as we would like to be, maybe even cheat a little here or there. It is reassuring that it is the general trend in our behavior that influences our children, not the isolated instances of bad (or good) behavior. We are human; so are our children. Perfection can be expected of neither. What is important is to admit our mistakes, say we're sorry, and demonstrate how we try to make amends for our failures.

Consider this statement by Chicago News columnist Sydney J. Harris: "When parents talk about discipline, they mean a rigid set of rules to prevent their children from misbehaving. But the only discipline worthy of the name lies in providing a solid framework of ideals—not for the child to live up to, but for the parents to live within. You can beat children until they are black and you are blue, but it cannot make them any better than the examples they see around them every day."

Sources: Eda LeShan. "The Best Kept Secret About Discipline."
Parents, March 1988; Susan Isaacs.
"Are You Setting A Good Example?" Parents, September 1985.

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