Opinion

Hot tips for parents

In the spirit of the “21 Naughty Sex Tips” article in a recent issue of Cosmopolitan – a magazine that so bothered a group of Abbotsford parents they want it and others like it banned from a specially designated “family” aisle at the grocery store – allow me to share “3 Other Things You Can Do To Make Sure Your Kids Are Eternally Safe.”

1). Don’t discuss uncomfortable topics.

This is especially true if you believe the child is too young to “go there.” Just because children are physical, sexual beings from day one doesn’t mean they need to believe questions about their bodies (and answers in age-appropriate language) are okay. Remember: Shame goes a long way when trying to exert parental control.

2). Discourage critical thinking.

Children should be taught what is right and wrong. Period. This works wonderfully in the toddler-to-tween stages when parents’ authority is unquestioned and their knowledge is viewed as unlimited. Once adolescence and young adulthood arrive, however, boundaries will need to be more vigourously enforced. Your child will increasingly be exposed to ideas, beliefs and values quite different from your own – some you might consider “wrong” or even dangerous. This is when you will really thank yourselves for keeping it simple and just saying “no” to your kids when – by seeking your guidance – they attempt to interpret the world around them. They’ll be well-equipped to look out for themselves.

3). Adopt a “ban of the day” strategy.

Don’t stop at magazines. There are plenty of books (some might even be in local school libraries) that are offensive – not to mention music, the Internet, TV, video games, T-shirts, billboards and toys. Our society is based on freedom of choice, but it is comforting to believe that if your kids can’t see something, maybe they won’t know it exists. This tactic will also work well during the hormone-driven teen years, when your desire for chastity until marriage for your children should be facilitated by providing no option but “abstinence” when you are asked (if they’re still asking) about birth control.

Tongue now extracted from cheek, I sympathize. Parenting is not easy in a technologically savvy world that is steeped in sexuality, consumerism and instant gratification.

Which is the point. Parents play a crucial role in providing their children with the cognitive skills – and street smarts – needed to negotiate a confusing and often coarse society. Tackling tough topics is part of mom and dad’s job.

The Abbotsford parents may enjoy a temporary reprieve by having Cosmo and other mags moved (one mom was taken aback when her seven-year-old asked what an “orgasm” was), but what about the next time? What about the nasty word at school, the smuggled Playboy, the racism, the religious slur? What if a serious challenge arises (unplanned pregnancy, suicidal thoughts)? Wouldn’t those parents want a well-worn track record of honesty and approachability so the kids feel at ease coming to them instead of someone else?

Again, having often felt the sting of a child’s ill-timed zinger, I sympathize.

In fact, I’ll impart one example of many I heard from my once-wee one in the infamous grocery store line-up. (Why don’t they ever come up with these great questions in the privacy and isolation of say, the car?)

With the goods loaded on the cashier’s conveyor belt and an impatient crowd stretched behind me, the small voice – suddenly piercingly loud in the packed store – pipes up.

“Mommy? What’s a hard-on?”

After my face has reclaimed itself from the crimson veil that descended, I stammer and stall and smile a lot until we get outside.

And then I answer her.

She’s 23 now, and you know, it seems like she turned out all right.

pcarlson@surreyleader.com

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