Cousins who don't share our values.

Heather - posted on 09/10/2014 ( 3 moms have responded )




My in laws have made it very clear that they feel I do not allow my son to spend enough time with his cousins. However, his cousins watch tv shows and movies that my husband and I feel are more appropriate for an older child.My son is 3. I'm very particular about what he sees, since his brain is a sponge. They always want to watch these when he is present, so I must remove him from the situation at that time. This is viewed as wrong by my MIL and SIL because I'm depriving him of cousin-time. They just don't understand. I'm not sure what to do, other than having every family gathering (once a week) at a park or in our home where those DVDs don't exist. My son's cousins are somewhat violent with their play, and I believe it's because of these shoes, and I don't want my son to share those values.


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Chet - posted on 09/10/2014




There's no clear cut answer here. It really depends on a lot of factors...

How old are the cousins, and what sort of things are they watching? There is a difference between a 3 year old watching shows that are aimed at 5 to 8 year olds, and a 3 year old watching movies that are aimed at 10 to 14 year olds. We have four kids and obviously, our youngest is exposed to a lot of things he wouldn't be exposed to otherwise by virtue of having three older siblings.

How much attention does he pay to the movies and tv shows? What do you think he's getting out of them? If he's having nightmares that's completely different than if he mostly ignores the shows, or is only interested in select parts of them.

For the record, a child's brain isn't like a sponge. A sponge soaks things up indiscriminately. A child's brain picks up some things and fails to notice others, and a child actually thinks about and processes what they see and experience. You really need to look at how much attention he's giving these shows, and what he's taking away from them. Moreover, not everything has to set a good example. It's possible to talk to your son about what he saw and why it demonstrates what not to do.

How much do you think he's getting out of the time spent with family? If the cousins are all in their early teens and basically ignore your son so they can watch TV, that's different than if the TV is just on, the kids aren't paying a huge amount of attention, and your son enjoys going over there.

How violent is the violent play, and does it upset your son? It can be very jarring for some parents, but children explore through play. This means that not all play is about happy or pleasant things. A certain amount of violent or rough play is normal and healthy. Wrestling and play fighting are actually associated with children having stronger social skills. Obviously, there are limits, and you have to figure out what the right limit is for your son, but I don't believe that banning all violent or rough play is ideal.

When we lived close to family our kids watched a lot of TV at their houses that they would never have watched at home. It wasn't grossly inappropriate, it was mostly just annoying. Ultimately, I felt that the value of the relationships outweighed the negative aspects of being there (mainly the TV and the food, my in-laws are the sort of people who put pop in sippy cups).

Big picture... don't underestimate the value of family relationships. Strong bonds with extended family, and loving, supportive relationship with adults who are not your parents, are associated with very positive outcomes for children. The benefits aren't always immediate. It might be more important when your son is 8 or 10 or 14, and has older cousins or aunts and uncles he can trust... but you have to grow a relationship. You have to start cultivating it now. Do your best to weigh the actual damage done by TV and the style of play against the long term value of family connections.

Lastly, I do think there are some things you can do to manage the situation. You can bring DVDs over that would interest all the kids and that are acceptable (or more acceptable) to you. You can organize other things for the kids to do when you are there. Bring twister, or the stuff to blow giant bubbles. Bring things the older cousins can show your son how to use. You don't need to host all of the family events at your house, but you could host some. You could plan outings with your son and invite cousins along.

Dove - posted on 09/10/2014




They really aren't getting any quality 'cousin time' if they are watching movies. Explain to your family that you ALL should have family time w/out having screen time.

As the mother of a boy who has several boy cousins I will also add... 'violent' play is typically normal in little boys. They love to play fight, wrestle, sword/light saber fight, etc.... It used to bother me at first until I realized just how normal and actually good for them it really is. No, not all little boys are like this, but a LOT of them are (and it's not just boys either... some girls do it). The key is to teach them that if someone else doesn't want to play fight they need to respect that and they need to try not to hurt anyone... and if someone does get hurt (as often happens) the game stops until that person is OK.

This is your child, of course, and if you aren't OK w/ the play fighting... you aren't OK w/ it. I just wanted to let you know that to a degree... it IS perfectly normal even in kids that don't watch violent shows.

♫ Shawnn ♪♫♫ - posted on 09/10/2014




so explain yourself to them, and arrange to meet at the park next time.

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