4 to 10: Monitoring

Monitoring your child's contact with his or her surroundings

How can you be a careful monitor? This next example may help you decide. As you read, think about these questions:

  • Is the caretaker being an active monitor?
  • Is it clear why a value or behavior is desirable or undesirable?
  • Is the caretaker being flexible?
  • Is the child's behavior destructive?
  • How might you handle a similar situation with your child?
  Keisha and Tyrell (Age 7)1,11  

What's the Story?

Keisha, who is 20, has been taking care of her brother Tyrell since their mother died last year. She lets Tyrell watch TV while she gets dinner ready; after dinner, the TV goes off. Keisha usually heads to the kitchen to start dinner after she watches the first few minutes of a show with Tyrell. Lately, though, she's noticed a change in the kind of shows Tyrell watches. Instead of his regular programs, Tyrell now watches a show that Keisha hasn't seen before. One evening, she asks Tyrell how he knows about the show. He explains that he heard about it at school.

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Keisha Says:

I didn't see very much of it at first, but it didn't seem like the kind of show a seven-year-old would watch. It wasn't a cartoon; it didn't have any puppets or animals. So, I asked him not to watch it until I had a chance to see the whole show. I told him he could either watch one of the shows I had already seen, or he could turn the TV off and play. He went off to play by himself. It's a good thing, too, because the next day I watched that show,. I couldn't believe it! Almost every line had something about fighting and getting even. There was a lot of talk about sex, too. I know Tyrell will be exposed to violence in the real world, but I don't want him to start acting like the characters on that show. I don't want him to be ignorant about sex, either, but I want to be the one to teach him about it. He is simply not allowed to watch that show.

What's the Point?

Keisha handled this case like a seasoned monitor. First, she watched the first few minutes of TV with Tyrell, to see what he was watching. She also paid attention to the kind of shows that Tyrell usually watched, which made it easier for her to notice a change. After she saw the change, she asked Tyrell how he heard about the new show. And, she watched the show, to make sure that it was okay for Tyrell to watch.

As it turned out, the show wasn't something she wanted Tyrell to see, so he is no longer allowed to watch it.

To really make her point clear, Keisha might want to talk to Tyrell about why she doesn't want him to watch the show. It may not seem important for Keisha to explain her reasons now because Tyrell is so young, but it's a good habit for her to get into for when he gets older. It may also help Tyrell to make better choices about the shows he watches in the future.

Finding some viewing alternatives for Tyrell would also help Keisha make her point. Keisha can rent videotaped movies for Tyrell with messages that she feels are positive. Many of the programs on public television stations are also smart choices, although many are aimed at kids a little younger than Tyrell.

Giving him the option of not watching TV at all is also effective. Oftentimes, kids aren't really interested in watching TV, but they can't think of anything else to do. Simply telling them to turn off the TV and do something else can be a source for arguments. Offering a choice between watching TV and doing something your child usually enjoys allows your child to make his or her own decision. In many cases, your child will opt for playing or coloring. Your child will appreciate your suggestion and your support of his or her ability to make decisions.

Additional Resources

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