Media Wars: What To Do When Your Spouse Doesn’t Agree With You About Media Choices
By Nicholeen Peck
Someone I met at the United Nations this week told me that she and her husband do not agree about media choices for the family. She explained that often times her husband will let her children watch movies that are not appropriate according to her morals.
She explained that it was very hard for her to maintain consistent media standards for the family when her husband doesn’t respect her standards when she is not around. “What should I do?” she asked. “Is there anything I can do?”
Why This Is A Big Deal
Some people might think that this is not a big deal. I mean, should it really be the place of one parent to correct the media the other parent shows to children? Other people might think that as long as Dad is there with the child that the child’s risk of being morally misguided goes down. It is important that these two ideas be discussed before deciding what to do about the disagreement.
Should one parent correct another? Well, this is a tricky one to be sure. In a healthy relationship, husband and wife determine a way to correct each other and respect the help their spouse gives. Also, the spouse doing the correcting isn’t overly-critical and communicates the correction with a respectful tone. But, many couple relationships are not assertive enough to allow for correcting yet. This can change when a couple who chooses to communicate regularly through effective communication decides to make a plan for correcting each other.
If a couple is not at this phase, the couple should focus on principle and one spouse should set the example for the other spouse while not ever expecting their partner to view media their way. They will practice patience without judgment and then just do lots of productive (non judgmental) discussion about content viewed, with the children.
Does having a parent view inappropriate stuff with children make the viewing less damaging to the children? Yes and No.
First, about the yes argument. It is always a good idea to know what your children have seen and to talk to them about it. In fact, it is a better idea to preview what your children will see so that you can determine if it is appropriate for them before viewing. Statistically, parents who view media with their children and discuss it often have less confused and more deliberate children than those parents who just allow children to view things without involvement.
About the no argument. Parents are the protectors of the consciences of children. We are the only people in the child’s lives who will give them healthy no answers and create moral boundaries for them. So, if parents sit with children during a sexual scene of a show (whether the topic is discussed or not) they have allowed the conscience of the child to be abused. The child is left unprotected. Also, the child gets certain unspoken messages transmitted loud and clear.
My parent thinks this is appropriate to view.
This is the way people relate to each other.
My parents don’t respect how uncomfortable this makes me feel.
This is appropriate to see, think about and talk about.
This makes me feel really excited. I want that feeling again.
I hope it is easy to see that viewing inappropriate media with your children can still harm them. We all process consciously and subconsciously when seeing or hearing media. Viewing inappropriate media teaches them that they don’t have a protector, and they need to decide what to do about that realization. To the parent saying no may not seem like a big deal. But, to the child the protection of their conscience is a really big deal.
What To Do When Your Spouse Doesn’t Agree On Media Choices
First, understand that your spouse sees the world, including media, through a different lens than you do. The way we see the world is based on many factors, and since we are all at a different place on our life’s journey, we have to be understanding of that. Some people require time to see the full truth. So, step number one is don’t take it personally that you don’t agree, don’t argue, and be patient.
Second, go on a couple’s retreat if possible. Try to get away somewhere together to discuss what you want for your family in the future and now. Getting away from the situations at home always helps you see the ideal more clearly. Make your family vision, base your mission statement on that, then discuss what the home culture (including media choices) needs to be like in order to meet the goals.
Third, have follow up couple’s meetings each week to see how you are doing at transforming your family culture. In these meetings, as mentioned above, decide how you will safely correct each other and how you will take correction without taking offense.
Fourth, follow through with your correction plan when you see opportunities. But, do it with the right tone. You must see the other person’s goodness, be calm, respectful, patient, and understanding. You could need to accept a no answer. It could happen. Be ready.
Just so you know, another really effective approach at getting on the same page with media (This is what me and my husband did.) is to plan a family standard for the family and then go through the three steps in the book for how to implement the standard into your home. As you go room to room getting rid of everyone’s stuff, and as you begin with your own stuff, you see a deeper reason why a standard is good. The parents recommit when they are advocating for the purity of their children’s minds.
Ah, children are such a blessing to parents. If children didn’t need training, we would likely forget to continually train ourselves.