There are a lot of areas where my kids don’t get to disagree with me or their dad. I mean, you can have a different opinion from me about the broccoli, or whether it is actually bedtime, or if it is acceptable to
con your sister out of her money borrow money from your sister so that you’ll have enough for the BIG Lego set, but your objections are not likely to change the overall outcome, if you know what I’m saying.
It is clear, however, that we need a strategy to teach our kids how to disagree with civility. The instincts humans are born with in this area are somewhat lacking: “Riya, I don’t want you to DO THAT.” “Well, I don’t want you to do that.” “MOOOMMMM!” “MOOOMMM!”
Now, obviously, my kids have STELLAR examples of this in my husband and me, as ALL of our VERY FEW disagreements are settled in a calm, rational, and judicious manner. Still, I am grateful to have discovered a low-stakes means for the kids to practice these important skills themselves: reality TV.
No, really! Check out the genius of this plan:
Last year, we let the kids watch The Amazing Race with us, and they loved it, so now every time a new season starts we set aside Sunday nights as family TV time. Once the most recent season ended, we were all a little bummed, so we decided to start watching America’s Got Talent as a family, too.
And I’ll grant you, there are plenty of opportunities to discuss What Not To Do when you’re watching this kind of TV with kids, but it’s heartening to see how often my children recognize The Crazy for themselves: “I cannot BELIEVE they are wearing that in public!” “Stop being mean, Howard Stern!”
Here is where the true genius part comes in: we don’t always root for the same contestants. Karina likes the pink-haired team, while I would rather see the married couple win. The kids didn’t think the ventriloquist was all that funny, but Robin really liked it. We all agree it should be against the rules to “x” kids on America’s Got Talent, and that The Amazing Race should have more kids in it.
Since nobody’s free time, special blankets, personal space, or eating habits are in any way jeopardized by these differences, we can just say, “Oh, really? You liked that? I didn’t, really” or “That one is my favorite!” “Yeah, me not so much” and have that be the end of it. Maybe, possibly, perhaps, someday, this practice will rub off such that when free time, blankets, space, or food are at stake, we will have these skills in our back pockets.
I SAID MAYBE.
In the meantime, you can find me snuggling on the couch with my kids, hoping that one day we will get to meet Phil Keoghan, too.