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How to Protect Your Children from Negative Outside Influences

Posted Dec 12 2012 7:00am

The negative outside influences of sex, violence and drugs has taken over our society on every level. Sexual innuendos and horrific violent acts mostly fueled by the use of illegal drugs have become the accepted ingredients for entertainment in music, movies, TV shows, video games and books. As a result of these negative influences today’s generation is adopting these attitudes and behaviors. It is showing up in the way our children choose to dress, take on responsibility and approach life.

Parents are frightened and looking for answers!

And to millions of parents it feels like a battle that can’t be won. From the actions of so called public role models to the clothes manufacturers offer it seems as though everywhere we turn we are barraged with what is demoralizing and desensitizing our children.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers but I do know that if there is going to be a change it will have to start with us, the parents, and it will need to begin at home. The bottom line is that we need to accept that we cannot control what others do. We cannot directly affect the choices others make concerning what is produced and offered in the world. But what we can do is to put all of our efforts into tipping the scales of influence in our children’s lives to ensure we are influencing them in a much greater way.

Key steps to establishing your influence:

  • 1.   Model what you want to see in your children. Children get 90% of their information about themselves and the world around them from their parents. And we all know they pay more attention to what they see us do rather than what we tell them to do!
  • 2.   Engage in conversations with your children about what you feel is appropriate and give your reasons. When you can offer valid reasons to back up your thoughts and beliefs you have a greater chance of influencing them.
  • 3.   Begin at an early of an age as possible to create a bond of trust between you and your child so they will respect your opinions. When children truly understand you are on their side looking out for their good rather than simply wanting to control them they are open to what you feel.
  • 4.   When discussing any choice or decision with your child take on the role of a sounding board. Always begin by listening to their ideas and thoughts and then offer options being clear about the possible consequences of their choices and be brutally honest…don’t sugar coat!
The goal for parents is to make your influence on your children so strong and solid that even though the world around them engages in negative attitudes and activities they will have the fortitude to stand strong and not be swayed. That is not to say they won’t be curious from time to time. Even the most well-rounded level minded children will want to experiment on occasion with what they see the rest of the world doing, especially their peers.

Because my granddaughter, Kaitlyn, age 15, has always lived in Florida, water sports are a huge part of her life. We have always been blessed to have a pool in our backyard and a boat that we keep in a marina on the Gulf coast. Very seldom has a day gone by that Kaitlyn hasn’t at some point had a bathing suit on. Almost daily she does a few laps in our pool and on weekends we are most always out on our boat where she is addicted to snorkeling! Understanding very early on that this would be our lifestyle I knew her bathing suit wardrobe would out number her jeans wardrobe! I was also keenly aware of the choices and styles that seem acceptable to the majority of people.

Until this past year Kaitlyn only wore one piece bathing suits. When she was very young and we would shop for bathing suits I would offer her the choice of anything she wanted in the one piece style. I didn’t care what the color or the pattern was; I let that be her choice. I did the same for myself…sticking only to one piece selections. As she got older she would automatically for go straight to the one piece rack. I remember one time she pulled out a two piece for me and I explained that I didn’t want to be concerned about whether or not what I was wearing would stay in place so I preferred the one piece style. I explained that bathing suits needed to be chosen for their comfort for active swimmers like us.

And then one day last year Kaitlyn asked about having a bikini! She had a pool party for her friends at the beginning of the school year and noticed that most all of her friends had bikinis. Never wanting to simply dictate and impose my preferences, I told her we would go to the mall where she could try some on.

Once in the dressing room trying on the suits she had chosen, Kaitlyn called me to the stall she was in. Standing there in a typical scantily clad bikini, she said, “What do you think?” I just smiled and asked her why she called me back to the stall and didn’t come out to the sitting area to show me as she normally does when she is trying on clothes. She sort of giggled and said, “Well, because this feels like I am wearing underwear!” I giggled with her and then asked, “Then how would you feel wearing this out on the beach?” Right then she knew that this was not going to work for her. I suggested looking for a two piece that was not bikini style. She really liked that idea.

As you can see she chose a really cute one! (Kaitlyn and her brother Zach at Caldesi beach)

The point was that I wanted her to reach this decision based on what she felt was right and appropriate and going out in public feeling as though she was wearing her underwear did not feel comfortable to her. I was very happy that the influence I had on her was greater than the influence of what was popular with most of her friends.

It is important for parents to always remember the power they have in their children’s lives. Although the influences of the outside world may seem overwhelming, the fact is if we, as parents, make a concerted effort to utilize that power to influence them by planting seeds along the way of what is positive our children will be more resilient to negative outside influences.

Our children automatically look to us for their information, that is a given. The next step is for parents to be there modeling and offering what is good and positive through a secure, strong, trusting and safe home environment for them to identify with.

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