January 19, 2010

"One more year from being a child? ...

... That does not sound like growing!"

(from Richard Bach's There's No Such Place as Faraway)

An ongoing discussion in our household is when to allow certain privileges. Sometimes the law mandates such discussions a moot point. My children cannot drive until they are 16 nor can they vote in elections or get married.

Some of the other privileges are more ambiguous. It is not easy to determine the age when certain privileges are granted. My firstborn had to wait an inordinate amount of time before we allowed her to have contact lenses. Movies were another issue; we only saw G rated movies for several years. I remember the first PG movie we went to see, at age 5 and 7. PG because a minor character dies offscreen. I wasn't too concerned, and rather was excited to see my little ones growing up and it was an animated remake of a childhood favorite of my own, Treasure Island.

It proved to be an error in judgment. We got fast food toys that tied into the movie during lunch before the show. My 5 year old was thrilled with her little guy and couldn't wait to see what sort of character he was. You guessed it. He was the one who died. After the movie, she declared she would never smile again.  As I heard her announce that, my heart fell. A month later, she did decide to smile again, and even chose the movie as her birthday theme, which helped me feel much better about my decision.

Since that moment, I've tried to be mindful of age appropriate privileges, to weigh parental responsibility against peer pressure. No cosmetics until 7th grade, but leg shaving came when they started to feel self-conscious; no age discussions even took place. It's a delicate balance to walk. No dating until 10th grade, but they can go places in groups with both boys and girls.

Our latest issue is about the social network site Facebook. My 12 year old insists all her friends have one except her. Without one, her social opportunities are stunted. Indeed, I have some of her friends on my own page, and also I see they have fudged their age. I'm torn on this one. While I see nothing inherently dangerous or wrong with participating in such a venue, I also do not want to endorse lying about her age. It may seem harmless today, but I wonder how it will seem if she's "just fudging her age" a bit as a young adult to get into nightclubs? I also stress the opposite side and refuse to misrepresent their age to get a meal or admission discount.

I wrote last week on another blog how sometimes just the answer "because I said so" is adequate. This however, seems to be the opportunity for a deeper discussion. I'm not likely to change my mind, but I am hoping to make my stance more clear. Under the category of knowing what I know now, there is indeed a time for everything. We have the rest of our lives to do the adult things. I often tell my kids that now is the time for them to do things only kids can do, like be in marching band or speech and debate or school plays. My time has passed for those things, but I don't want them to miss it because they are too busy using their time doing things they have the rest of their lives to do.

What about you, my reader friends? What are you age limits for certain privileges?


  1. They will do what they do, we will do our best.

  2. Where we still have some control - like the Facebook thing, I say, exercise it. Breaking rules because everyone else seems to be doing it is never a good thing to offer as an example to children. For some reason, 16 was a good age for me to start dating and it was a good age for my children.

  3. I agree with Kass dating is fine at sixteen, but it depends on your definition of dating. I find I'm pretty good at resolving most conflicts with my children but the one's that involve relationships with their friends of either sex are so much harder. And given that I have four children I find the bar gets lower and lower with each one. The oldest of course had the strictest time, not necessarily the hardest time. The youngest has it easiest but that too has its drawbacks.

  4. I don't have children, so my opinion is worthless. I will say this, however. My husband frequently says, "Facebook is evil." He doesn't have an account. And I think he's right.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go check my fb account.

  5. I have a daughter that is turning 13 in two weeks time, and a son that just turned 10 yesterday. I try to have a very open relationship with both of them, were mutual trust is a key factor. I also try to be open to the fact that my times are not their times and therefore the same all rules do not apply anymore. It is true that there is an appropriate age for everything, but it is also true that times are changing, and very fast indeed.
    I try to find a balance on what I allow them to do and what I don’t – but I always discussed with them my reasons and then I listen their point of view. After hearing both parties we all decide which way to go.
    About FB – we allow our daughter to open her account with the condition that she must put us as friends so we can keep an eye on her friends and activities. I’m very happy with the way things have turned out, as FB has giving me a possibility to pip into her world without invading it. I can see her friends, they way they think, what bothers them, what they like.. I also see how my daughter reacts to it, what she likes, thinks, and troubles her.

    I work towards having a friendship with my children and that they see on my somebody who they can relate to and ask for advice, support and trust whenever they need it. We do have our misunderstandings, as we are all very strong characters… but we do manage to come to common grounds.



Thank you for joining the conversation! Your input is always valued.


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