Q: Our 4-year-old daughter has a sweet personality and the whole extended family has been doting on her since she was born. She loves being the center of attention and "performs" on cue if given the opportunity. But now I'm wondering — how can we make sure to not overindulge our cute little girl?
Jim: It's no wonder your daughter will "perform on cue." She's been receiving positive reinforcement for that behavior for as long as she can remember. So far, it's all fun for everyone. But the danger is that she'll grow up believing that her value as a person is based on her cuteness and her performance, not on her character.
You need to start helping her develop solid character traits while she's still small, impressionable and teachable. Our culture says that "cuteness," physical attractiveness, popularity, power and success are the important things in life. But we intuitively know better. The things that truly make a person of character are what the Bible calls the "Fruit of the Spirit" — qualities such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I suggest you make a conscious effort to praise your daughter whenever she displays these positive traits. You should also try to model these kinds of qualities for her and look for "teachable moments" to talk about the things that truly matter. It would also be a good idea to teach her how to serve others, whether that means caring for a neighbor's pet when they're on vacation or donating some of her toys to a local homeless shelter.
If you'd like to discuss these thoughts at greater length, I invite you to call our counselors at 855-771-HELP (4357). They'd be pleased to assist you in any way they can.
Q: Adam, I'm interested in your perspective about how COVID-19 has influenced the entertainment world, in both good ways and bad, and how that might impact parenting.
Adam Holz, Director, Plugged In: The coronavirus has scrambled everything about "normal" life. The entertainment industry is no exception. Many theaters never reopened at all after COVID-19 hit in March 2020. And that, combined with many more hours at home, has multiple implications for families' entertainment choices.
First, we're engaging with screens more than ever — with screen use up as much as 50 percent since the coronavirus hit, according to some research. We're also watching newer streaming services, such as Disney+ and Apple TV+, which have joined the ranks of online content outlets such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Other premium services such as HBO Max, CBS All Access and Peacock have leaped into the fray as well.
The overall result is a mixed bag for families. On the negative side, many of today's most popular streaming shows include graphic and explicit content. That makes understanding parental controls for these services more important than ever. On the flip side, many of these streaming services provide a whole host of family-friendly possibilities.
But there's the catch: Really knowing what's out there requires more intentionality and engagement on behalf of parents. Movie and TV show titles may be unfamiliar because the entertainment landscape is more fragmented than ever. And quite a few new movies streaming on these outlets aren't even rated.
So for families, the upside here is there are more positive viewing options, while the downside is more potential problems and unknowns to navigate as well. As always, Plugged In's reviews of movies and TV strive to give you everything you need to know about what's hot today in the world of entertainment (see www.PluggedIn.com). But nothing can replace a loving parent's thoughtful, discerning engagement when it comes to the things your tweens and teens are watching on their screens.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.