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The News is Terrible. Don’t Let Your Kid Watch it.

Fatherly's resident parenting expert talks about eating boogers, how to apologize for yelling at your kid and why dads should turn off the news.

fatherly logo Ask the Goodfather

Fatherly,

I’m a “news junkie” and I have a five-year-old daughter. There’s a lot of news recently and I can’t seem to turn off the radio or TV when the news is one, even if my daughter is in the room. Is this bad for her?

Brandon,
Baltimore, Maryland

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I hear you, Brandon. I’m also a news junkie. Luckily, I work from my home office where colleagues cannot hear my cries of anguish and disbelief as I take in the daily headlines. I also don’t want my children to hear those cries, so I try to keep the news off. And while you may not be as emotional as I am in your consumption, you should still probably keep the news off around your kid, for good reason.

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The main problem for allowing kids to listen or watch news with you is that they have a distinct inability to understand the concepts of space and time. True, your 5-year-old may seem pretty sophisticated. She’s probably wowing you with new sentences and deep thoughts about life. And that’s really cool. That said, she does not have the cognition to understand what’s happening when and where.

That means if a story about a shooting pops up on the local news, your daughter doesn’t understand that time separates the news of that shooting and the actual event. For her, everything happening on CNN is happening in real time. In addition to that, she’s still trying to work out concepts of distance. So while there may be a natural disaster on the other side of the country, for it’s literally right in the living room.

This also happens to be why kids can get so freaked out by monsters and villains on kids shows. As an adult, we have the perspective and cognitive capacity to understand that the villain isn’t real. But for kids, a bad guy on the TV is literally in the house. Very real and very present.

So, at the risk of sending you into withdrawal, Brandon, I can only suggest that the news and kids don’t mix. So maybe switch the radio or turn off the cable news when your daughter is around. Because in the end, nothing in the world has happened that is more important than the news your daughter can give you about her own life. Use the time you would have spent jacked into the industrial news complex and give your attention to your girl. Figure out what the latest breaking developments are in her life. I guarantee that what she has to say will be far more enlightening than anything a pundit might offer on the news.

 

Fatherly,

I keep catching my 8-year-old eating his boogers. It’s gross and makes me want to throw up. How can I make him stop? Please don’t use my name.

Anonymous
The Internet

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A great man once said: “Let he who has not eaten boogers cast the first tissue.” That great man was me. Just now. But I am more than just wildly clever. I also have it, on good authority that the best way to tackle the benign act of booger eating is to ignore it.

Don’t get me wrong. I know booger eating may not seem benign. I also empathize with you about the fact seeing you kid pop a nose goblin in his mouth turns your stomach. Humans are, after all, hard-wired for revulsion of things that could be dangerous to us. That said: booger eating is not necessarily dangerous.

How do I know this? Because I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to track down whether or not eating mucus was unhealthy. You see I, too, am a parent of booger eaters, Anonymous. I was less disgusted by it than you, but I was still concerned if there were health concerns. So I called around to scientists and experts. And I read a lot of really dense medical papers about the nose. And at the end of my search, the answer I came to was: it’s probably not going to hurt them.

There are some caveats, of course, because there always are. One of those caveats is that nose pickers and booger eaters should have clean hands. Because it turns out that what they’re eating might not make them sick, but viruses being transferred to the mucous membrane by fingers absolutely could.

None of this is likely to make you feel better about your kid ingesting snot. But it’s important if you want it to end, to not make a huge issue about it. The fact is that many children will simply grow out of the practice, largely due to peer pressure. If you want, you can ask your son to pick their nose in private or ask them to use a tissue, but getting emotional or showing your revulsion can actually reinforce the behavior.

In the end, it’s important you know that health-wise, your kid is probably okay eating boogers. Probably. But the best way to make it stop is to ignore it

 

Fatherly,

I’ve been really trying to work on my anger since my kid started preschool because I don’t want to yell at her anymore. But sometimes I trip up and get loud. I know it’s not good. Is there some way to make it up to her after I yell?

Josh
Las Vegas, Nevada

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First of all, Josh, I commend you on recognizing that you yell and wanting to do something about it. It’s really great that you’re being thoughtful about your emotions. When more men follow your lead, more kids will thrive. Secondly, I totally get it. We all slip up from time to time and that’s okay. Luckily working to repair your relationship with your kid goes a long way in teaching them important life skills.

There is a really good way to make it up to your kid after yelling. It has nothing to do with bribing them with toys. It has everything to do with talking and apologizing.

There are some dads who consider an apology a weakness. It’s not. There is a tremendous power in admitting you were wrong. Not only does it model accountability, but it also helps a child build trust in and with a parent. Saying “I’m sorry,” to a child is incredibly powerful.

But there is a process around those words. Before you say that you’re sorry you have to talk about what you did and why it was wrong. This doesn’t have to be complicated. It does have to be honest and specific. Something like “I got angry and I yelled and that’s not how we talk to each other,” is fine. You follow that up with the actual apology. And finally, you offer as a hug and ask for forgiveness.

Here’s the clincher. You have to continue to work on yelling. Because the fact is if you continue to repeat the behavior all the apologies in the world will begin to ring hollow. Apologies must come with a change. That’s probably the hardest part.

Still, Josh, it appears that you are doing the hard work. And that’s huge. I wish the best of luck to both you and your kid.