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Parents must screen outside influences on their children


QUESTION: You have talked about how Barbie dolls place undue emphasis on clothing, possession and appearance. Barbie isnít the only example of this adolescent influence in our culture, is it?

DR. DOBSON: No, our children are saturated with commercial stuff that has the same impact. More and more, we see adolescent clothes, attitudes and values being marketed to younger and younger children. And rock and rap music, with adolescent and adult themes, is finding eager listeners among the very young.

I believe it is desirable to postpone the adolescent experience until it is summoned by your childís happy hormones. Therefore, I strongly recommend that parents screen the influences to which their children are exposed, keeping activities appropriate for each age. While we canít isolate our kids from the world as it is, we donít have to turn our babies into teenyboppers.


QUESTION: Talk about a fatherís impact on his daughter and what he should hope to accomplish through that relationship.

DR. DOBSON: Fathers have an incalculable impact on their daughters. Most psychologists believe, and I am one of them, that all future romantic relationships that occur in a girlís life will be influenced positively or negatively by the way she perceives and interacts with her dad.

If he rejects and ignores her, she will spend her life trying to replace him in her heart. If he is warm and nurturing, she will look for a lover to equal him. If he thinks she is beautiful, worthy and feminine, she will be inclined to see herself that way. But if he thinks she is unattractive and uninteresting, she is likely to carry self-esteem problems into her adult years.

I have also observed that a womanís respect for her husband is significantly influenced by the way she perceived her father. If he was overbearing, uncaring or capricious during her developmental years, she may disrespect her husband and question his judgment. But if Dad blended love and leadership in a way that conveyed strength, she will be more likely to live harmoniously with her husband.

These tendencies and trends are not absolute, of course. Individual differences can always produce exceptions and contradictions. But this statement will be hard to refute: A good father will leave his imprint on his daughter for the rest of her life.


QUESTION: My children are still young and they are doing fine now, but I worry a lot about the adolescent years that loom ahead. Iíve seen other parents go through some pretty terrible things when their teenagers began to rebel. How can I help my sons avoid that turmoil 10 years from now?

DR. DOBSON: The apprehension that you describe is well-founded, and many parents feel something similar today. The most important suggestion I can make is for you to redouble your efforts to build good relationships with your kids while they are young. That is the key to surviving the adolescent years. If they emerge from childhood with doubts about whether you really love and care for them, anything is possible during the turbulent teens. Boundaries, restrictions and threats will be no match for adolescent anger, frustration and resentment.

As author Josh McDowell said, ďRules without relationship leads to rebellion.Ē He is right. Thatís why parents canít afford to get preoccupied with business and other pursuits that interfere with the task of raising children. Kids are young for such a brief period. During that short window, they must be given priority.

Once youíve done what you can to lay the proper foundation, I urge you to approach your parenting duties with confidence. Anxiety about the future is risky in itself. It can make parents tentative and insecure in dealing with their youngsters. They donít dare cross them or deny their wishes for fear of being hated in the teen years. Teenagers pick up those vibes intuitively, which often generates disrespect in return. Donít make that mistake. You have been placed in a position of authority over your young children. Lead them with confidence and care.


Send your questions to Dr. Dobson, c/o Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, CO 80903. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. COPYRIGHT 2004 JAMES DOBSON INC.