Dear Parentworks, 

My question has to do with times when my husband and I watch TV and our son is in the same room watching a show with violence that is not appropriate.  My son's been kinda aggressive to other kids and our baby lately, but  I don't want to tell him that's wrong and then have him see it on TV and think that it must be okay.  My husband and I argue about this constantly but I just don't think he really gets it. Sometimes I catch him getting really into a show with violence and our son's right there.  If I remind him, all he does is change the channel for awhile and then change it back.  Lots of time he forgets to change it at all because he just gets so caught up in the show.  I don't understand why he just can't wait until our son  is in bed to even watch anything like that.  Am I overreacting or what?

- Tension During TV

Dear  Tension,

As parents, you and your husband provide a united front, enforcing the standards that you both agree on in your own home. When parents are in agreement about what they allow and why, it is easier for them to back each other up and follow through on the rules. This mutual agreement of standards gets revisited over and over as children grow and new issues present themselves. It is fundamentally important for you and your husband to come to some type of mutual agreement on TV violence viewing when your son is present. This is because, like all parenting issues, if you two don’t agree you will be sending out mixed messages to your children and therefore be less effective and less consistent.

Research has definitely proven that viewing violence contributes to more aggressive feelings and more aggressive behavior, especially in children. This can have a huge impact  in the early years when children have difficulty separating the difference between fantasy and reality. It can be very confusing for them to watch images which their young brains do not have the reasoning ability to understand or the sophistication to filter it out in any way. Because children process so much information emotionally, it sends them especially intense messages that they will often act out in aggressive ways. Their body doesn't realize that their mind is just watching images in a box - our bodies are still fairly primitive and will automatically respond with increased release of hormones, accelerated heartbeat - the whole fight/flight syndrome. That energy must go somewhere when it's generated and it's very confusing not only for little kids, but teenagers and many adults to find an outlet for that pent up energy.

Discuss this issue with you husband, sharing what your concerns are and asking what he thinks is OK about letting your son watch mature material. You can also decide, on your own, to take your son out of the room. By passively waiting for your husband to be the one to handle this situation you are denying your own values and refraining from actively protecting your son from this type of exposure. You can make a change in this situation even if your husband does not.