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home : columns : dr. k May 25, 2016

3/25/2014 10:14:00 AM
Reader should teach children about bad language

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have two young children who are 7 and 9 years old, and they are starting to develop their musical likes and dislikes. I overheard my 7-year-old recite some racy lyrics, and I immediately turned the music off. The lyrics were disgusting, and I was shocked that they would play that kind of music on the radio. I understand that music will be a part of my children's lives and I will not be able to be with them at all times. How can I mange my children's radio selections when I am not around them? -- We Love Music, Brooklyn, N.Y.

DEAR WE LOVE MUSIC: What you must do is talk to your children about music (and everything else) that comes in their purview. Point out what you find offensive in songs. Make sure they know what you consider to be racy lyrics and why you do not approve. Tell them that when they hear things that your family considers offensive, they should turn it off or walk away if they are not in control of the device playing the music.  

Your job is to educate them about your values so that whatever they experience, they can consider through that lens. Make it clear that there are many words, ideas and behaviors that others do that you do not condone in your home. Teach them that they should resist picking up any of those behaviors regardless of whether you are there.

Your best defense is education. To educate them means you must teach them the meaning of the bad words and deeds as well as the good ones so that they can understand the difference.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My wife asked me to talk to our son because he is nearing puberty. I do not know what to say to him because I expected my wife to handle that discussion. What should I do? -- The Father and Son Talk, Chicago

DEAR THE FATHER AND SON TALK: Please do not believe that you should be off the hook because your wife is responsible for the children. Both parents are responsible for teaching their children how to live. It is especially important for a father to talk to his son about the changes in his body and about what he's thinking and feeling as he grows up.

You can start by asking him questions. Find out what he's been thinking about his growing body. Ask him if his school has introduced any educational elements about human growth and development. This usually starts around age 8 or 9. If so, introduce the topic from that vantage. Ask what he is learning. Be gentle with him. The conversation will likely be as awkward for him as it is for you.

Tell him some of your memories from when you were his age, about your body, about when you became interested in girls, about dating. You just need to talk to him. By doing so, you will learn what he's thinking, and you can guide him to actions that will be respectful, healthy and age-appropriate.

(Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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