A poster on the TCS List wrote:
Let's say a parent has a deep aversion to violence (‘pretend’ or otherwise) – even the sounds of violence (again, pretend or otherwise) causes the parent physical and emotional discomfort. How would a child who wants to play violent video games and a parent who experiences this sort of discomfort reach a common preference?
I sympathise, and I have in the past experienced something similar. But what we have to realise is that this is a special case of the following question:
“Let's say a parent has a deep aversion to certain forms of innocent enjoyment and learning on the part of her children – such that even the sight/sound of that innocent enjoyment and learning causes the parent physical and emotional discomfort. How would a child who wants to learn and enjoy herself in those ways and a parent who experiences this sort of discomfort reach a common preference?”
In other words: “If a parent thinks that children should not enjoy themselves and learn in certain ways that are, objectively, innocent and harmless, and her children want to do that, how can they find a common preference?”
Or: “If a child loves Brussels spouts and his parent feels very distressed and sick at the thought of her child eating this accursed vegetable, how can parent and child find a common preference about the eating of Brussels spouts?”
Or: “If a child likes playing chess, but her parent has such an aversion to chess that even the mere sight of a chess board would send her into extreme distress, how could they find a common preference?”
Or: “If a child loves books and reading, but her parent has an aversion to them, how can they find a common preference?”
The answer is, to the extent that you are not open to criticism, you can't. Your child might still find one without your help (or indeed, with your hindrance),
but you will not always be that lucky, and you are even less likely to be that lucky if it is a recurring situation.
If you are a parent in a situation like this, you might find the following tips helpful. This is what I myself did anyway:
Recognise that you have a psychological handicap – a hang-up, an area of irrationality in your own thinking. It can be very liberating to realise that this is what it is. I remember when (thanks to a TCS friend) I realised that I had a hang-up about violent films. Until that moment, I would feel very bad whenever there would be a violent film on TV, but somehow, when I realised that I just had a hang-up, that realisation in itself lessened the amount of unease I felt in connection with violent films.
See that it is your own problem, not your children's, and that it would be immoral to spoil your children's lives by making them bear the consequences of your own hang-ups. Once I could see that my thing about violent films was, well, my problem, and that it would really be a lot better if I were able to enjoy them like normal people can, I realised that it would be a terrible mistake to spoil my children's enjoyment of these films in any way.
Instead of making yourself miserable by beating yourself up for not being Perfect Mr Saint, concentrate your energy and creativity on not passing it on to your children. Seek help on the TCS List. I find that there is nothing better than a good rational argument or three (thousand) to help me think my way out of hang-ups.
Realise that it would be a very bad thing to pass on this handicap to your children. When I thought about it, I wanted to avoid causing my children to grow up feeling the unease I felt in connection with watching violent films. I could see that it was a handicap rather than a good thing. At the risk of sounding like a real case, here, I also had (well all right then, still have, to some extent) a hang-up about spiders and other creepy crawlies, insects, and small flying creatures, and again, I wanted to avoid passing that on to my children.
Strive to overcome this hang-up on an on-going, wholehearted basis, while supporting your children in doing the things that trigger your irrationality. TCS friends of mine helped me enormously. They would watch films with me, talking me through them and helping me learn to understand them. I still have some way to go – whilst violence per se no longer upsets me, I still don't really enjoy horror films – but in recent years, I have often found myself wanting to watch a horror film, so I think I am still making progress.
Perhaps find other adults, who do not share this handicap, to engage with your children in this sphere, to make it less likely that the children will become ‘infected’ by your irrationality. I did this and I strongly recommend it.
Think about the handicap, talk about it as a handicap to your children, and try to think your way out of it. For example, in the case of a hang-up about violence, you could start trying to distinguish between violence and pretend/play/acted violence. You could think about the fact that in a play fight, the parties are all enjoying themselves. You could think about what fun the actors in a violent film were having when they made the film. You could ask yourself why you have an aversion to pretend ‘violence’ but not to the coercion you feel compelled to engage in in this connection with your children! (Well when you put it like that...!)
Of course to do all this, you have to be aware that your aversions are your own problems, and sometimes that is not easy. One way to check whether an aversion you have is reasonable or not might be to ask a few TCS friends what they think. The chances are, they won't all have the same hang-up, and you will be able to get some helpful feedback from them. I very much doubt I could have overcome my hang-up about violent films without the help of my TCS friends, because until I talked to them, I did not really realise it was a hang-up. All this assumes that you can recognise the hang-up as being a hang-up, but many disguise themselves.
Even if you can't change your psychological reaction to something, you can sometimes change your behaviour in connection with that thing. You can try to act as if you do not have the hang-up. This in itself can feed into positive changes in your psychology. My psychological reaction to spiders – and all living creatures likely to crawl on me, fly into my hair, bite me or (horror of horrors) make a home in my knickers – used to be little short of terror. (Glad I don't live somewhere there are actually dangerous creatures... It was jolly scary spending time in Sweden where there were potentially fatal disease bearing ticks.) Anyway, I was so determined not to pass on this ridiculous irrationality to my children that I succeeded in changing my outward behaviour in front of my children. To my surprise, I discovered that over time, I actually felt inwardly less phobic. Aren't children wonderful?! Who would have thought they could effect such a ‘cure’?
To anyone who is struggling with hang-ups: you are not alone. Unfortunately, everyone has them. Instead of beating yourself up about it, just try to take steps to avoid passing them on to your children. I find it helps to laugh at myself. This is a lot easier after the spider has just crawled over you than while it is, but having a laugh about it with your children can make it all seem easier the next time. And if you can't laugh at yourself as such, well, you can be a bit proud of yourself for your bravery and for doing the right thing.
I do not mean to imply that all this is easy, merely that it is worth doing if you can. With many hang-ups, you are completely unaware that you have them.