TV Trouble? How to Undo Negative Behaviors Learned from TV Shows

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Image via Katie Hurley

I'm not sure why, but I somehow managed to escape seeing Frozen when it first hit the big screen. We're not a big movie-watching family right now, and the kids didn't really ask. But when Frozen-mania hit the shelves, I finally gave in. I talked to countless parents about it first. Are there any scary parts? Are there any really sad parts? Is there anything that I should know in advance? I read reviews and watched the trailer. And then I rented the movie.

Would you believe that not a single review or mother told me that the parents were killed off early in the movie? How did it not occur to anyone to describe it as “dark”? Sisters lose their parents and each other. And let's not forget about the manipulative prince. The point is that you can't depend on reviews, online or from another person.

While Frozen didn't encourage any unwanted behavior, it did cause tears, nightmares, and confusion. But then again, my kids are sensitive.

The truth is that all TV shows and movies developed specifically for children leave a bit to be desired when it comes to behavior. We love Peppa Pig in this house, but not when the word “stupid” is used. My daughter loves Strawberry Shortcake, but that Plum Pudding sure can be snarky. Sometimes kids pick up words and behaviors from TV shows and movies that you don't want them to repeat out in the world. That means undoing what the characters have done.

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Image via iStock

Watch together

Believe me, I understand: an episode of The Adventures of Chuck and Friends equals 22 minutes to do the dishes, make the beds, or catch up on some laundry. It's tempting to walk away and enjoy the quiet, but the best way to stay on top of what your kids are watching is to sit and watch it with them.

If something comes up that has the potential to trigger negative behaviors, you can address it on the spot. I've been known to pause an episode of Strawberry Shortcake to point out an eye roll or an unfriendly voice tone and talk about how the other characters might feel and what the character could do instead. While most shows have a happy ending, kids don't always connect all of the dots along the way, and they are likely to try out different personality traits seen on TV just to see what it feels like. 

{ MORE: To the Parent Who's Raising Their Children Differently Than They Were Raised }

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Image via iStock

Get Some Common Sense

Common Sense Media is a great resource for parents to find out more about the popular shows, movies, apps, and games on the kid scene. There you will find independent reviews and ratings. They also have tons of great advice and materials for educators and parents when it comes to technology and children.

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It's always a good idea to gather information and preview shows and movies or video games, websites, and apps first to make sure you know the specifics about the content your child will view. Common Sense Media is a great first stop.

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Image via iStock

Ask first; talk second

If you do catch your child mimicking a favorite TV or movie character, and not necessarily in a good way (Chick Hicks, anyone?), take the opportunity to ask your child why he or she is acting or talking in that way. Rely on open-ended questions such as, “What is it that you like about that phrase?” or “What's fun about that character?” to get a sense of where your child is coming from. Often kids mimic words and behaviors because they sound or look funny without any real understanding of the meaning.

Explain how words and behaviors can affect others and encourage your child to think of appropriate replacements to use while staying in character. 

{ MORE: Babyproofing 101: When Do I Really Need to Babyproof? }

Has your child picked up anything you dislike from a television show, game, or movie? How do you deal? 

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TV Trouble? How to Undo Negative Behaviors Learned from TV Shows

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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