Let's get to it bitches. Dear Sara!
1. my 8 year old has been begging me to let her get her own email address. For those of you with kids who have them, is this too early of an age? And what sites did you use? I'm looking for kid friendly here. Gmail has a great spam filter, but an age requirement of 13. Suggestions? When I was 13, my friends were just starting to get AOL. Well, those freebie cards in the mail. My parents REFUSED to let us get on that bandwagon. When I was 15, we got a computer with internet. Dial up, but still. I was hot shit. All of my friends had internet boyfriends and I felt like a loser. So I decided to hop onto a Yahoo Chat Room and get my own. I ended up getting a few, but the point here is that I don't care what kind of spam filter you have- eight years old is TOO young for being on the internet. Even 13 seems young to me and I consider myself to be hip. I know people who have let their kids play on the internet "for school" and some even have computers in their rooms. I will tell you right now, that the things I saw as a 15 year old on the internet was completely not OK and when you think about it- that's when it was new even to pedophiles. The web today is full of pedophiles and even worse- online bullies.
But all of that aside- why does the child want an email address? What are they trying to communicate to peers/friends/etc that they can't communicate in person or on the phone? Here's something parents need to work on: teaching their kids effective face to face communication. I know the internet is awesome and people love to text. But when you look at society- we are assholes. We are. The majority don't have the balls to stick up for themselves or express an opinion in front of others and we encourage that by letting children practice their fledgling communication skills online or via text. Not ok. And to those who ask about computers for school work? Totally fine. But make sure that computer is password protected and in the room everyone hangs out in to be totally sure that your kid is doing what they should be doing.
2. You have a daughter, so I am wondering how you feel about pageants? Like the "Toddlers & Tiaras" ones? Um, any parent with half a brain would see that those are horrible for young girls. Horrible. I don't care what you say about "building self esteem" and that they enjoy it. They don't. You see those kids crying having to practice so much. Here's what I know about kids (and having two of my own make me a semi-expert)- kids don't understand the concept of "winning" so much. Most kids in those lower toddler/early preschool years don't really understand what self esteem means. They do understand disappointment, though. So when you see a mom berate her child for not smiling enough? Please know that child is hurting on the inside. I also don't think it's normal, by any stretch, to dress your child up as a mini hooker. I don't care how tasteful you think the dress is, but if your child is wearing more makeup than you did on your first date, then you are out of line. Parents spending hundreds of dollars on dresses and entrance fees and flippers and whatever else? You are flushing money down the toilet. Wouldn't you rather save that for your daughter's education and let her learn that it's important to be educated? Sure, being pretty helps sometimes, but life is not about being pretty. You are teaching your daughter her self worth is based on her prettiness and body image. It's really sad because you are setting her up for a lifetime of negative body image issues just so you can live out some sick dream of your own.
3. How do you tell your kids "no" when they really want something and you can't afford it? We're struggling and on a good month we're paycheck to paycheck and with Christmas coming, I'm really stressed out. I don't want to tell the kids we're poor... but we're poor. We already took them out of sports and dance this year and it was awful. Any ideas? Oh man. Well this depends on the ages of your kids, really. Are they old enough to get jobs? If so, make them get one. Seriously. I don't think you can really teach children the value of a dollar and how far it really doesn't go, until they work hard for money themselves. And not a measly allowance, a real job out in the world. If they aren't able to do that, then you need to sit them down as a family. Kids need to live in a home where they know they are safe and they can rely on you. Part of relying on you means you are honest and open with them. While you don't have to detail the situation you're in, you can still talk to them about it. Just say, "You know- you have maybe heard in school the economy is really tough right now and that effects us. We aren't in danger of losing our home or anything, but we do need to make cuts as a family. Do you have ideas on how we can cut down our expenses?" If they do, really listen to them. Kids are smart and they may impress you. If they don't, then let them know you're cutting down on the cell phone bill- so that means no more phones (or limited use somehow). Do they drive to school? Now they get to take the bus or walk. Assuming they are older and no longer believe in Santa- just ask what is one thing they would really, really like and give a dollar limit. And be honest and tell them you really cannot afford to do a Christmas like you normally would. Maybe they'll learn to appreciate the reason for Christmas more.
If you have younger kids and this wouldn't work- obviously don't scare them. But I tell my kids every year that Santa only can bring a few things- his sleigh just isn't that big. And they get it. We also talk a lot about other kids who don't have any toys, food, books, etc. If there is one thing I want to instill in my children is that no matter what we don't have, there are thousands with less and we are fortunate.
OR- make this the year that your family doesn't exchange gifts but instead volunteer your time somewhere. Maybe that would make you all realize you still have a lot. :)