That Time There Was Inappropriate Content at My Kids’ Party & What I Did About It

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When is it right to let your inner mama bear roar and how do you do it without offending the world?

This is the question I had to ask myself on Saturday. You see, we’d scheduled a birthday party for my 5 (almost 6) year old at the local skating rink.

The Situation

We’d been to a party there just a few weeks before and my son LOVED it. He was just learning to skate, but I’ve never seen him so focused about anything before. It was actually pretty hilarious. He had one speed: “As fast as I can possibly churn my legs while pushing this PVC pipe thingy.” He was a man on a mission and was drenched in sweat within minutes.

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Well, apparently, between the party we attended and our scheduled party, the skating rink got a new massive video screen.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, the music at skating rinks is already a bit sketchy. So let’s just throw in a giant video screen with real people acting out all the stuff they’re singing about.

Perfect atmosphere for a 5 year old boy’s party.

Or not.

Just few minutes after we got started, I noticed the video featured a woman who had apparently forgotten her clothing at home because she was standing there in her bra “talking” VERY CLOSELY with a man who wasn’t really paying attention to what she was saying because of her aforementioned lack of clothing. And then she started dancing…

The Problem

Now let me preface this with the fact that we are a pretty picky family. Our basic perspective is that if we wouldn’t want our daughters (at any age) to be the actress on a screen and do what she’s doing, we can’t, with integrity, watch someone else’s daughters do those things.

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On top of that, none of my kids had ever seen videos like the ones that were playing and, honestly, the idea that it was taking away a bit of their sweet innocence made me a little testy.

So, I was not okay with this video. Like really not ok. As in, grab some earplugs and hold on tight because mama’s about to roar…

But here was my dilemma. I want to always behave in a way that honors Jesus. No matter how offended I am or how right (I think) I am, I want my actions, words and attitude to bring glory to God and honor to His name.

Some of the other moms of our guests also had noticed the screen and were wondering what we could do. Based on the videos we’d seen so far, it was to the point that either they were going to have to change the content or we were going to have to have a last minute party at my not-clean-enough-for-a-party house.

Clearly, I only had one option.

::

My Strange Love of Conflict

Before kids, I worked at a radio station in Houston called KSBJ. (Amazing place filled with godly people who had a huge impact on my life.) I was the Ticketing Manager for all of the concerts we did. It was pretty much the best job in the entire world. I got paid to go to my favorite concerts.

Well, as you can imagine, every week there were issues at the concerts. Customers who bought high priced seats that ended up being obstructed by the artists’ sound system, artist guests who weren’t on the will call list, customers who lost their tickets etc.

It was one of my favorite things to have an irate customer ask for me and then to help transition them from furious to overjoyed. I loved the challenge of staying calm, finding a solution and representing KSBJ and the artist well. Of course, it helped that I always had a supply of front row tickets and backstage passes handy.

I learned while working at KSBJ that I LOVE conflict. Well, not personal conflict or conflict with my kids, but I love the challenge of staying calm and resolving a situation. So weird, I know.

But I think the experience taught me a few things that I hope will help me and all you other mama bears out there when you encounter a challenging situation like the skating rink one:

8 Steps to Handling Conflict

Pray
I’m going to be really honest here and say that I didn’t do this before I talked to the employees on Saturday. I wish I had. But if you are better at thinking before acting than I am, I definitely recommend praying for a kind heart and wise words before any sort of confrontation.

1. Smile and be respectful
I am not the Queen of the World and ultimately I have no rights besides that ones that I earn through kindness and respectfulness. No one will really take us seriously if we are out of control. Yes, they might try to pacify us to get us to calm down, but they won’t really be on our side if we’re yelling at them.

So, even if we feel strongly about something, it’s important that we are calm and kind in the way we communicate.

2. Use names
When I went to talk to the manager, I made sure to ask his name. Smile and use his name often – just like if you were chatting with a new friend. It’s easier to be calm and kind when talking to a friend.

3. Say something nice
If you have something nice to say, say it first. No one likes to meet someone and then be slammed. I told them how we loved the party we’d come to at the rink a few weeks ago and how excited we were about the party today. Don’t flatter, but if you have something nice you can honestly say, say it.

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4. Talk like a team (don’t accuse)
Instead of saying, “YOU have terrible videos on YOUR screen, change it.” I told him that I noticed that some of the videos on the screen weren’t quite appropriate for a 5 year old boy’s birthday party. I described what we’d seen then said I asked him, “What we can do to resolve this?”

5. Don’t believe the first person you talk to. Keep asking
I talked to the manager on duty at the rink, a young guy who didn’t seem to have a lot of power. He told me that all the videos were mom approved.

Can we just stop right there? Everyone I spoke to said this. It cracks me up. As if moms are this massive homogenous group think being. Have they never heard moms “discuss” diapering, sleep methods, breastfeeding or discipline? Saying something is “mom approved” is like a saying that a Middle East peace plan is approved by citizens of the Middle East. The opinions there are kind of diverse…

Moving on.

I suggested to the young man that I really appreciated the fact that they used a mom approved service, but that ours was a party for a 5 year old and neither I nor the other moms were really ok with a woman in her underwear dancing on a car.

He told me that there wasn’t really much he could do. I asked him if he could turn the video screen off and just play the music. He told me that they are connected and there was no way to do that. (Pause. Poor guy didn’t realize that he was talking to a weird mom who asks for RAM and HDMI cables for Mother’s Day). I suggested how he might be able to disconnect the two and he said, “I can’t do that because it would involve pulling out a ladder on the rink floor to change the cables and I don’t know how to do that.”

I told him I’d be happy to do it for him. I don’t think he expected that.

He replied with, “I’m sorry, we can’t do that. There isn’t really anything we can do.”

I would say that 99% of the time, there is ALWAYS someone available who has the power to resolve a situation. Ok. That’s a completely random percentage, but you get the idea.

I thanked him for his help (smiling and using his name) and then asked if there might be someone we could call and talk to.

As much as I didn’t want to be “that mom” – I had an even greater motivation NOT to have to move the party to my house (or disappoint my son by leaving the rink), so I was determined to come to a resolution AND make friends.

Thankfully, he picked up the phone and called the owner.

6. It’s about resolving not winning

“Hi Barbara! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me…” Again, I used her name and smiled (granted, she couldn’t see me, but I think you can “hear” a smile…).

I told her the story, including how much we enjoyed the rink and were looking forward to the party.

She was very kind but also stressed that the videos were “mom approved” (I would really like to know who was on this “mom” panel.) I communicated what we had seen and that I’m sure she would agree a woman dancing in a bra around a car is not appropriate for a group of 5 year old boys.

She agreed.

I then asked, “Is there any way we can turn the screen off?”

She said that wasn’t an option. Being techie, I knew it was doable, but this is where things can go well or badly…

Ideally, I just wanted the screen off. Unless, they were going to show Bible verse slideshows, I didn’t think I was going to be a fan of any of the “mom approved” programming.

But it was important for me to remember that I am not the Queen of the World and that my goal was to resolve it so that my kids and their friends could just get on with having a fun birthday party without being slimed.

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So I asked her, “Great, well, what do you think we can we do to resolve this?”

She thought for a minute and then said that she thinks they can change it to “Kidz Bop” station that only plays Disney artists.

It wasn’t Psalty and Friends leading kids in the Books of the Bible song, but I knew it was my best option, so I told her I’d love to try that (leaving the door open for further discussion if the content didn’t improve).

Happily, the content was MUCH better and we went on to have a great party.

7. Say Thanks
I made sure to thank her for understanding, taking the time to talk to me and resolving the situation so my son could have a great party.

Then, when I handed the phone back to the young manager, I made sure to thank him again (using his name) for all his help.

Finally, when I paid the bill at the end, I made sure to thank them again for their help.

Conclusion

I’m sure there were a lot of things I could have done better, but I was able to resolve the situation and while I may have been “that mom” – I don’t think I burned any bridges along the way.

Have you ever had a “mama bear” situation you needed to confront or wish you had confronted? Click here to tell me in the comments!

Comments

  1. Honestly, I don’t know how you did it. I am a marriage & family therapist. I teach couples and families how to resolve conflict. I am great in the therapy room or with my own family. But when an “outsider” poses a threat to my kid or spouse, I forget most of what I know. I have great respect for your ability to keep it together! Not sure I could have done that well. Love your blog.

  2. Wow, Good job Kat Lee, I wouldn’t have handled that as well as you.
    I too, would like to know who this mom panel is, and if their kids are in some of the music videos they approve. Maybe we should ask for a Christian mom aprroval panel :)

  3. Karin Allison says:

    Bravo Kat! This is why I thank God for you and your blog. I am so proud of you and admire your self-control, persistence and commitment. This was just awesome. I’d say you did the Lord proud. :) Love and blessings to you and yours!

  4. I understand your affinity for difficult conflict resolution– it’s so so stressful, but satisfying in the end. As long as you treat others in love (being slow to anger and slow to speak) you won’t be left with regrets. I’ve had the pleasure of watching people close to me do this well and it’s a gift I admire and try to replicate.
    Great job and great advice. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Christina Long says:

    Wow. I am so inspired by your words and advice regarding this issue. My step-daughter is in Cheerleading (her Mom’s choice) and I had to drop her off and pick her up for one of her practices. The song they were dancing/cheering to had the lyrics, “She took my boyfriend, she stole my man.” I was completely shocked sinch this was a group of 5-8 year old girls. Thinking I didn’t hear the words correctly I asked another Mom what the music lyrics were that just played. She repeated them back to me exactly as I had heard them. I sat there for a minute completely in shock trying to stay as calm as I could with out yanking my daughter out of the gym immediately. I camly said, “Don’t you think that’s a little inappropriate song for this age of girls.?” She then replied back to me while rolling her eyes, “Oh my gosh. I think you are over reacting. It’s just a song.” Obviously we were not going to agree on this situation so I camly just left the gym area where I was watching my daughter and took my sons to the car and waited for practice to be done. I thought to myslef that I can’t change people’s views or beliefs and I can only protect myself, my children, and what I believe it. I do not think that it is “just a song” since little girls hear lycrics to the song three times a week and it becomes “normal” for them to hear these things and think it’s ok. I respectfully told my husband I was not able to take my step-daughter to the practices anymore because I do not think it’s a postive, Christian atmosphere and I couldn’t go against my own values and let her know it’s ok. I told him I couldn’t change the decision of her coach, her mom, or him but I can only stay true to myself and the Lord. I’m not sure if I handled this situation well and I know you would have done a MUCH better job but it’s the best I could do at the time. Living in a blended family is extremely difficult and challenges me on a daily basis.

    • Christina, sorry to hear about this. Those lyrics are not appropriate. Who gets to decide which songs to use? Maybe someone can offer other suggestions.

  6. I felt like I was reading something from my own recent past as I read this post. Approximately 2 years ago our homeschool group went bowling at a facility I wasn’t familiar with. After a great start and the kids having a lot of fun, the manager asked one of the moms if we’d like to cosmic bowl at no extra charge. It was mid-week afternoon so we were the only ones there. The mom thought this was a great idea. The lights went down, the black lights came on – both ok. Then the music started and a huge screen descended (suspended above the centre lanes). The music videos were very similar to what you had described and I was immediately disturbed. My daughter was only 5 and hadn’t been exposed to music videos before. She was bouncing to the beat, as kids do when music is on, and her eyes were glued to the screen when it wasn’t her turn to bowl. I mentioned my concern to a couple of other moms to see how they were feeling. One was slightly disturbed, the other didn’t really care. I ended up going to the manager and asking for the screen to be turned off. I got the same “these videos have all been mom approved” statement. I smiled and suggested that they weren’t approved by me and therefore I would like it turned off since it had been optional. He went back to the mom who had said yes to turning it on and eventually enough moms concurred that the video screen was turned off. He came to talk to me after and belaboured the mom approved status of the videos. As best I could, I explained that my standards for my daughter were extremely high and that I honestly would have left the building if he hadn’t turned them off. He was shocked. We had a good conversation about the content and although I don’t think I brought him to see my side of the story, he was receptive. I think approaching with motherly concern rather than anger was what afforded me the opportunity to pursue more conversation with him and who knows where that will lead.

    • Marcie, good for you!

    • We had a similar event take place at our monthly homeschool bowling outing. They offered our group (on our group’s first time there) the opportunity to use the cosmic bowling side since it was smaller and more private for a smaller group. We liked it a lot better, but we were concerned about the music videos. Thankfully, they were on smaller flat-screen televisions, and not a huge pull-down screen, but they were still inappropriate. One of the moms went over and did what you did, asking them to turn the music off for our side of the bowling alley, and they said, “Sure!” and did that! We would just remind them each month to please turn off the videos, and since they were happy to have us there as a group, they complied each time. It worked out so well!

  7. This is such an important concept to model for our children, too!

    Several years ago, our daughters who were probably 10 & 12 at the time, were attending their music class at our local music academy here in Belgium. Classical music, singing scales, etc. what could be wrong with that? One day they came home obviously “bothered” about the way class went that day. The teacher had decided to show a movie about Beethoven, but in this particular movie there was some objectionable content. Our girls – so proud of them! – told the teacher that their parents did not want them watching movies they had not previewed, which is just a standard rule in our house. Unfortunately, he did not turn it off, but did allow them to at least be excused from watching. My husband, Papa Bear, did eventually have a conversation with this teacher, and even though the situation put our daughters in a VERY uncomfortable position in front of their friends, we were so happy & encouraged that they stood up and did the hard thing.

    So just to encourage all of us moms, standing against “inappropriate” in a right way will bear fruit even in our own children!

  8. You did good mama bear!!! Thanks for the wisdom. An issue is arising here that I can apply your great words to. I love our local rink. Its owned by a christian family and only plays Christian music. Oh…and we loved ksbj when we lived in Houston!

  9. Bravo Kat! Well done! My boys are now 18 & 15, but when they were young I was a total Mama Bear. I still can be but have to be picky now that the boys are older and need to and want to resolve things on their own. In fact I recently offered to intervene in a situation for my 18 yr old to which he remarked that he could handle it because he didn’t want me to handle it like a battle out of Narnia. LOL!!!! I’m not THAT bad! (I hope!) I’ve talked with video store managers about the Adult videos being at eye level across from the Family Section. Thank heaven we don’t do video stores anymore. But they fixed it and put it in an entirely different section of the store out of sight. And I’ve spoken with the GM of our Publix about the magazines, especially Cosmo, with bulging breasts reaching out to their little eyes somewhere between the Twix and the Mentos. They made changes as well. For me I try to remember that the mainstream value system is very different. While I can request that they raise their standards, expecting them to think with the mind of Christ is not realistic. That is why we are the Salt and the Light. When I’m done I hope the powers that be feel like they had a good experience being enlightened to remember that there are families out there who still protect their kids from the onslaught of the raunchy and racy status quo.

  10. Hi Kat!

    I heard you speak at the Antioch Women’s Conf and I put your blog is my feeder. Great recommendations…I am a Mama Bear. I appreciate your podcasts and blogs and really identify with your messages. Thanks for the encouragement and example.

    Blessings,
    Corrie

  11. Amazing. Loved this. Your response was doing the best thing for your kids: not in just questioning the video, but in dealing with it in such a mature fashion. THAT was the lesson you taught your kids.

  12. Oh, this is so good, Kat! Thank you for taking the time to share. I only hope this “Mama Bear” would have handled it so well (I’m not confident I would have…but now I have the tools to do so next time!).

  13. This is great! I would have hyperventilated and gathered everyone into a circle and then probably have headed to the nearest park to play! (No, not a stellar way to handle it!) This gives me a little exra “umph” and and a GREAT way to handle a situation like this if it ever arises. I would not have been so kind, though I am very inspired by the kindness, yet firmness, you showed.

  14. Wow – this is such an inspirational post. I am not sure I would have been able to handle it with as much grace + poise that you did.

    I am a mama bear through + through (although I am a slightly hot tempered one!) I mainly become all mama bearish when some one tells my daughters that they can’t do something, because I believe they are limitless in their potential + for example, a close relative telling my eldest she couldn’t climb a tree (because girls cant climb trees – what the??) really gets my hackles up!

    But I need to remember you catch more flies with honey + you certainly get better results when you are calm + composed.

    Thank you x

  15. You ROAR! Well done!

  16. Thank you for this post and the wonderful example it sets for all of us mommas out there. My daughter is only 10.5 months old but I know I am bound to run into these types of situations sooner than I expect. I love how you handled the situation. Love it!

    Also, I live in Houston and have KSBJ on in my car 24/7!! :)

  17. Thanks for the tips. Sounds like you were very successful in this resolution :)

  18. It sounds like you did a great job standing up for your children and the others at the party in a polite way. If my kids were at the party I would have truly appreciated that.

  19. I love this. In many instances, I don’t feel I see Christ-followers (myself including sometimes) responding to conflict a whole lot differently than those who don’t follow Christ and I always think we should be the ones to do it better, to do it differently (for multiple reasons). Thanks for sharing this story and your wisdom in how you went about things. Awesome!

  20. Go Kat!! I haven’t encountered this yet, but as my girls grow up and also hang out with older girls, I know this is something I will have to deal with. A friend was telling me that her 8yo was hanging out with a 10yo, and they were playing Teen Mom. What?! Not okay.

  21. I just had a mama bear situation, and my daughter in question is in her mid- 30s! So I guess we never do outgrow the instinct! And I too wish prayer had been my first choice, but the moment I did go to praying for the aggressor, and sincerely trying to understand her anger, she did a full 180 and apologized on FB, and changed her threatening language to sincerely sorrowful and repentant language! This involved a naive if not innocent posting of an unknown, reckless driver in my grandchildren’s school parking lot, an old not-friend from school days, and the errant driver husband. Next time, prayer will come first!

  22. Jacqueline says:

    Thanks for the inspiration to be persistent, kind and calm in doing the right thing.
    P.S. Where do they get these mom panels??? It amazes me to think that secular standards would be THAT different.

    • Catherine says:

      I have belonged to the secular side of society for most of my life (transitioning over now though) but I am appalled at this. I had a rather ‘broad’ experience (shall we say) as a young adult but I would never have thought that sort of content was ok for young kids. I would love to know who this ‘mom panel’ is. Mind you, I live in a very conservative Christian part of the country now and I am constantly having to defend my choices for my kids amongst a lot of Christian mothers who think my avoidance of explicit (sexual and violent) content is over the top for my 10 yr old daughter.

  23. I LOVE that you handled this in a way that was respectful and reflects you love of our Savior. I am an operating room nurse. In our hospital they set up a television in the cafeteria. I thought the content (music videos of half-naked women, men grabbing their crotches, etc.) was inappropriate for our veterans and their families. I mentioned it to the woman checking me out, and she said she agreed. She was not in charge. I went to the manager of the service and expressed my concerns in a polite manner. He changed the station. Since then, I mostly see kid’s movies on the TV when I go to the cafeteria. I hope that if it had not been so easy, I would have persevered as you did. So often we think there is nothing we can do, so we grit out teeth and go along with the program. Thank you for modeling, not only to the readers of your blog, but to those present that day, that there is a way to lovingly approach conflict resolution.

  24. My latest mama bear incident was a bit of a delayed reaction. I took my 17-yr-old daughter for a well-visit with a new-to-us pediatrician. Apparently, there are a host of new and intrusive questions to be asked at such a visit — non-health-related questions regarding gun ownership, screen time, etc. And there was pressure to receive an optional vaccine, even though I had firmly indicated we would not be doing that right now. Papa Bear takes our teen son to that office on Monday for a well-visit. And he won’t be taken off guard like I was.

  25. This isn’t really much of a conflict or confrontation, but I felt pretty “mama bear” at the time.

    I was caring for two elementary age brothers, and we were doing some mother’s day shopping at the mall. They needed to use the restroom and I was pretty sure they were too old for the Ladies’ room. ;) As we walked toward the restrooms, I asked the man who’d just left the men’s room if there was anyone else in there. He said he didn’t think so and headed on down the corridor. I gave a warning holler and checked the men’s room myself, then stood outside, blocking the door, while the boys used the restroom.

    While I waited in front of the door, a confused-looking man walked up and wanted to use the bathroom. I didn’t budge. I told him I was sorry but he’d have to wait since I had two young boys in there. He seemed a bit affronted and walked away, presumably to use another restroom elsewhere. The couple behind him gave me a smile and a nod, and as his wife walked into the ladies’ room, the man congratulated me on my gutsy move and told me he didn’t blame me one bit. He patiently waited until the boys were done and, as we left, told us to have a great day. :)

    • Angela,
      My son is about at the age where he can’t come in the Ladies room with me, I’ve been wondering what I’m going to do. It’s encouraging to hear your story.

      I’m especially impressed that you were so very thoughtful and brave about someone else’s children!

      • Catherine says:

        When is the age when boys can’t go in to the Ladies’ room? My son is 7 and he still comes in with me. I never even thought to clear out the Men’s room for him but I just might now! Love this!

    • Catherine, these boys were 6 and 9 at the time. I, personally, would be uncomfortable with boys that age in the ladies’ room. But, then, I’m not their mom.

      If I was mom of 1 boy this age, I’d clear the restroom or use a family facility, if available. If I was a mom of 2 boys, I’d probably train them to go in together, even if both don’t need to use the bathroom, and use the same stall, never a urinal at that age in a public restroom. They’d know to watch out for each other and report anything odd to me immediately.

      Of course, this is the idealist with no children, as of yet, speaking. ;)

  26. We’re more of a secular family, but very conservative, and I can definitely tell you our standards aren’t one bit different! We don’t allow our kids to see anything that is not approved by us, including violence, anything remotely inappropriate, and adult situations or language.

    I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to explain something to my 4 year old that she should never have to see in public. I’ve turned magazines around in their stands, and left areas where there have been adults cursing in Target, of all places.

    The way you handled it with both kindness and firmness was a great example to your kids, and hopefully to those adults as well!

    • Joanna,
      Oh, those magazine racks… People probably walk up and wonder how Texas Monthly got so popular. It’s usually the safest option that I use to cover up some of the ones that children (or adults) just don’t need to see.

      Thank you for your kind words and keep on being a mama bear!

  27. Juli vrotney says:

    good job….

  28. Excellent! Thanks for sharing!

  29. Well said! There’s a lot to be said for a smile. As my mother used to say, kill them with kindness and you’ll walk away the better person.

  30. Well done! A wonderful mentor once told me that one should always bring a solution to a problem before approaching the person involved, and phrase it as a suggestion, not an instruction.
    I love how specific your advice is in your post! When we are equipped with these skills, we can more confidently approach a conflict situation.

  31. This is a wonderful reminder on how to live in the world when we disagree with the outside culture. I find my counter-culture ways and my big mouth can sometimes get me trouble. I’m wondering if you saw this post about a plane that was diverted because parents asked a movie to be turned off: http://blog.sfgate.com/sfmoms/2013/04/05/united-plane-diverted-when-parents-complain-about-inappropriate-in-flight-movie/

  32. So proud of you for speaking up – with such kindness, strength, and humility. The world needs more moms like you.

  33. Very impressed with this post.

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