If it‘s too brutal for children's ears, don‘t implicate them

A relative, who has a five year old son, complained to me about a puppet show they had recently seen. It was supposed to be harmless children‘s entertainment, she said, but then the heedless puppets began a dialogue that was outrageous, completely inappropriate for children, according to her.

Puppet 1: What are you eating?

Puppet 2: A delicious wiener.

Puppet 1: Do you know where wieners come from?

Puppet 2: No.

Puppet 1: Wieners come from pigs.

Puppet 2: Really? (looks at wiener ruefully)

The puppets‘ short, rather bland conversation had really upset my relative. She roared that the subject matter was completely unsuitable for children. How dare the theater company bring up such violent topics during a show for children? Had they no heart? Did they not know that children are sensitive about such things? This kind of stuff was too disturbing to children, she concluded, and should not be discussed in their presence.

Most parents find some topics inappropriate for children and want to shield their kids from them. We even have laws to that effect, such as age restrictions on movies. But the thing is, parents who find a topic too extreme for their children to know about usually also don‘t want their children to engage in it. The mother who doesn‘t want her child watching explicit sex scenes probably also doesn‘t want her child to have sex. My relative, on the other hand, wanted to keep her child free from the knowledge of animal suffering, but she was still engaging and implicating him in the topic‘s practical outcome through the food she provided him.

In my relative‘s hypocrisy, I found a universal maxim: If you think something is too brutal for your children to know about, don‘t implicate them in it. If you think factory farming is too gruesome a topic for children, don‘t involve them through what you feed them. Vice versa, if you insist on feeding your children meat, be sure to tell them all about it. And then, from their reaction, find out that the inappropriateness wasn‘t telling them, but having implicated them.