Dear Prudence: Should they honor parents' restrictions when friend comes to play?

  • Article by: EMILY YOFFE , Slate
  • Updated: November 27, 2013 - 2:00 PM

Dear Prudence: Our son has a friend, “Matt.” Matt’s parents are very religious and have a lot of rules about what Matt isn’t allowed to watch or read.

He is not allowed to play video games, period, and wouldn’t be allowed to watch a “Harry Potter” movie or a superhero movie. He is not allowed to watch most cartoons and can only listen to radio stations with religious programming.

Our son hardly ever goes to Matt’s house to play, but Matt comes over here a lot. The boys play board games or play with Legos, but Matt sure would like to watch movies or cartoons or listen to the radio — I’ve “caught” him reading my son’s “Harry Potter” books.

My husband says we should just let him watch and read the stuff and that his parents’ rules can be for their house, but we don’t have to follow them. While I agree the restrictions put in place by Matt’s parents are ridiculous, I would be very upset if our son went to stay with a friend and was allowed to watch or listen to something that we didn’t want him seeing — like something with excessive violence or sexuality.

Matt will be staying with us this weekend and my husband wants to take the boys to see a movie of which I know Matt’s parents wouldn’t approve, but one that is age appropriate for 11-year-old boys.

Is my husband right? Can we disregard Matt’s parents’ wishes or should we follow them as they seem to trust us to do?

Prudence says: This is sad and disturbing, and I wish the parents understood they only make all the forbidden fruit that much more delectable.

I’m assuming that Matt’s parents have given you their list of forbiddens, and if you’ve signed off on them then it’s not right for you to let the boy do something you know is verboten.

However, these boys are 11 years old, and that means you don’t sit in the room and monitor them. If Matt picks up a copy of “Harry Potter” or plays a video game while you’re in the other room, so be it.

But taking him to a movie when the parents have explicitly forbidden such evil entertainment is a violation of their trust and will only smash the relationship of the two boys.

Discuss with the parents what your plans are and see if you can get them to sign off. If you can’t, come up with some other entertainment.

I do wonder why parents think they make their restrictive beliefs more appealing by trying to keep their child from experiencing the world.

Send questions to prudence@slate.com.

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